Revealing The Truth About Cheat Reps
Have you ever been called out by the bros at your gym while you were using just a little bit of momentum to complete your barbell bicep curls? Has anyone ever asked you to drop your ego and weights while you were struggling with your reps? If you’re nodding your head with tears in your eyes, we’ve written this guide on cheat reps just for you.
Anyone who uses momentum by rocking back and forth or behaves like King Kong by jerking the weights to the top of the movement will tell you that cheat reps help them annihilate their muscles. Are they right about the relationship between muscle hypertrophy and cheat reps or are they doing nothing more than stroking their ego? Let’s find out.
Why Do We Use Momentum in Our Exercises?
To understand why we use momentum, we need to deconstruct muscle hypertrophy. Muscle hypertrophy refers to an increase in muscle mass. As per the current hypertrophy theory, bigger muscles are a result of the mechanosensory converting mechanical energy into chemical signals that mediates the anabolic pathway.
Hypertrophy creates a situation where more proteins are being synthesized than degraded. Hence, it could be summarised that muscle hypertrophy is based on the recruitment of as many motor units as possible in the target muscles, and achieving high firing rates in these motor units for a sufficient duration of time.
According to a study, motor units are recruited in an orderly manner as per the load placed on them. Lower intensity tasks will call forth smaller motor unit action whereas higher intensity tasks will invoke the complete range of the motor units.
Here comes the big takeaway of this study. The researchers conducting this study concluded that this principle discounts the role of fatigue and its ability to impact motor unit recruitment.
Is Strict Form Overrated?
Gym bros will tell you that you need to stand straight while performing the barbell curls and your lower arms should be the only body parts moving. While a military-grade strict form is an ideal way of performing an exercise, you won’t be able to achieve muscle hypertrophy if you’re not pushing yourself through muscular failure. Why is that, you ask?
As your muscles begin to fatigue, the force your motor units generate goes down drastically. To maintain a full range of motion, enter hypertrophy, and get through the repetitions, you need to recruit higher threshold motor units which are only possible if you use momentum.
The best part about cheat reps is that you can enter the state of hypertrophy even during a lower-intensity workout using lighter weights by performing the exercises to failure and using a little momentum to get a few extra reps out of the tank.
Why Most People Avoid “Cheating”
You might be wondering if cheat reps are so great then why do most coaches and trainers stop you from doing them? There are two main reasons for it:
Let’s face it, cheat reps are not visually appealing. Most guys who make use of the technique look like noobs who have no idea of what they’re doing. While exercises performed with a strict form could make you look like a pro, using momentum with no control makes you look cringeworthy.
Aesthetically appealing stuff is easy to sell. This is the reason you’ll never see athletes lifting super heavyweights in promotional videos or magazine covers. These models are made to pose with weights they wouldn’t even warm up with before their workouts.
Forced reps are a two-edged sword. While they are great for helping you get the most out of your workouts, overdoing them or performing them without control can lead to an injury. Truth be told, most people do push their lucks too hard with the cheat reps. This also brings us to our next section –
Rules For Using Cheat Reps in Your Workouts
Heavy Axial Loaded Cheat Reps Are a Big NO
For the uninitiated, axial loading is the application of weight or force along the course of the long axis of the body. You should never attempt cheat repetitions on exercises like the squat, deadlift, standing military presses, good mornings, where the spinal column is directly under tension.
A little mistake on any single cheat rep can cause permanent damage to your body. You should always weigh the risk vs. reward of using momentum in exercises. Ask yourself – Does the risk of injury from performing cheat reps outweigh the benefit of potentially recruiting more high threshold motor units?
Each Set is Not a Cheat Set
If you have to use momentum in each set, you’re doing it all wrong. Maybe the bros were right about you, and you need to drop your ego. Cheat reps should be reserved for the last few repetitions of the final set of every exercise at max.
Strictly Restricted For Isolation Exercises
The things that can go wrong in isolation (single-joint) exercises are limited as compared to compound (multi-joint) exercises. People tend to use heavier weights on compound moves as they can use their secondary muscles in them.
In the isolation lifts, the machines by default make your form stricter due to which you need to lift lighter weights. The lesser degree of freedom while performing the forced reps can reduce your chances of an injury while helping you achieve muscular hypertrophy.
Don’t Go Overboard With The Cheat Reps
The degree of momentum people use during cheat reps can vary depending on multiple factors like body weight, exercise, and ego. You should be using moderate momentum to safely increase the muscle stimuli.
If you can’t curl a barbell without looking like a pendulum, you’re taking the cheat reps too far. You should also limit the use of forced reps in exercises you’re not comfortable performing.
To Cheat or Not to Cheat?
Monogamy is best when it is limited to your marriage and kept out of the gym. You will need to cheat on exercises to push your limits and take your gains to the next level. It is up to you to determine how far you want to take it.