When you research training techniques and principles for long enough you will start to come across the same information and people time and time again. People will always try to put a unique spin on the principle (I do the same) as the amount of time required to study and test a new training method can take decades.
You’ll also start to see that one technique has inspired another and this is an ongoing process, one particular concept that I’ve come across that seems like an under the radar method is something known as myo reps.
Myo reps, created by Borge Fagerli, take inspiration from traditional rest pause training and more popularly Dante Trundels Doggcrapp (DC) training methods (a low volume, rest pause style of training).
What are Myo reps? Myo reps are a rest pause style of training that focuses on using a lighter load for a metabolic/pump style of training. It is used as a method to increase the work capacity of your set while also decreasing the overall workout length for a more time efficient workout.
An example of a myo rep set would look like the following:
- Perform a set for 20 reps (this is your activation set), rest 5-15 seconds
- Perform 4 more reps, rest 5-15 seconds
- Perform 4 more reps, rest 5-15 seconds
- Perform 4 more reps, rest 5-15 seconds
- Perform 3 more reps, end of set.
As you can see you are now performing 35 reps in a period of time that would typically take 5-10 minutes to finish with a traditional straight set approach. The first 20 reps as mentioned however are your activation reps, the following 19 reps (assuming a target of 20 reps) are your working sets.
This is however the very basic overview of what a myo rep set looks like, I’ll now get into it in a bit more detail so that you can see the science/rationale behind this approach.
What Are Myo Reps
Myo reps are a form of rest pause training but with a unique interpretation and that is not so much focus on the load lifted (typically people will lift at 70%-80% of their 1 rep max for 8-12 reps as this is seen as the ideal hypertrophy range for muscle growth) but rather using a lighter load to gradually fatigue more muscle fibres.
What I mean by that is when performing a standard set following the traditional straight set style of workout which is 3 sets of exercises for 8-12 reps you naturally use around 80% of your 1 rep max weight for that exercise. For most 80% will be a failure point at 6-8 reps so naturally if you perform 12 reps it will be closer to the region of 70% of your 1 rep max.
Advanced lifters intentionally program the workouts based on percentages however it happens to work out that using a rep scheme of 8-12 reps puts you into that hypertrophy endurance rep range. With this rep range you will perform around 6-8 reps with good form and will still feel fresh/strong.
After that 8th rep however, most will tend to fatigue and this is where you will start to maximally recruit and fatigue a greater number of muscle fibres. It’s at this point when you are recruiting the most muscle fibres that you are performing ‘effective’ reps.
You’ll see effective reps used interchangeably with a range of other terminology but these last reps as you’ll most frequently hear are what stimulates and causes muscle growth. There’s a popular saying along the lines of “it’s only the last reps, when they are the most difficult, that muscle growth occurs”.
Basically you need to push the boundaries here rather than giving up when it gets difficult as the effective reps when you are maximally recruiting muscle your muscle fibres is where muscle growth occurs.
Rest pause training takes a short break after a set (5-15 seconds or 5-10 deep breaths) and then you continue to add some reps in order to further fatigue your muscle fibres and promote more muscle growth. You’ll only manage a reduced number of reps on the next mini set and then you repeat this process 3-5 times for a rest pause style set.
Typically a rest pause style set would be the equivalent of 3-4 straight sets performed in the traditional method and due to the level of intensity required, 1 full rest pause set is enough for the exercise. Here you can see the time efficiency aspect.
What myo reps do is expand on this basic rest pause style principle but with a twist, the main point being that the rep range used is higher with the weight being lower.
Borge recommends that you start with a load of 30%, 40% or 50% depending on your training level and perform between 9-20 reps for your first set (activation set). Additional reps will then be based on a predetermined total rep number. The example I used earlier was 20 reps and this meant your mini sets were consisting of 4 reps until you got to this number.
With typical rest pause training you will go to technical failure which means you can’t physically perform another rep with perfect form, note that this is absolutely crucial for training safety and muscle activation. Using momentum or cheating to get additional reps is of no benefit here where strength is not the primary goal.
With myo reps you’ll go 1 or 2 reps short of technical failure on your activation set so that you leave something in the tank for your following reps.
How to Do Myo Reps
I’ve laid out an example above regarding the rep scheme however an important factor to make a note of when doing myo reps is how to do them from a technique viewpoint.
Myo reps attempt to mimic an occlusion style of training which is blood flow restriction to a muscle group. With occlusion training the aim is to keep blood flow in the working muscle in order to create more metabolic stress and ultimately trigger more muscle growth hormones.
In order to mimic this style of training a myo rep is not performed with a full range of motion but instead stops at 10% of full contraction and 10% of full extension.
Therefore taking the bicep curl as an example you will curl until you are at 10% from full contraction at the top of the movement and only lower the weight to 10% of full extension. This is because at the top and bottom of the movement you will lose muscular tension.
Keeping muscular tension for higher reps will mean that blood still pumps into the muscle through each reps contraction however will not leave as you don’t take a rest during the set. This of course doesn’t replace occlusion training however is used to simulate it in rest pause style training and is what makes myo reps so unique.
What Exercises Should You Use for Myo Reps
Now we are getting into the opinion section of this article and I’m going to weigh in on what exercises I think this is best for.
I spend countless hours reading about how to best build muscle mass and improve body composition whilst doing so naturally and therefore feel that myo reps are better suited to some exercises more than others.
In these two articles I point out how rest pause sets and pyramid style training are advanced techniques that should not be the focus of your training but rather a technique to be used sparingly. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment when reading about a new technique and be eager to test it on all exercises and myo reps are no different.
The issue however is that getting progressively stronger overtime is the best way you can build muscle and improve your physique. Myo reps are a nice addition that can be used to mix up your training from time to time but there is no replacing getting brutally strong in multi joint compound movements.
I can say that is personal opinion however it’s echoed by the most elite coaches in the industry, if you read anything on T-Nation or EliteFTS then you’ll know that advanced techniques are used to supplement training foundation at the most advanced level.
Some of the most popular muscle building programs in history are also the most basic with a focus on getting stronger and these include starting strength and stronglifts 5×5 program.
Therefore I’m going to instantly say that you should use myo reps sparingly and on a select few exercises. Low volume workouts do work but not when the recommended load is <50% of your 1 rep max.
Therefore you should use myo reps sparingly on the following exercises:
- Bicep curl variation
- Tricep extension variation
- Leg curl or leg extension variation
- Lateral raise variation (side, front or rear)
- Machine based row variation
- Machine based press variation
Borge actually says that he wouldn’t recommend this method for any heavy compound movements like squats or deadlifts or any dumbbell based exercise (due to needing to stabilize the weight) though he of course recommends it to be used on most sets for major muscle groups.
I won’t question the creators methods but rather say that if you are a beginner or even intermediate level lifter then do not put your focus onto a particular training technique like this as that mentality will mean you read something else next week and suddenly want to factor that into your routine and before you know it you’ll be doing nothing but advanced techniques but not actually end up lifting any heavy weight.
I’m going to cover the DC comparison now but Dante Trudel himself states that getting stronger is the only goal even when using a rest pause style of training.
Myo Reps vs Doggcrapp Training
I’m not going to lie, myo reps seem like a very similar training process to DC training and I’ll point out some of the similarities, however it’s worth noting that Borge absolutely claims to have taken inspiration from this method.
DC training in itself is a much larger topic than myo reps which is why comparisons are drawn between the two and it’s too large of a topic for me to cover here. What you can do is check out the overview article that I linked to earlier here with Dante Trundel himself.
He has also gone on to look into studies and research that I’ll cite at the bottom of this article so that you can get a deeper understanding of the scientific principles (if that interests you). What I’m really trying to say is that I don’t think myo reps are a rip off of DC and have their own merit.
The most important differentiator between the two is that myo reps focus on the occlusion style simulation of maximal blood flow into the muscle with less emphasis on the total weight lifted. With DC you are looking to beat the log book every single workout and take your set to complete failure.
Now the approach with myo reps is to still maximally fatigue your muscle fibres which is the whole purpose of the rest pause style approach however this approach seems to appeal to the more typical trainee.
DC on the other hand is targeting the more ‘meat head’, hardcore bodybuilder who obesses over pushing their limit every workout and this is why DC also includes more advanced techniques like loaded stretches and fascia stretching.
The second key differentiator is that the myo rep approach also focuses on auto regulation meaning you perform a set amount of reps overall and do so with mini reps rather than the DC approach which goes to an 8-12 rep failure set followed by a short break and then your next rep attempt.
The auto regulation approach is using a lighter weight but performing more reps until you get to that rep target like the 20 rep target in the example from earlier. With DC you are using a much heavier load and therefore your subsequent mini sets are limited by recovery capability.
It’s clear that myo reps are a different training technique with their own unique aims (maximally create metabolic stress and fatiguing an increased number of muscle fibres recruited) to stimulate muscle growth.