The perfect repetition
I'm often asked how many reps to do, how to split a training routine and so on, but in my opinion, before all that, you need to go back to basics by looking at how you perform a single rep. That single rep forms the foundation of the workout, with those reps forming your set, those sets forming a particular exercise, and finally, those exercises making up your workout.
It goes without saying then, if you master the single rep, you can master your workout, achieving maximum results in growth in the shortest time possible.
There are 5 key components to achieving the perfect repetition; let's take a look in more detail below.
The mind and muscle connection
Concentration is one of the biggest factors for muscle contraction. The more you concentrate on the muscle that's working , the better the results. In the gym, it can be easy to break concentration; your mind can wander or your training partner could be chatting away. So next time you're working out, test it out for yourself! You should soon feel the difference between being distracted compared to when its just you, solely focused on the repetition.
Maximise gains with full range of movement
In order to work every single muscle fibre, it's important that you work through the full range of movement. People tend to shy away from this because it results in a tougher repetition, but it's important to master this before adding more weight. Some use the excuse for doing half repetition to focus on a certain part of the muscle, but unless you are extremely well developed, and are seeking ultimate perfection, this is not something worth doing.
The right angle, for the right results
Every trained muscle requires a certain angle to ensure you are working the muscle properly. By allowing your form to slip, such as moving your elbow when performing a bicep curl, it spoils the repetition. If you keep doing this, you may not end up with the desired results.
Focus on speed
Having been a personal trainer for many years now, the reality is the vast majority of people go to the gym in order to build muscle and increase size. In order to do so, you need to isolate the working muscle. Isolations needs to eliminate all momentum from the movement so there is concentration on each individual muscle. After all, that's what bodybuilding is all about, right?
Keeping this in mind, you need to control the weight in both the positive and negative movements. If you attempt to lift a heavier weight that the trained muscle can handle, other muscles will get involved and the actual trained muscle won't work at 100%, or may not even work at all!
To avoid this scenario, lift a weight which will allow you to achieve 8-10 reps in a very controlled manner. As a guide, that means 4-5 seconds for both the positive and negative movements. Recent studies showed that the body produced more testosterone and growth hormone when the subject trained at that speed, so that should be considered your normal rep speed If you want to increase size. Of course, to ensure you have proper muscle and mind connection, don't be obsessive about counting seconds!
However, its always beneficial to change the rep speed every 4-6 weeks in order to shock the muscle and encourage further growth. its also worth noting that, if you train for specific sports, or if your priority is strength over size, a different approach would be needed where muscle isolation isn't paramount.
Watch your weight
Many link lifting more weight to more progress. I often see people write down what weight they are pushing, where they are desperately looking to improve week-on-week. However, this approach could lead to little or no improvement.
Leave bravado at the door and focus on a weight that will max out the muscle you are working, but not beyond. Otherwise, you are recruiting other muscle groups and reducing the pressure - and affect - of the muscle you are trying to target. As we've covered above, using too much weight is a downward spiral; it leads to too high a repetition speed and a much reduced range of movement.