The sprint at the end of the marathon.
The last strike pitched in a baseball game that went extra innings.
The final round of a championship fight.
These are all examples of greatness called from the depths of the spirit; the closing efforts that define extraordinary performance. They excite, rally and inspire us.
And that’s the exact place I want to take my clients at the end of each set of a strength training exercise. Why? Because it’s where the perfect cocktail of safety, effectiveness and efficiency is found.
There are many ways you can achieve stronger, firmer muscles. Some do it with multiple sets and exercises for each body part. Some do it with heavy loads and shorter workouts. But most lose their focus and commitment to the quality of their execution in the last few reps; and almost always in the precious final repetition.
In this respect, quantity (most people’s strength training holy grail of choice) almost invariably is the adversary of quality when it comes to that final push. But the irony is that the more committed and resolute you are about not only preserving, but actively improving the quality of that final repetition, the more valuable the reward you’ll enjoy – increased muscle capacity – will be .
The three points of form I stress with my clients are, in this order:
2. Bio-mechanics (line of movement – is it true, consistent and complete through the range?)
3. Cadence (an even, fluid rhythm is always better than a jerky, bouncing tempo)
And since the whole point of strength training is to progressively overload the muscles, and not the joints and connective tissue, polishing to near-perfection that final repetition (or, more likely, the partial repetition since the muscles will most likely fail at some random place between the end points of the range) is the height of strength training effectiveness.
This being the case, that’s where I focus most of my attention with clients and encourage them to do the same when they train on their own. As the set comes to a close, as the muscle runs out of power or the discomfort becomes nearly impossible to tolerate, that’s when we go deep into the calm, still center and find the will to capture the most strict, controlled and mindful form.
It’s hard – very hard. But doing so not only allows you to accomplish much more in a much shorter period of time, it also lowers your risk of injury dramatically and helps you break through plateaus that would otherwise be stubborn and hard to transcend.
Try making your last rep your best rep next time you train.
Then see how much more productive and efficient your workouts become.
Learn more about how to get and stay in great shape? Contact Dan at Tri Valley Trainer