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.

About Davey Wavey

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Comments

  1. Hi Davey

    Thanks for this good read, it gives me some perspective on my current gym routine. And cheating at times to push the boundry did made me think I am buggering up my program. But gives some comfort.

    Hennie

  2. Form is always important so you don’t get injured. Sloppy form = getting injured.

    You are right cheating on bench press is a terrible idea.

    You are dead on when you said,” you shouldn’t cheat for an amount of weigh that you can already lift.” It’s pointless to do that. If you don’t feel the burn, you wont get results.

    Matthew Beavers

  3. christopher says:

    cheating on fly machine-i need to watch that-sore shoulders-next day.thanx for these thoughts.

Trackbacks

  1. […] good form. While the occasional cheat is acceptable, the majority of your bench presses should demonstrate proper technique. Most people cheat by not […]

  2. […] 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 […]