When training on your own, working out to Positive failure on every set is necessary to maintain a high level of Intensity, which is vital for maximum growth. In order for your muscles to change and grow, they must reach a point when they cannot go any further. Your muscles will not grow if they are too comfortable, and comfort is the enemy in the gym. Micro Tears in the muscles only occur when under high levels of stress for a long period of time. It is these micro tears in your muscles that result in muscle growth, when rest and nutrition is optimal. Forced Reps take this notion one step further and to get the most out of your workouts you must focus heavily on Forced Reps. See below for 5 Reasons Forced Reps are best for maximum growth.
Definition: Forced Reps
Forced Reps target the Negative portion of the Rep - namely the 'lowering' of the weight or the 'eccentric' phase. When Positive failure is reached, a spotter/trainer will assist in the Positive or 'Concentric' (raising of the weight) phase while the trainee will take over fully for the Negative phase, until reaching Negative Failure as well, i.e. weight cannot be lowered in a controlled manner. For more lifting definitions click here.
1. Anabolic Effect
Anabolism is an important part of building muscle, it is the 'building phase' hormonally in your body and therefore describes the building up and repair of damaged muscle tissue. Anabolism is increased greatly through performing Forced Reps, as they are the pinnacle of Intensity for muscle fibres. Anabolic hormones like testosterone are released during and after Intense Forced Reps. Anabolic Hormones will stimulate the repair and growth of damaged muscle and should be maximised where possible.
2. Increased Intensity
Intensity is the number one determining factor when changing your physique, no matter who you are, body type, gender, big or small - in order to grow muscles you must train with Intensity. Performing Forced Reps are a great way to increase Intensity in your training. You must give your entire body system a reason to grow, an environmental stimulation that forces it to react with increased muscle growth. Forced Reps are vital for maximum Intensity in Training and could be the thing you have yet to exploit in your workouts.
3. Engaging Type IIb Muscle Fibres (fast-twitch)
Type IIb Muscle Fibres have the most potential for growth - they can literally double in size. However, believe it or not, Type IIb muscle fibres are actually very rarely stimulated. This is because they are predominantly power and strength muscles, generally stimulated in fast/ powerful movements involved in life-threatening situations - they are the 'power reserve' muscles. Sprinting and fighting (and power lifting) or the 'fight or flight' mechanisms recruit these muscle fibres. Forced Reps are the only thing in the gym that can recruit and damage Type IIb muscle fibres sufficiently for maximum growth, (as positive failure has exhausted Type IIa muscle fibres, and Type IIb must be recruited). If you only train to Positive failure you are only really stimulating Type IIa muscle fibres, which have a potential for growth of only 30% - and you are missing out on the fibres that will change your physique the most.
4. Micro Tears
Micro Tears are the 'damage' your muscle fibres receive when stressed and trained with high Intensity. These Micro Tears describe the breaking of sarcomere structures deep inside individual Muscle fibres, these structures repair and increase in number enlarging the muscle in preparation for more stimulation - an unbelievable 'over-compensation' phenomenon. As a result, this phenomenon can only be taken advantage of if the body is continually stimulated with more Intensity from week to week. Due to the structure of the muscle, Forced Reps during the Negative phase create many more micro tears then the Positive phase, making Forced Reps the best form of training for breaking down muscle for maximum potential growth.
Forced Reps in bodybuilding focus on high rep range (8-15), with slow and controlled Negative Phases, which are very safe to perform as only moderate weights can be used. Most injuries occur through the heavy, low rep Positive phases of exercise, i.e. either the Trainee is performing an exercise with very poor form resulting in awkward forces on the joints, or the Trainee is using too much weight, and the muscles and tendons become worn or torn. Forced Reps require assistance from a Trainer or Gym Partner and emphasize the increase of muscle tension through optimal range, and so by nature are safer than fast paced heavy weight lifting (weights should never be lifted in a quick uncontrolled manner anyway). The increased slow muscular tension during the Eccentric phase will also help stabilise joints and prevent injuries, making way for prolonged muscle growth in the future.
NOTE: Before performing Forced Reps make sure that both the Trainer and Trainee know how to perform them and acknowledge that they are only effective while using slow correct form and moderate weight. To capitalise on Forced Reps only use them on the last 1-3 Reps of a 8-15 rep set. Start with incorporating them into 1 exercise for a few weeks, then add them to more exercises slowly as you progress.
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