WHAT’S THE LAST FEW REPS?
As I explained in last week’s article, the whole reason for prescribing a set number of reps with a set weight is so that we can measure what our body is currently capable of and slowly increase that.
In order to challenge muscle and elicit growth, you need to subject it to more work than it is used to. This sends a message to your body that basically says, “Hey, if we’re going to be asked to do this time and again, we’ll need to be bigger and stronger so we don’t get injured!’.
To illustrate what I mean, let’s say the first 10 reps of a 12 rep set are completed to push your body to it’s current level of capability, it’s the last 2 reps of that 12 rep set that actually extend the total workload for that set past your body’s current ‘comfort’ point. Those are the reps that entice repair and growth so we can safely handle the extra workload next time.
With this knowledge in mind, you can see why hitting rep and weight targets is important. You can also see the value in slowly increasing weight and workload.
So next time you’re in the middle of a set, your muscles are burning and those last few reps just seem a million miles away, remember they’re the ones that count! Without them, the stimulus for your body to adapt is lessened. That being said, those last few reps don’t always have to be to failure, but when things stall, it’s an effective tool to kick start further growth!
PS: If you’re going to use failure as a training technique, don’t use it on every set. Just start with the last set on a particular exercise or muscle group and build from there!