You don’t want to be a going-through-the-motions kind of guy in the gym. The guy that thinks that lifting weights is just about moving a bar from point A to point B and back to point A again. If you’ve gone through the trouble of suiting up for a workout, you’d best be getting after it hard rep after rep. And you need every rep perfect if you want to build strong muscles. You need to work your muscles for the right amount of time and reps to elicit the best growth response. These following 6 tips are designed to help you maximize the benefits of each rep you perform during your workout.
1. Use correct technique and proper form
The benefits you get out of a rep is proportional to how correctly you execute that rep. Mastering correct technique and using proper form ensure that you work the target muscle to its potential and minimize injury risk. Avoid the temptation to use more weight than you can possibly handle. Using momentum to lift the weight, deviating from correct movement pattern, and shortening motion range are some most critical errors most people make because they are trying to lift heavier than they are capable of. Keep in mind the actual weight load, the one that determines the result, is determined both by the weight you’re using and how you’re using it.
2. Mind your muscles
Picture your muscles working and visualize them getting stronger and bigger as you execute each rep. Research shows that by maintaining a mental connection with your muscles during each rep, you increase the effect of the weight on the muscle which in turn forces it to recruit more muscle fibers. More muscle recruitment results in more muscle growth in the long run. So instead of focusing on the external (the weight you’re lifting), focus on the internal (the muscles moving it).
3. Squeeze the muscle throughout each rep
By squeezing the muscle from bottom to top, you force that muscle to recruit more fibers and push more blood to that muscle. This means more nutrients will go to that muscle to kick-start the muscle building process. Consequently, that muscle will grow bigger and stronger.
4. Hit the right speed
Controlling the concentric and eccentric phases of each rep is another way of making the most out of your reps. Research shows concentrating on the speed of the concentric contraction improves strength development while focusing the eccentric phase of rep leads muscle-mass development. Generally, the rule is one second up and three seconds down for every rep. Three times as many muscle fibers are activated during the eccentric or negative phase of the exercise, so lowering the weight slowly and under control will work the muscle far harder. So, always be sure the negative motion is slower than the positive when executing your reps. By putting more focus on a slower negative, amazing gains both in size and strength can be realized.
5. Count down your reps
Instead of counting your reps up, count them reps down. This is a simple mind trick that keeps you focused on the task at hand, not on the outcome. Experiments show that when trainees count upwards, they tend to worry whether they’ll complete the set rather than focusing on each rep of the set.
6. Fail on your last rep
The closer you reach failure on your last rep, the higher you can increase levels of these natural muscle-building hormones and the further you can push muscle growth. In each set in your workouts, you should perform enough reps to take you close to failure on your last rep. If you feel like you have a few more reps in you after your last rep, then the weight is too light and you should increase it a little bit. Alternatively incorporating techniques such as drop sets, forced reps, negatives, etc. in your workouts will push your muscles beyond their limits and elicit an elevated response of growth hormone.