At some point in time you will hit a plateau. It happens to everyone at one time or another. It might be with a particular weight you can’t get past or a certain number of reps on your favorite exercise. When that happens what should you do? It isn’t always a simply matter of digging deeper and pushing harder.
Sometimes your body has just reached a point where it gets stuck.
That is the exact time you need to reach into your bag of ‘intensity techniques’ for something exactly like forced reps.
Fabulous Forced Reps
To be clear, using intensity techniques needs to be done sparingly. They are a way to push your muscles harder and longer than you can on your own. As such they almost always cause muscle hypertrophy. But, doing it too often can quickly lead to the dreaded overtraining. That will then be a case of taking one step forward followed by two steps back.
Forced reps can only be done with a training partner or spotter assisting you; it is a two man (or woman) maneuver. The idea is to work your muscle to complete failure. Then the partner steps in and helps force another few reps out.
A great example would be on the bench press. Let’s say you are stuck at 250 lbs for 6 repetitions. You step up to the plate and start the set. You push out the 6th rep and then lower the bar to start the 7th. He is right there with his hands under the bar and as you hit the tough spot of failure he adds a slight touch to the bar to keep it going. In this manner you crank out another 2 to 3 reps.
Ideally that means the next time you hit chest you should be able to exceed those 6 reps on your own because you will grow stronger.
The key to using proper forced reps is having a training partner or spotter that understands the concept. The idea is to keep the rep speed close to normal AND only assist as little as needed. Many times in the gym you see a spotter stand there hardly touching the bar while shouting at the person to, “PUSH!” The danger in that method is complete muscle failure. By keeping the rep speed closer to normal you are trying to maintain the same level of muscle tension in the entire range of motion for the movement rather than struggle at just the sticking point.
At best make sure you only use them for one or two sets in a session. For example in our bench press scenario you wouldn’t then want to use forced reps on incline presses and flat bench flyes as well because it would be overkill. Instead you use them to target the sticking point on your main exercise for the muscle in that session.
So next time you are stuck make sure to grab a partner and power through that plateau using forced reps.