Quality Of Reps Vs. What We Know About Training Effect

Discussion in 'General Training' started by _Simon_, Jan 26, 2018.

  1. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Active Member

    As stated in the other thread, thought I'd create this one. Whether this one has any lifespan or not I'm not sure, we'll see :).

    Bryan and all, I wonder if you could comment on quality of reps in an exercise and their effect. In the other thread you spoke of the neurological, metabolic and mechanical 'sparks' to hypertrophy, and the physiological effects of each type of training, and how our understanding of each leads to better (and has, with HST) programming for hypertrophy.

    But it seems they may not be enough if the tension is not being directed into the muscle tissue (ie the muscle isn't contracting against the load fully, and others are contributing more). How those reps are performed and where the tension is placed seems to matter.. or am I not correct there?

    I just see very often alot of discussion about programming etc, but if someone is doing an exercise, even with great form the tension can still be dispersed to other muscles which are 'stronger' in that individual. Everyone has different weak points and strong points, with a lot of inactive muscles, hence why for example some can't seem to 'feel' their lats contract with some exercises. I certainly have noticed that the body parts which have responded best and which seem genetically more able to grow for me personally are the ones I can feel contract hard during an exercise, and the ones I can consciously activate.

    And I guess I'm not really necessarily referring to EMG scans in terms of which exercises will elicit the strongest contraction, but moreso the individual's ability to contract the target muscle against a load. You can get 5 different people, have them do bench press, and some will feel their chest contract strongly, shoulder, triceps, or a combo. This is moreso what I'm interested in.. directing attention to individual's ability to contract muscles rather than just having them progress in load first and foremost... as when progressing in load, that extra tension may not be directed into the target muscles at all!

    Should there be more effort and direction towards 'quality' of reps? I know there's a lot of people for and against talk of the so-called 'mind-muscle connection', but I'm finding that the more I train, and the better I get at establishing that (being able to consciously squeeze the target muscle throughout the repetition), the more that the tension from the weights (you know what I mean hehe..) is directed where it's aimed at. And I guess this could easily lead into compound vs isolation exercises discussion, but I'll leave it at that for the moment hehe.

    Thanks all :)
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
  2. Bryan Haycock

    Bryan Haycock Administrator Staff Member

    I think the term "quality" is a bit misleading. A muscle either contracts or it doesn't. Here is a list of the ways a muscle contraction can vary:
    • Intensity (how many motor units are firing at once)
    • Duration
    • Speed
    • Type (concentric/isometric/eccentric)
    As for feeling the muscle you want to grow during a compound movement, it must be understood that you can't really make a specific muscle in a group work harder, you can only make a muscle work less. So, in order to feel bench press in your chest you must inhibit contraction of the shoulders and triceps. As you learn to do that, you will be able to perform bench press and it will literally feel as if you are doing flies.

    One thing should be kept in mind when trying to do this. It has been shown that a given muscle among a group of muscles will still be fully activated even if you "feel" other muscles in the group more. So I reiterate, if you are trying do create a mind-muscle connection to make your chest work harder during bench press, you brain will simply make your triceps and shoulders work less hard in order for the chest to be left with more of the load.

    Is a mind muscle connection necessary? No. All that matters is that you are lifting an adequate amount of weight, for an adequate number of total reps, with adequate frequency.
    NWlifter and Lol like this.
  3. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Active Member

    Ah that's mighty interesting.. Thanks heaps Bryan :).

    Hmm, I am totally speaking anecdotally here without a shred of science haha, but it definitely feels like I can make certain muscle groups work much harder and activate certain ones moreso, and allowing them to be the primary lifters/movers of a load. This doesn't seem the same as simply 'squeezing' a muscle and assuming it's doing more work just because its getting fatigued (I could just squeeze my big toe-surrounding muscles while doing any exercise then). But it seems as though the majority of tension is being shifted to those muscles... Note that I say 'seems' and 'feels like', I admit it's not clear cut.

    It just seems like shifting the tension to the target muscles makes sense. But the thing is like you said, any movement pattern under load will still be activating all necessary muscle groups....

    Yeah makes sense, just because I feel a certain muscle contracting hard, the others are still contracting appropriately, or else that particular movement pattern under load simply couldn't happen otherwise (hmm I think I'm getting it now.. haha).

    So then perhaps you can't really 'shift' the tension to specific muscles then, you can contract a muscle harder against a load, but that doesn't mean anything as such..

    So then it's not that the muscle is 'taking on' more of the tension, but it's simply squeezing harder to think it is, and therefore getting more fatigued than the others! Would you say that's the case? And as you've stated in the HST FAQ, fatigue is not the prime stimulus for growth.. But just a side effect.. and shouldn't be the primary focus/goal...

    Wow, what a turnaround for me haha!
  4. _Simon_

    _Simon_ Active Member

    Ah but I am confused about making a muscle group work less than others though.. because if that was the case, then tension would indeed be shifted to other muscles and they would indeed undergo more mechanical strain than the others, thus making this an important aspect... :S

    Or is it a case of not having certain muscle groups work as hard as they need to? They'll still have the bare minimum tension required to perform the lift, and then you won't overly fatigued some groups..

    So maybe a movement towards doing lifts naturally and as relaxed as possible is the way to go.. the tension will still be dispersed, but certain muscle groups won't then get overly fatigued as a result of 'working too hard', thus your performance would go up and you'd be be able to lift more...

    I'm getting excited now haha...
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
  5. leegee38

    leegee38 Member


    From that abstract: "... The increased activity did not occur at the expense of decreased activity of the other muscle, e.g. when focusing on activating the triceps muscle the activity of the pectoralis muscle did not decrease. On the contrary, focusing on using the triceps muscle also increased pectoralis EMG at 50 and 60 % of 1RM. ..."

    The study found that the ability to increase activity seemed to drop at around 80% 1RM
    NWlifter likes this.

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