How to make your every rep more effective
In this article, we will learn what it means to do 1 rep. And know if we are doing it effectively, as it should be done.
That is to say, are you getting the maximum benefit out of your each and every rep.
It’s an open secret that many know but few use.
It is time to revisit the basics to make our every rep of every exercise more effective and most productive.
For the sake of simplicity, we will be using the example of Bicep curls as most people are familiar with the exercise. But this applies to every exercise.
In order to understand what 1 Repetition (or Rep for short) means, you have to know the following terms.
Or simply put, when the weight goes against gravity it is called a concentric contraction.
Example: In bicep curls when you are curling/lifting the weight up.
Or simply put, when the weight goes towards gravity in a controlled manner it is called an eccentric contraction.
Example: When you are bringing the weight down in the bicep curl.
What is one repetition?
1 Rep = 1 Concentric + 1 Eccentric
That means lifting the weight up and bringing it down once, is called one repetition.
That is pretty simple. Right!
But the question we need to ask is are we really doing this 1 rep properly? Or are we just doing half rep?
This happens to many exercisers. It doesn’t matter if they are experienced or beginners. After a decade of training, sometimes even I find myself doing this mistake.
When we are doing an exercise, most of the time, the whole focus is on lifting the weight up.
But as we lower the weight we are thinking of lifting it back up again. Missing out the most important part of the rep i.e. how you are bringing it down.
There is an interesting study conducted where the researchers took muscle biopsy samples of 6 men who were experienced lifters. First, they were told to take a 5-day break from their exercise routine, to cease all the effect of the exercise on the muscles previously. And then a muscle biopsy was taken.
After that, they were told to perform a unilateral Bicep curl (only one side at a time) with 80% of their 1RM (It’s pretty challenging weight for them). With one hand they only did the Concentric movement .i.e. just lifting the weight up. And with the other hand, they only did the eccentric movement i.e. they were only lowering the weight. They did 8 Sets of 8 reps. Then again the muscle biopsy of bicep brachii was taken.
When they compared the result with the initial sample, they found that the eccentric movement created more microtrauma on the muscle fibers, up to 50%, while the concentric movement created only around 25% microtrauma.
Implication of the study
The study shows that eccentric puts more challenge on your muscles. When you are doing the reps it is not just important to focus on the concentric but eccentric as well.
So the next question arises that how should we do the eccentric, then?
Should we lower the weights slowly?
The simple answer is
Don’t be Slow, be in Control
You do not have to consciously slow down the eccentric. Just remember, you have to bring it down, not drop it down.
When you are lowering the weight, your muscles should be in control of the weight. Do not let the gravity do the work. When the weight stops at the end of eccentric there should not be any jerk. A jerk at the end means the weight was not in your control and the movement stopped because of the joint lockout and not because of the muscles.
Take home message
There is no need to complicate your repetitions by lowering the weight slowly. Just be aware about the eccentric part of the repetition as well. Remember, the weight should come down in a smooth and controlled manner.