Weight Lifting, Weight Training, Bench Press & Bodybuilding
September 25, 2022

Every Rep Counts
By Charles Staley

Every Rep Counts

During a golf clinic I recently attended, the instructor told us: "If there's one thing I'd like you to come away with today it's that 'every ball counts.'"

That's very sound advice for any golfer looking to lower his score, and it also made me think of parallels to lifting. As a recreational golfer, I typically hit 60 balls during a practice session at the range. Sometimes I'll hit 90 or 120 balls. Over the course of a week I probably hit about 350 balls. Professional golfers take far more shots than this, and some reportedly hit 1000 balls a day.

Now as competitive lifters we can't take 1000 reps a day- not even close. And even if, over the course of an extremely high-volume workout, you managed 300 reps, across all exercises and including warm-up sets, the only reps that really "count" are those done on the competitive exercise(s) at 90% intensity or above.

With that in mind, if you're a powerlifter, and it's "squat day," how many total squat reps are you likely to take (that are 90% or more of your current 1RM) during that workout?

Three? Five? Eight?

Just to make the math easier, let's say you're a complete maniac and you get 10 meaningful reps per workout on whatever competitive exercise you happen to be doing.

Every Rep Counts

Then consider the following question:

If "every ball counts" during a 1000 rep workout, how much more does "every rep count" during a 10-rep workout? Obviously, it's 100 times more relevant, just based on that simple comparison. Then add the fact that "bad" reps in the weightroom can also compromise your personal safety, and the importance is magnified even further.

So if we agree that every rep counts, it might be worth considering what we really mean by "counts." For example, if your best deadlift is 440-pounds, what criteria do you use to assess quality on all of your 396-pound and heavier pulls? In my mind, there are at least four possible ways to define "counts" on any given rep:

  1. Completion: You complete the lift, irrespective of speed and/or technique

  2. Technically Accurate Completion: You complete the lift using good technical skills, irrespective of speed.

  3. Fast Technically Accurate Completion: You complete the lift using good speed and technical execution.

  4. Competition-Specific, Fast Technically Accurate Completion: You complete the lift using good speed and technical execution. The distinction between this level and the previous category is that here, you do everything possible to mimic contest conditions. Possible ways to accomplish this might include wearing competitive apparel and gear, strictly abiding by competitive rules, carefully mimicking likely rest-intervals between lifts and attempts, lifting in front of spectators, and/or generating a competition-specific level of psychological intensity. This is the highest level of "counts."

As you consider which standard of quality you should use to define "counts," be sure to consider the challenges involved in accurately measuring the various components of each level. For example, it is possible to measure lifting speed, but it's much more difficult to quantify things like intensity and acceptable technique.

Please join me in the conversation! If you'd like to add your own perspectives on this topic, click the comments link under my photo below and share your thoughts with us!

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