Forced Repetitions and Why You’re Still Weak

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Q: I asked this guy for a spot on my last set of bench presses and said I was going for three reps. He’s like alright lets do six then, I assumed he was joking, so after I did my third rep he helped me with the last three.

So my question is, is that a stupid thing to do, have someone else help you complete additional reps? I mean maybe the 4th rep was 80-90% me but anything beyond that I can’t imagine was more than 60-70. Anyways here’s the more direct question:

What do you think about having a spotter helping complete additional reps you couldn’t have otherwise done?

A: Not a fan at all. I know many of the popular muscle magazines and “hard core” gym rats will say that it’s bad-ass and that it will get you strong. I think it’s borderline retarded, and the research backs me up. CLICK ME to see forced reps get pwned by science. Nerds: 1 The Loud Mouth Gym Rat at Your Local Gym: 0

***For those that don’t want to click on the link, it basically demonstrates that forced repetitions do nothing in regards to increasing strength and/or power.

Furthermore, Chad Waterbury wrote a really good article that touched upon this topic not too long ago titled The Secret to Motor Unit Recruitment. In it, he mentions how focusing more on bar speed and terminating a set before you reach full fatigue is the key to increased strength and size.

A key point to remember: strength/power development is mostly dependent on motor unit recruitment. I say “mostly,” because one’s cross-sectional area also plays a role (a bigger muscle has the potential to develop more force than a smaller muscle), but in the grand scheme of things, it comes down to one’s ability to recruit motor units (and this is dependent on the load being used and the speed at which that load is being lifted). According to Chad, you can’t sustain maximum motor unit recruitment for more than 15 seconds (you can read the article to find out why), so from a neuroscience standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense to train to failure and perform forced repetitions if your goal is strength. And even if your goal isn’t strength, but more aesthetics, I still feel you’re shooting yourself in the foot in the long run.

Training to failure or performing forced repetitions on a consistent basis is going to do nothing except make you tired and affect the rest of your training. Regardless, I think the moral of the story is that your time would be better spent focusing more on the quality of your reps rather than the quantity. And lets be honest, if anyone is going to force anything, it should be something cool like more pictures of Kelly Brook in a bikini. Because dammit, this is America, and I love you guys. POW!!!

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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