Myo-Reps - by Borge "Blade" Fagerli
Myo-reps is a method, not a program, so it can be used with most program setups instead of "traditional" strength training. The idea is to achieve maximum muscle fiber activation and then get in as many effective reps as possible while maintaining that activation by limiting the rest periods of the following sets.
There are mainly three ways to achieve full activation:
1. Lifting a light weight explosively. Also called speed-training. As long as you accelerate the weight to the maximum, you can get reasonably close to 100% activation.
2. Lift a heavy weight of approximately 5-6RM or heavier, and try to lift as explosive as possible. Although the movement is slow, you will achieve maximum fiber activation as a result of the load. Heavier weights are primarily lifted by the coordination of nerve impulses, and not by increased fiber activation.
3. Lift light to moderate weight to or close to failure. Muscle fiber activation follows the so-called size principle in which the smallest and weakest (and most enduring) are activated first, and the larger and stronger muscle fibers after that - when there is a need for them. When you reach failure, the activated muscle fibers aren't generating enough tension to lift the load. Fatigue can be neural - which among other things implies a reflective inhibition of nerve impulses to muscles in order to avoid overloading. There will also be varying degrees of metabolic fatigue, the accumulation of H+ ions and lack of ATP.
But you don't want to go too close to failure, because that will limit your training volume too much – you won't be able to do enough reps for an optimal training effect and keep your training frequency high enough. It's a fine line between enough fatigue to reach sufficient fiber activation and too much fatigue causing failure, and it requires knowing your own limits and training tolerance. That's part of why this is not a suitable method for beginners, and you should have a few years of training experience before using Myo-reps. (Another part is that you should have a correct technique on all exercises – critical since you will be training so close to failure.)
So, to achieve full fiber activation, you will first perform an activation set, (typically a longer set of e.g. 10 reps) where you should go close to failure (but not all the way). Stop when rep speed is noticeably slower than the previous repetition, or when you know you might be able to do 1 more rep, but not 2.
Next goal is to maintain the activation so that every following rep is "effective" (that is, expose all the activated muscle fibers to the load), and perform as many of these effective reps as possible, and thus lead to a maximum signal response and training effect. You achieve this by taking only short rests of about 10-20 seconds (5-10 deep breaths) between the following sets. Through the rapid recycling of ATP, you can continue with sets of 1-5 reps using the same load. And this is where you'll need experience and knowing your limits – just enough fatigue to maintain close to 100% fiber activation, but not so much that it will limit the number of total reps too much for necessary volume. It is a delicate balance.
So, from now on you will be more aware of rep speed, or how explosive you can lift the weight. This in itself is helping to provide full fiber activation, but will also act as an indicator of how close you are to failure. So, as soon as the rep speed is significantly reduced from one rep to the next, you are getting too close to failure, and it is time to stop the set.
You should use some method to auto-regulate your training volume, so that you will be training according to your current ability (which depends on stress, recovery, sleep, nutrition, etc).
Heavier loads require fewer reps after the activation set because you are close to maximum fiber recruitment from the first rep. Lighter loads require more reps, because the actual tension per fiber unit is lower, and you must let the load "work" on the muscle longer to compensate. At the same time you must consider that it will be beneficial to get more recovery early in the training phase so that you'll be able to push heavy in the end, so you should aim to keep the number of reps after the activation set pretty much in the same area throughout the whole training phase.I've implemented a fatigue-stop method akin to Mike T in his RTS system (he uses a % table) where you use RPE and rep speed to determine how to continue the set. So for example:
10 reps (activation) + 10sec rest, 3 reps + 10 sec rest, 3 reps (third rep slow and grindy) this is Fatigue Stop 1 (FS1)
now... + 20sec rest, 2 reps (so - longer rest and less reps) + 20sec rest, 2 reps etc until 2nd rep slow and grindy - you've reached Fatigue Stop 2 (FS2) so STOP.
At heavier loads, you switch to lighter loads at FS1, as mentioned.
This will auto-regulate your volume, moreso limiting it when your recuperative abilities are limited as I do not recommend going beyond a pre-determined volume by more than 40-50%.
+15-20 when you have only one exercise for a muscle group, for priority muscle groups, when you use lighter weights, or just have a higher volume tolerance
+10-15 when you have two exercises for a muscle group, or have a moderate volume tolerance
+5-10 when you have several exercises for a muscle group, when you’re lifting very heavy weights, or if you for various reasons have lower volume tolerance.
All these reps after the activation set will be more effective than when taking a longer break (typically 1-3 minutes) between the sets and having to "start over" on the next set to achieve full fiber activation again. Also note that when you perform more than one exercise for a muscle group, you will reach full activation sooner due to accumulation of fatigue, so the activation set can be shorter. So, with the second or third exercise, rather shorten the activation set instead of reducing the load.
An example series of Myo-reps might look like this:
11 reps (close to failure) + 3 reps + 3 reps + 3 reps + 2 reps + 2 reps + 2 reps
= 11 +15 reps
As many of you may have noticed, Myo-reps has many similarities to the well-known and efficient DC-method which is also utilizing rest-pause training. The most critical difference is that you want to rather control fatigue than to use it as a goal in itself, as that will allow you to increase the total training volume and frequency.
Now, let's compare Myo-reps to the "traditional" training protocol.
Here's a hypothetical example of a standard 3 sets of 10 reps with 2 min rests between the sets. The "effective" reps near maximum fiber activation are marked with *:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8* 9* 10*
1 2 3 4 5 6 7* 8* 9* 10*
1 2 3 4 5 6* 7* 8* 9*
That's 29 total reps of which 11 was effective with full fiber activation.
And a series of Myo-reps (10-20 second rests):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8* 9* 10*
1* 2* 3* 4*
1* 2* 3* 4*
1* 2* 3*
1* 2* 3*
(= 10+14 reps)
24 total reps of which 17 effective.
Do you see the difference? Because of the short rests every rep after the activation set was effective. And you used maybe half of the time. You will in other words train as effectively as possible instead of as much as possible.
The extent to which the density (total number of reps performed per hour) plays a role in the training effect, we don't know for sure. There are some indications of a higher density providing a better stimulus.
Let's look at what an example training phase could look like from the beginning to the end. You would increase your weights approximately 5% from week to week.
Week 1-2: 50-55%, 20-25 +15 (20-25 +5+5+5)
Week 3-4: 60-65%, 15-20 +16 (15-20 +4+4+4+4)
Week 5-6: 70%, 12-15 +15 (12-15 +3+3+3+3+3)
Week 7-9: 75%, 10-12 +15 (10-12 +3+3+3+2+2+2)
Week 10-12: 80%, 8-10 +14 (8-10 +2+2+2+2+2+2+2)
Week 13-14: 80-85%, 6-8 +4, reduce load by 10-20% and continue 5-10 +6 (6-8 +2+2 # 5-10 +3+3)
This is just an example, it will obviously depend on how fast you increase the weights, and how quickly your strength increases. And remember to deload at some point, maybe with regular sets and longer rest periods.
Recommended volume is 20-30 total reps for a muscle group, up to 40-50 total reps when overlapping or prioritizing, 2-3 times a week. The simple version has a more or less static approach of 25-30 total reps (activation + Myo-reps series) so e.g. 15 +10 or 10 +15, or with heavier loads 8 +5 and a lighter dropset 10 +5. In the beginning of the training phase it's a good idea to use a full body routine 3-4 times a week, until you get to a little heavier loads and about 12-15 rep range in the activation set, when you might want to switch to a 2-split routine with about 4 weekly workouts.
Remember that a muscle cannot count, as the background for this volume recommendation has a larger context: the weights should be heavy enough to provide the necessary stimulus for the muscle and provide the necessary time under load (total reps), while not overloading tendons, joints and nervous system.
Also keep in mind that the most important requisite for muscle growth will still be progression of load, and to achieve it you need to train exactly enough to provide a training effect, but not so much that you are not able to recover from workout to workout (or you won't be able to meet the primary goal: increasing your weights).
A final note: Back squat, front squat and deadlift (and very often barbell row) are exercises where correct technique is critical to avoid injuries. When you're training as close to failure as you are with Myo-reps, it's easy to get sloppy with technique with these exercises, so to be on the safe side it's better to do standard sets with longer rest periods here.
Oh, and Blade just wanted to add the following, thinking you nerds would be interested:
Originally Posted by Blade
Both muscle fiber recruitment as well as rate coding seem to be important for optimal stimulation. You may have full fiber recruitment by lifting heavy loads (80%+) or by lifting very explosively, but to achieve higher rate coding you most likely need to work closer to failure (on the first set).
An added benefit of the short rests and short sets in the Myo-rep series is not only that you maintain fiber recruitment/rate coding, but also that there seems to be more stimulation from higher sparks of Ca+ fluxes via calcineurin, and important mediator/modulator of hypertrophy. Wernbom has looked into this and there are a couple of interesting newer studies which elucidates this further. Also, there is a theoretical advantage of having the tissue resetting and sensing separate mechanical strain events vs. a long series of reps which is sensed differently. This probably ties in with allowing the tissue to be flooded with blood and oxygen (hyperemia) vs. a hypoxic condition as in continuous tension and endurance-specific signaling.