by Daniel Schou
THE REP-FREE WORKOUT
There will be reps
The essence of this article is an urging for you to try out what I call the rep-free workout. The rep-free workout is not exactly what it sounds like. This is not about static training or anything of the sorts. I do not believe in overdoing the static part of strength training and muscle building. (I am in fact rather skeptical about the tendency of late to put too much trust into the benefits that are to be harvested with static exercises, such as planks.
Thus I am not recommending a workout that is in fact rep-free. On the contrary, I am a firm believer in the benefits of dynamic, challenging and intense training. There will be reps.
What I am writing about here is an approach, an attitude and a method.
I recommend everyone that is up for a stimulating alteration to try out the following:
Go to the gym and have a workout session in which there is no counting of reps. You simply do not count any reps, at all, for the duration of this workout. If possible you will also limit the counting of sets. Instead you measure every exercise in time and in quality. You either set a time frame for the exercise in question, or you let the decision of when to move on to the next exercise to be 100 % depending on the feeling in the targeted muscle. You move on when you judge that the exercise has done what it was meant to do, be it after a single quality set or a dozen of them.
It doesn’t matter what muscle group you are training, this approach can be tried for them all. This said, I personally find it extra rewarding in relation to abs-training. Many abs exercises allow for a rather high number of reps, which makes it all the more important to focus less on quantity and more on quality.
Make sure to go for absolute pain, full commitment and a feeling of total presence. There is only here. There is only now. Do not let your thoughts wander. Go for perfection.
All this is much easier said than done. Counting at the gym is an old habit that is constantly nourished by all that which we read about in magazines and online regarding different workouts and regimes. The numbers is what makes it all possible to overview. It is not easily put aside. In fact, chances are that you will catch yourself counting at least once or twice during the workout, despite your intention not to.
The Rep-Free Workout will help you raise the quality of your training. It is a way to hone your commitment and your feeling of absolute presence at the gym.
The Rep-Free Workout will help you better your mind to muscle-connection, experiment, get past strength plateaus and improve your technique.
First of all, don t get me wrong – I am fully aware that counting reps and sets is a good tool. It is clarifying, it is useful and it is rewarding. In most workouts the benefits of counting reps and sets are many. This article is not a recommendation to stop doing it altogether, but to just give it a try every once in a while. The reasons for this are the following:
1. Increased mind to muscle-connection. When your mind isn’t preoccupied with the grand scheme of things it will be more focused at the task at hand, which, in turn, will allow you to really feel the targeted muscle.
2. Forgetting about the reps and the counting will also allow you to experiment and to have a playful approach to this workout. You can, for example, play with performance tempo without feeling that it interrupts the thought-out routine. Do the slowest rep you can, feel the muscles involved and let the exhilaration of total body control run through you. Then try doing the opposite; some explosive reps where you aim at a faster and more aggressive execution of the exercise.
3. This is a good way of getting past strength and development plateaus. Letting go of the routine and just being in the moment will allow maximum quality of your lifting.
4. Improved technique. Not counting the reps can help you in taking a fresh look at the way that you execute the different exercises. There is no haste here, there are no numbers to get down, so you can really go into the why and the how of each exercise that you choose to employ.
All these benefits can be summed up in this assertion of mine: 45-60 minutes of concentrated, rep-counting-liberated, effort will lead to an increase in technique-awareness, performance and experimental joy. When, next time at the gym, you return to the counting of reps and the coping with prefigured numbers you are likely to experience a sustained motivational rush springing from the rep-free workout.
I really want to stress the benefits that the occasional rep-free workout will offer you. I recommend that you do it more than once, let it be something that you try out from time to time. You will get better at it with time – and the reward will grow in proportion to your ever-improving ability to go through with the none-counting workout.
I recommend the aesthetically aware athlete reading this article to, once in a while, have a rep-free workout – a session at the gym where the habit of counting reps are laid aside. I am convinced that testing this approach with irregular intervals will lead to clear results when it comes to increased muscle to mind-connection, getting past strength and development plateaus and improvement of exercise technique. And, not to be forgotten, it will be great fun.
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