Forced Reps: An Advanced Training Technique To Achieve Progressive Overload
Forced reps are a great training technique for the advanced gym-goer to achieve progressive overload and continue to build muscle while also forging mental toughness in the process.
We’ve discussed super sets and drop sets before which are equally valuable training techniques… but neither of those will put you in the dark place that forced reps will.
Why is that the case?
As the name might suggest your forced reps don’t even begin until you’ve hit failure on your regular set, this training technique begins when you’ve emptied the tank but continue to try and push beyond failure with the assistance of a training buddy.
Forced Reps Explained
First things first, you will require a training buddy.
I don’t recommend just asking anyone in the gym to help you out with a set of forced reps as in order to reap the benefits of forced reps is ensuring your training buddy is giving you just the right amount of assistance on each rep.
They shouldn’t come easy, you should be giving it all you’ve got while your training buddy assist in lifting the weight just that little bit to allow you to complete the repetition.
If you ask inexperienced harry half-rep to help you chances are he’ll either offer too much assistance in which case he’s essentially doing all of the lifting for you, or he won’t offer enough assistance… I’ve seen many a near miss from guys almost dropping dumbbells or barbell on themselves as their muscles are essentially in a state of complete failure.
Here’s how to actually perform forced reps:
- Have a training buddy on standby
- Perform your regular set of the exercise of your choice (we’ll discuss dangerous exercises for forced reps in a moment)
- Upon completion of your 8 – 12 reps (however many places you on the brink of failure) of your exercise have your training buddy offer just enough assistance for you to grind out another 2 – 4 reps with the same weight
* Note that we’re not dropping the weight at all as that would be considered a drop set, the goal is to smash out a few additional reps of the same weight you just lifted.
Forced Repetitions Can Be Downright Dangerous
There are certain exercises that’re not only almost impossible for your training buddy to assist with, but there are also a number of exercises that can result in serious injury if you attempt to push beyond failure into those gritty assisted reps.
Squats, deadlifts, bent over rows (and variations of these exercises) are all a no-go.
You don’t want your quads to give out on one of your barbell back squat forced reps and end up on the floor with a barbell on top of you….
Don’t get me wrong, you’ll probably see guys doing these in the gym but the risk of injury really isn’t worth it… there are other exercises that target the same muscle groups that can safely be used for your forced rep sets.
You can safely perform forced reps on:
- Essentially any pin loaded machine
- Essentially any plate loaded machine
- Biceps exercises
- Triceps exercises
- Chest presses and flies
- Shoulder presses and raises
My Personal Take And Expectations
Forced repetitions are another great training technique in our arsenal that can be used to break through plateaus in the gym.
I know of several coaches that don’t believe they are particularly useful, perhaps from a purely strength based perspective this might be the case – but to apply progressive overload, achieve hypertrophy and break through plateaus I’ve personally found forced reps to work wonders.
I wouldn’t use them for every exercise of every workout though.
At a maximum I’d use forced reps on one or two sets per workout, aiming to rep out another 2 – 4 reps per set of the exercise you’ve implemented your forced reps for.