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Effective training for the time poor-Myo reps
The majority of people I train are businessmen. They are successful and have a lot of responsibility. This is what drives their lives. Training complements them and adds balance but they don’t have a great deal of spare time for it. How then do we maximise results given their limited availability?
For those looking to add muscle and strength, using Myo-reps can be an appropriate tool. This increases the ‘effective reps’ within a work-out much improving time efficiency.
Before we can delve further into what constitutes Myo-rep training lets first consider how to build muscle (the gym stimulus NOT the underlying biological mechanisms.)
Muscle building requires both an intensity (proximity to failure at a given % of 1RM (1 rep max)) and a volume component (Schoenfeld 2017). Muscle can be built across a wide range of reps but they will need to be at a sufficiently challenging load to provide the appropriate stimulus. The correct ‘balance’ of volume and intensity/load is where Myo-reps can be effectively deployed.
Firstly, what is not an effective rep?
Most people don’t go close enough to failure on their sets. Often due to the fear of discomfort/lactic acid accumulation ‘burn’. Secondly, under the misguided principle that only volume drives hypertrophy (muscle growth). They think that enough volume done sub-maximally will be sufficient for growth without all the ‘unnecessary’ pain.
Whilst we do know that volume is certainly a muscle growth driver, without it being sufficient in intensity it will not be effective enough to disrupt the bodies’ homeostasis and allow growth. The volume done in these comfortable sub-maximal realms (3-4 reps away from failure at very best) is essentially wasted work and cannot considered ‘effective reps’.
What is an effective rep?
An effective rep is one that is close to the point of muscular failure thereby resulting in full muscle fibre activation. This high degree of stimulation means each rep is extremely effective.
On a standard set/rep protocol of 3×10, you may find only rep 9 & 10 in each set are truly effective. Therefore with 2 mins rest between sets, you may have done 30 reps total in approx. 6 minutes with only 6 reps being highly effective. This cannot be considered particularly efficient although it can be an appropriate way to train for many.
The Myo-rep protocol:
Myo-reps were invented by Borge Fagerli in 2006 as a means of doing more effective work in a shorter period of time. (Essentially increasing the number of effective reps in a shorter time frame).
In a nutshell Myo-reps will ensure you lift a sufficiently heavy load enough times and sufficiently often to build muscle. (It is just one of many strategies that’s CAN be utilised. It isn’t right for everyone and certainly isn’t a method to be used ad infinitum.)
It works as follows:
- Generally speaking, 1-2 warm up sets, especially if first exercise of the session. (This will increase neural drive and help you lift more effectively).
- Fagerli recommends a beginning load of 30-50% of 1RM depending on your level of advancement. This should allow between 15-30 reps. Work to failure or 1-2 reps short. This takes experience and should involve noticeable discomfort. Rep speed will have slowed substantially by this point. Absolute failure isn’t entirely necessary and may harm total volume that you are able to perform.
- This section I’ll take directly from Fagerli. He explains it better than I ever could and it is important the protocol is followed correctly.
‘Rerack the weight and rest for 3-5 deep breaths – unrack the weight and keep going for up to 3-5 short mini-sets of 3-5 reps (staying close to failure on each mini-set). By keeping the rest period short you will maintain fatigue level, and hence – fibre recruitment at a high rate. All reps of the mini-set are now “effective” reps. I simplify the rest period prescription by counting deep breaths, similar to the DC method, where 3 deep breaths (in+out) is about 6-8 seconds, 5 is 10-15 seconds. You can get away with the higher end (30secs) with heavier loads, at lighter loads you should keep rest periods short (5-15secs) to maintain high fibre recruitment. It is also productive on the Myo-rep series to keep constant tension on the muscle by shortening the ROM’. (Range of motion).
End the Myo-rep set when you lose 1 rep from the initial or 5 mini-sets.
Examples (all correct):
20 +4+4+4+3+3 (stop when you lose a rep from the initial)
22 +3+3+3+3+3+3+3+3+3 (stop at 5 sets of 3 reps)
18 +5+4+3+2 (same as the first, stop when you lose a rep from the initial)
Myo-rep application v’s standard lifting for ‘effective reps’
First we consider 3 sets of 20 reps. (Asterisk denotes an ‘effective rep’.)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15* 16* 17* 18* 19* 20*
1-2min of rest
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14* 15* 16* 17* 18* (a typical drop off in reps if using a 20RM load)
1-2min of rest
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12* 13* 14* 15* 16*
54 reps total in 6 minutes or so. 16 ‘effective’ at a sufficient muscle fibre recruitment level.
Now a Myo-rep set:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15* 16* 17* 18* 19* 20* – 15sec rest – 1* 2* 3* 4* 5* – 15sec rest – 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*- 15sec rest – 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*- 15sec rest – 1* 2* 3* 4* 5* – 15sec rest – 1* 2* 3* 4*
Total of 44 total reps in about 2.5 mins, with 30 ‘effective’ reps. The relevance of skill and experience to this is the management of fatigue/neural failure to achieve the desired amount of work at the desired intensity. (Easier said than done!).
Myo-rep consideratons: Risk v’s reward
As with anything in life unfortunately it is not all positives. Whilst highly effective there are a number of potential drawbacks.
Myo-reps can be considered an intensifier. They make you work harder and closer to fatigue in a shorter period of time. They are A LOT more demanding than standard sets.
When used for a short-time frame, coupled with decent nutrition, sleep/rest and a well-structured training regime they can bust through plateaus and build muscle effectively. However, used too long and without the other fundamentals in place it can quickly lead to a lack of results/loss of strength, injury, burnout and a lost training focus (Weakley 2017).
Myo-reps can be an excellent form of training for those wanting to gain muscle, are time poor and capable of sustained discomfort throughout a workout.
It is important to remember that this technique is only a piece of the jigsaw when building a physique and isn’t to be relied upon long-term. Overuse will more than likely increase risk of burnout, associated injury, potential neuromuscular fatigue and a dread of training/increased psychological stress.
Many other appropriate ‘intensification’ tools exist and a good trainer can help you utilise these based on your goals.
I hope you enjoyed this article. If so, please give this a share on social media or drop me a comment/like.
Fagerli, B. www.borgefagerli.com
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