Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Using Repetitions In Reserve To Improve Your Strength Training Workouts

January 19, 2022


Strength training remains an essential component of your weekly exercise sessions. Getting the most out of these workouts requires proper exercise prescription on reps, sets, and rest periods. Repetitions in reserve is an important concept for exercisers to understand on setting the intensity or resistance of their sets. Instead of establishing the repetitions in a set based on the % of an individual’s 1 rep max (For example 80% of a 1 rep max for an 8 rep set), individuals are able to set an appropriate resistance based on the number of repetitions they could complete at the end of their set. For example, after completing a set of 10 repetitions participants should ask themselves how many quality repetitions they could have completed after the 10th rep. If this number is greater than 2 the resistance should be increased to find a weight they could lift between 10-12 times.

A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the utilization of repetitions in reserve on weight training performance and recovery (Mangine et al. 2021). Participants in the study completed two bench press protocols including either 4 sets at 80% of their 1 rep max to a 3 reps in reserve, stopping when they had 3 good reps left in the exercise, and a 5th set to failure or 5 sets to failure. Participants were assessed for rate of force development, repetition volume, total work, and ratings of perceived exertion on each set. In addition, authors reassessed each participant on 3 reps at 80% of their 1 rep max 6, 24, 48, and 72 hours after the initial session. Blood work, including creatine kinase was also collected at these intervals. Authors reported the reps in reserve strategy improved recovery and subsequent performance and exertion on future bench press sessions. This study adds to our existing research knowledge on the potential performance decreases with training to failure and the benefits of leaving a few reps in the tank at the end of each set.

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