Archive for the tag - cheat reps

When it Comes to Fitness: Don’t Cut Corners.

I heard a great fitness quote today:

If you start cutting corners, you’ll end up going in circles.

A few weeks ago, we talked about how you can use an occasional cheat rep to break through a workout plateau. Used sparingly, cheat reps should only be employed to make an exercise harder – not easier.

Cutting corners, on the other hand, makes your workout less intense and, ultimately, less effective. For example, you might ease up on that last sprint interval. Or perform 6 repetitions of an exercise instead of 8. You might even skip a muscle group and leave the gym early. Indeed, cutting corners is easy to do.

We tell ourselves it won’t matter if we take it easy… just this once. And it’s true. The impact of any one workout is negligible. The problem is that it sets a bad precedent – and that when we lower the bar for ourselves, we put ourselves on a downward trajectory of reduced standards and reduced results.

To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at muscle mass. Muscle requires a tremendous amount of energy to maintain. Your body, by default, is programmed to be efficient with its energy expenditures, and so it won’t maintain or build unnecessary muscle mass. If you want to build additional muscle, you need to demonstrate to your body that your current muscle mass is insufficient for the tasks at hand. This is accomplished not by cutting corners, but rather by pushing yourself beyond your current limitations.

If you want to transform your body or your performance, you have to give it all that you’ve got. Literally. Push yourself. Push yourself. Push yourself.

Do Cheat Reps Work?

If you’ve spent any time around serious bodybuilders or powerlifters, you’ve probably heard the term cheat rep. A cheat rep occurs when, after muscle fatigue sets in, a lifter employs improper form to assist in the movement. This improper form often involves engaging additional muscles or using momentum.

Cheat reps can be performed to extend a set or to work against greater resistance. For example, you might perform two or three additional cheat reps to extend a set once your muscle have fatigued. Or, you might use a set of cheat reps to push yourself through a new, higher level of resistance.

Proper form is crucially important, especially for new exercisers. It helps guard against injury and sets you up on a pathway for success. Having said that, for seasoned exercisers, a little cheating may not always be a bad thing. Strict form makes it difficult to overload muscles and push through plateaus.

Here are my rules for the occasional cheat:

  1. Cheat reps should only be used to make an exercise harder – not easier. In other words, you shouldn’t cheat for an amount of weight that you can already lift or to complete a number of repetitions that you are already capable of completing.
  2. Cheat sparingly. Cheating should be the exception – not the backbone – of your workout regime. And it should only be used as a pathway to proper form. 95% of your workout should be performed with good, solid form.
  3. Consider your injury history.

    Dorian Yates (left) is known for his great form. Ronnie Coleman (right), on the other hand, built his body occasionally using momentum to break through plateaus.

    Because cheating increases the risk of injury, take your personal medical and injury history into consideration. If you have back issues, for example, don’t cheat on back exercises. Period. It’s not worth the risk.
  4. Consider the exercise. Some exercises are better suited for cheating than others. Using a little momentum to extend a set of dumbbell bicep curls, for example, could work. Lifting your butt and arching your back to get in an extra bench press rep, on the other hand, is too risky.
  5. If you’re new to lifting, stick to proper form. Newbies can experience great gains without resorting to cheating – and proper form builds a strong lifting foundation. Cheating should really only be used by seasoned lifters that are trying to break through a wall.
  6. If you have a training partner, use forced reps instead. Forced reps are a much safer alternative to cheat reps, but you’ll need the assistance of a spotter or training partner. The partner assists in the movement without compromising form.

For the vast majority of your workout, be in control; don’t twist, swing or use additional muscles to complete your reps or sets. However, every now and then, a little cheat can help to break through a plateau or to bring your workout to the next level.