This is one of the most effective and most used bodybuilding methods.
A simple look at sport methodologies, shows us that this extremely powerful method for strength and hypertrophy development is the most potent product, that came into the bodybuilding world during the last 2-3 decades.
Nowadays, this method is exploited by many trainees around the globe, and mostly bodybuilders. The main idea behind this method, is, of course, reaching the point beyond failure.
For example, if we do a set until failure on the bench press, using 80% of our 1RM, we would probably reach failure at the 8th repetition.
So, we can conclude that the most effective reps in this set were the 6th, 7th, and 8th repetition, while the first 1-5 repetitions were mostly a warm up, and a step to the harder point of the exercise.
After the 8th rep, using the careful help of our training partner, we complete the 9th, 10th and 11th repetitions.
In a set, where we use 90% of our 1RM, we would reach failure after the 3rd or 4th repetition, and the training partner would help us do another 2 to 3 reps. And so, in such a set, the muscles would work at the limit of their momentary capabilities for every rep after the 3rd repetition, and only the first two repetitions will be considered a warm up. In other words- The efficiency here is way bigger.
What matters most while using this method, is the experience of your training partner. He must be able to help you just enough to take you out of the dead point, instead of lifting the weight for you and making every rep easier. Constant tension.
There is a wide variety when it comes to the method of forced repetitions.
This most powerful bodybuilding method is mainly used in the off season, where our priority is muscle hypertrophy, where we use the 90% option we talked about above.
However, you can successfully apply it during your cutting phase, with the goal being to avoid muscle degradation (this is where we use the 80% option).
Forced repetitions can be done in a variety of exercises, but most effectively for compound movements like squats, chest and shoulder presses, etc.
This method, as an extremely intense one, is very exhausting not only for the musculature, but mainly for the CNS. This is why it is recommended to use for the second or third exercise for the given muscle group.
|Suitable exercises for this method|
|Chest musculature||Any kind of bench pressing (Flat, incline, decline with barbell or dumbbells)|
|Back musculature||All pull up variations|
|All vertical cable pulldowns|
|Shoulders||Any kind of shoulder presses|
|Biceps||Any kind of bicep curls|
|Concentrated curls (Self help)|
|Hamstrings||Lying hamstring curls|
|Calves||Any kind of calf raises|
Pros and cons of the intense methods (Cheating, forced repetitions, prolonged sets)
In most people’s eyes, these methods are pretty equal. They have many common traits, due to the fact they have the same idea- Maximum depletion of the energetic substances in the muscle in a 20 second period, in the background of a maximum muscle stress. In other words, the main, leading idea here is the continuation of muscle work after failure.
If we do a deeper analysis however, we find biomechanical, physiological and organizational differences, as well as differences in the practical application of those methods.
This is an easy method to use, due to the fact we don’t need a training partner to use it.
This method allows us to effectively overcome the so called dead point, and therefore, bring the most tension to the last third of the working amplitude for the given exercise.
This however, is the only thing that makes this method better than every other intense method. Using it, we use powerful, elastic (inertial) means of directing the exercise, especially during the last repetitions.
This lowers the levels of efficiency of this method due to the impossibility to maintain constant tension on the worked musculature.
Another con to this set, is the lack of emphasis on the separate muscle sectors. In other words, we break the strict form of the exercise.
These hardly controlled movements can easily lead you to an actual injury. Practically, this method can successfully and safely be used for a limited number of exercises (Bicep curls, cable rows, etc.)
This method is not recommended for the triceps exercises, and has a highly traumatic risk with the compound movements like barbell squats, bench presses, etc.
This method requires the help of your training partner, and for some exercises it even requires two people to help you. The good part is that the requirements for the people helping you are not as big as they are with the forced repetitions, due to the fact there is a pre-determined weight reduction scheme to follow.
This method can successfully be applied to almost any exercise. However, the most appropriate and safest way to use it is with machines like leg presses, hack squats, leg extensions, etc.
The problem with this method comes, when we use it for the compound exercises like flat/incline bench press, squats, etc., due to the impossibility for complete synchronization of the weight reduction on both sides.
The main benefit of this method is its safety. Another, not so significant priority, is the possibility to plan the workload, something that’s not possible with the methods of cheating and forced repetitions. These “extras” define the method of prolonged sets as the most appropriate, for those, who first start using intense methods.
For this method, not only do we need an appropriate, experienced partner, but the requirements to him, impose his knowledge of the trainee’s will/strength power. Forced repetitions can practically be used with every free weight exercise, as well as every machine.
With a good team (Trainee + partner), you can reach 100% momentary intensity right after the 3rd or 4th repetition, and maintain it until the end of the set.
When it comes to bodybuilding priorities during the off-season, forced repetitions have the most significant benefits, due to the state of constant muscle stress, as well as the possibilities to control the muscle activity. Something that’s not among the main points of the other two methods.
In regards to weight reduction, we observe certain differences.
So, for example, with prolonged sets, we do it step by step, with forced reps, we do it with a partner who helps us overcome the weight by taking us out of the dead point.
And with cheating, the weight reduction is ‘ballistic’ in a sense, and not so controllable. These differences however, are only realized after a careful biomechanical analysis.
For example, reducing the weights in a prolonged set, we ease the overall amplitude of the movement, keeping the limiting character (dead point) of the movement, without going through it, using inertial movement, like we do with the cheating method.
An experienced training partner, can successfully ease the tension of the workload in the dead point, via a precise intervention. This way, he creates a possibility of reaching the point beyond failure.
That’s probably why forced repetitions are superior to cheating and prolonged sets. The higher level of competence of our working partner, is expressed through the gradual increase of his help, rep after rep. (2-3 cm of the movement in the first couple of reps, compared to ½ of the movement in the last reps).
In other words, the strength that he applies while helping, barely changes, but the duration of it’s effect upon the trajectory is longer, rep after rep.
This main advantage of the powerful method, that we call forced repetitions, definitely places it on the TOP spot amongst all of the intense methods we talked about so far. This is the MOST USED bodybuilding method.
The idea of every intense method is continuing the set, after the point of failure. This aspect of those given methods, links them to the methods of progressive overload, de-adaptation and priority. At the same time however, these additional repetitions after failure, inevitably lead to a bigger muscle pump (flushing principle).
The name “intense methods” places cheating, forced repetitions and prolonged sets in the group of the high-stress tools, used for muscle building.
The inexhaustible strive of the advanced and elite athletes, points them to combining the intense method with the methods of super-sets, peak flexion, constant tension, incomplete amplitude, etc.