Are Cheat Reps Stupid?

Are cheat reps killing your gains?

Should you implement cheat reps while working out to crank up those extra reps? Get informed by reading more below.

The following video was uploaded by Dr. Mike Israetel, PhD in Sport Physiology and co-founder of Renaissance Periodization. He believes cheat reps are stupid and explains why.

What are cheat reps?

Cheat reps are when you change the standard technique of an exercise to make it easier. When doing so, the athlete will utilise another group muscle to aid in the movement. The most common technique for cheat reps is to use momentum to help with the exercise.

An example would be with curls. Curls are the staple when it comes to targeting the biceps. To properly perform a dumbbell curl, you must lock in your arm and elbows on the side of your torso and flex the bicep lifting the dumbbell. Nothing in your body should move except for flexing your elbows to lift and lower the dumbbell.

cheat repsSource: Gordon Cowie

How would someone do dumbbell curls with cheat reps? By creating momentum utilising some other muscle group to help with the lifting of the dumbbell. In this case, the most common cheat technique would be to arch the back or flex the legs and straighten them up again to swing the arms, making the exercise dumbbell easier to lift.

According to Dr. Mike, he sees four reasons why some people choose to do cheat repetitions. However, he counter-argues each of those reasons with some useful tips.

Why Cheat Reps Are Stupid, According to Dr. Mike Israetel

Reasons for Cheating

1. I Can Use More Weight

Dr. Mike explains that while people tend to use more weight to manage cheat reps, this is probably not a good idea as you can do one simple tweak without having to cheat. Do more sets with a lower rep range.

This way you will have more time to recover and should be able to lift the weight as many times as you would with cheat reps, but utilising the standard technique.

2. I Can Go Beyond Failure

Another trick you can use is to implement rest-pause in your training instead of cheating the reps.

3. I Feel the Target Muscle Better

According to Dr. Mike, people who say this usually have horrible technique and you should improve yours if that is your case.

If your technique is flawless and still you think you feel the target muscle better with cheat reps, then try different variations of the exercise.

4. I Get Better Results (Pump, Burn, Tension)

Proper technique and exercise selection will solve this problem, Dr. Mike says.

Still, if you must do cheat reps to get better results, do as little as possible.

Downsides of Cheating

Dr. Mike argues there are 6 downsides of doing cheat reps:

  • Extra systemic failure
  • Extra non-target muscle fatigue
  • More long-term wear/tear
  • Higher acute injury risk
  • Tough to track – makes it harder to know if the training program is working the way it should
  • Less stimulative – most cheat reps miss the highly stretched/loaded position

Read More: Nutrition and the Scientific Principles of Strength Training

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