There are two fundamentals that have to be satisfied in order to encourage muscle growth – the targeted muscle needs to work, and the work must overload the muscle in order to force it to grow. Some bodybuilders focus only on the latter and forget about the first part, and when no results come, they think they went too light and make it worse by loading on even more weight and using cheat reps to lift them.
Heavy weights are not always needed to build muscle. What is most important is that the weight you are using "feels" heavy to the muscles being worked. If muscle size is your main concern, you must do all in your power to make the workout harder, not easier. You must choose the path of maximum stimulation – which also happens to be the path of most resistance, effort and pain.
Cheating is when you use other muscles to help the targeted muscle lift the weight. It is a means to drive your muscles past momentary failure by helping to force the weight up with muscles other than the targeted ones. The key to cheating is to use only what you need – just enough help from other muscles so that you can keep the set going. Cheating reps are used to take your muscles past failure, not make a lift easier.
You always hear about "form" in discussions on how to properly perform a workout. However, strict form limits muscle overload. Using strict form doesn't permit you to handle the kind of weight it takes to grow. Strict form limits muscle growth and strength development! Strict form is to blame for more injuries than just about any other kind of training.
"Cheating" in this context means moving the weight through the full range of motion of a particular exercise, but rather than keeping strict form, using the impetus of the weight or body sway to help move the poundage. Barbell and dumbbell curls, barbell shoulder presses, lateral raises and rear-delt flyes are the best movements for using cheating reps. Don't cheat in compound movements such as deadlifts, barbell rows, squats and bench presses.
Cheating reps are perhaps the most basic way to train past failure. This method is for intermediate to advanced lifters – beginner bodybuilders tend to cheat to make a set easier, while more advanced bodybuilders cheat only to extend a set past failure, which makes the set significantly harder. You'll know that you're cheating correctly and the reps are working if the muscles trained feel like they are on fire.
- Do not cheat excessively or you may cause injury.
- Cheat only to work the muscle harder, not to make the exercise easier.
It is suggested that you keep cheating movements to the final set of an exercise, and not go past a total of three extra repetitions with this technique. Do not cheat if it means giving up form to the point where you could hurt yourself. When doing standing barbell curls, for example, do not cheat if it means arching your back to a degree where you feel pain or discomfort.
Weight training is sweaty, gut busting work that, if done properly, has you walking the thin line between growth and injury. Injury is always just ahead for the sloppy weight trainer. Real world statistics show that cheating reps work, yet cheating, by definition, is dangerous. You risk injury every time you use momentum to artificially boost rep speed, which allows you to handle more poundage than when you use strict techniques.
Start out performing the exercise with strict form, emphasizing the contraction and stretch in the muscle. Then at the end of the workout, you can do a couple of cheating reps to help you adjust to heavy weight and break through training plateaus.
While using good form most of the time may seem to be a no-brainer, one only has to look around a fitness center to see that most people seem to have a poor concept of correct exercise methods. As a rule, you should stick to the ABC's of lifting: Always Be In Control. Never twist, jerk or bounce in your exercises and, if you use cheating reps, do so in a controlled fashion.
Most people think too much along the lines of no pain, no gain. Don't seek fatigue: instead, learn to control it during your workout. Do some more minutes of cardio or one or two more sets for your weight training if you have a lot of energy during a certain workout. There isn't a best or an only way to workout. It's great if it works for you, but don't stay with one routine too long. Don't let the body or the mind become too accustomed.
Are Cheating Reps OK For GVT?
For the natural trainer, straightforward and effective routines such as German Volume Training are crucial. The idea is the same whether you do "10 of 10" or "8 of 8" sets and reps:
- One workout per body part is selected, and it's typically an exercise that will engage the whole muscle.
- The exercise is done only with the strength of the person doing the lifting, and it is performed with good form – with no forced or assisted reps, and no cheating.