At Invictus we do a lot of strength work, and often you are provided with a rep range. For example, you will be asked to do 3 sets of 6-8 reps. When you see these rep ranges, you should be striving to achieve the highest number in the range in each set. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed people skimping by, and doing the minimum amount of reps per set. To put it simply, 6 or 7 reps just isn’t the same as performing all 8 reps.
Skimping on reps can dramatically impede your athletic progress, since most of the positive adaptations in exercise come from exceeding your comfort barrier and grinding out those last and most difficult repetitions. Little differences in the way you approach these strength sets, can dramatically alter the outcome of your training.
Let’s say you walk into Invictus and see that we are doing 3 sets of 6-8 reps of shoulder press and determine that 150 lbs is an appropriate weight for you. Maybe you’re feeling a little tired, and decide to do 6 reps per set, even though you’re capable of doing 8 reps per set. We can calculate the effect of that decision by using the formula for work, which is just force x distance.
We know the weight of the barbell is 150 lbs, and we’ll guesstimate that the barbell has to travel a total of 2 feet to go from your shoulders to full overhead extension.
With that information, we know that one rep equates to 300 foot-pounds of work (150 lbs * 2 ft of distant).
At 3×6 reps, you complete a total of 18 reps, which equates to a total 5400 foot-pounds of work (18 reps*300 foot-pounds of work).
At 3×8 reps, or 24 total reps, you would have done a total of 7200 foot-pounds of work (24 reps * 300 foot-pounds of work).
Divide 7200 by 5400 and we discover that two more reps per set, equates to a 33% percent increase in workload.
Everyone has had bad days where they simply can’t perform that 7th or 8th rep in a prescribed 6-8 rep set, but most of the time, we stop because it is difficult or maybe uncomfortable. Learning to train into and through the discomfort is an exercise in mental toughness, and once you’ve mastered that exercise, you’ll be able to reach your fitness goals faster. It only takes a little more discipline and mental concentration.
Don’t believe me? Listen to Arnold:
So next time you see a set with a variable rep scheme, remember what Arnold said “the last two or three repetitions… divides one from being a champion, and one from not being a champion.”
Afterthought: We are a supportive community. Don’t be afraid to make those around you better. Encourage them to complete those last few reps, and they’ll probably return the favor.
(CJ’s Note – This is one of my favorite blog topics in a while, and I love that John took it on as one of his first contributions to the Invictus community. Please let this seep in, and push hard toward those last 2-3 reps . . . it will pay huge dividends.)