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Do Cheat Reps Help Build More Muscle?

Is it okay to cheat on your reps in the gym? Will it help or hinder you muscle building journey? The answer depends on my context – how and when.



Back and Biceps


Regarding this topic we are talking predominantly about back and bicep training, although cheating can be done on other exercises for different muscle groups but it’s mostly considered effective for those two body parts. It certainly harder to cheat for a pressing movement than it is for a pulling movement, but there are some isolations where this might be possible, such as lateral raises for shoulders or extensions for thighs etc.


-Keep reading for an example of a looser form set performed during my back workout-


The Rise of Ultra Strict Form


Over the last few years we’ve seen a massive push towards extremely robotic, consistent and target muscle focused form where the weights being used are much lower typically than what would’ve been used before I think. This has become very popular on social media platforms especially with influences (utilising steroids) and showcasing , picture perfect form across all of their exercises and movement patterns.


That’s not saying that in the past all athletes used heavier loads and looser form and it’s now changed to athletes across-the-board using lighter loads with much more precise form. Of course it’s not black-and-white and you can see examples of the opposite. But I will say generally, there’s been this targeted shift towards much more precise and careful form.



So, What's The Deal?


So with that in mind where do looser form (cheat reps) stand in the current muscle building world. Do they still have a place if any for effective muscular growth or have they been tossed aside by most of the bodybuilding scene for good reason?


Again, we come back to the context of use. How and when they fit into a training regiment. Well look at those two factors now.


 

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How


The amount of loose form being used is very important in determining the effectiveness of those reps within a set. Does it add to muscle stimulation or detract from it? How much is too much?


So you need to set the parameters of what you were consider is the right amount of cheating and avoid doing more than this. We definitely don’t want to make the mistake of increasing the amount of cheating as you increase the weight over the course of a training block. it has to be consistent and I would say as a general rule of thumb you need to be in control of the weight at all times – you still need to be able to control the negative portion of the lift somewhat reasonably. Avoid any excessive jerkiness or extreme thrusting movements, you want to allow body movement to help you to lift more weight but it must be smooth.


Here I showcase an example on the low row for upper back. When paired with the strict chest supported row, this combo works brilliantly. Notice the movement is still controlled, but I allow a bit of body movement to initiate the pull and get more weight in the hands. I then finish with more back lean than a regular strict set would usually allow for and it targets the upper back area very well.




When


Cheating on all of your movements may put you at disadvantage for a couple of reasons. The first of which is because it makes it more difficult to progressively overload a lift at times you don’t quite know where you stand in terms of true strength and I would say that it is more difficult to increase the weight steadily when using looser form. It’s all too easy to increase the amount of momentum you use slightly each week as a way of adding more load. Again, this comes back to being aware of how much you’re using and keeping it as consistent as possible.


Secondly, you may be missing out on important stimulus during particularly taxing segments of the rep trajectory. The stretched Position of the lift will often be bypassed by using looser form – think of the barbell curl for example and how the hips are used to overcome those first few inches where the arm is nearly straight. To do this on every single set of every lift may be leaving Gains on the table when you consider the muscle growth potential of ‘stress during stretch’.


It will be a far better idea to perform most of your sets conventionally and use cheating here and there to further increase the number of reps you’re doing per set and therefore the intensity. Moreover, we can complete additional sets with more load that specifically focuses on taxing a certain portion of the lift which when combined with other lifts, cover the full spectrum of the ROM under maximal stress.


Eg. Incline DB Curl

Cheat BB Curl

Machine Pullovers

Looser form Pull-down



Conclusion


Do cheat reps help build more muscle? Yes, absolutely, they can be a a successful muscle building tool. With that in mind, consider using cheat reps to your advantage within your training programs but don’t fall into the trap of using it unplanned and unchecked as a way to boost your ego by lifting more load than realistically you can handle.


Likewise, knowing that ultra strict movements are currently so popular, try not to let the fear of lifting in a way that might not seem conventional and trendy suffocate your potential progress.


If you believe something can help you build more muscle but you’re worried about trying it because you might be seen as strange or ‘ego lifting’ then you’re just as bad as those who use loose form for purely ego boosting purposes.


Let me know what you thought of the article and if you were to need any help with advancing your physique as a natural lifter you can reach out to me via social network or my email at rossnewhamcoaching@gmail.com


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