Cheating on reps, are they worth it?
Cheating on a rep is performed by deviating from strict form (leaning, adding extra momentum at the bottom of the movement with whole-body motion) after a lifter has reached the his/her maximum reps. Basically, it allows you to journey beyond the point of muscle failure.
Are they worth it?
The answer is yes and no.
Your experience working out and lifting determine whether you should do cheat reps or not. For newbies, proper form and range of motion is the top priority when working out. The reason being- your ligaments, muscles, joints, etc are not strong yet and you can easily injure yourself if you’re keeping sloppy form and cheating reps.
Also, you need to pay attention to what exercise you’re about to cheat on. For example: Cheating on squats – going all the way down very fast just to bounce, so that you have extra momentum to get back up. This is not a good exercise to cheat on because it can damage your ligaments in your knees and ankles; and because your spine is involved, the high impact of bouncing weight on your back can cause serious injury, throwing you out of the gym for several weeks to several months. No bueno!
Then again, if you’ve been lifting for years and have mastered good, clean form then yes, I would suggest 1 or 2 cheat reps once you’ve reached muscle failure, as this is something Arnold Schwarzenegger preached. The cheat reps will help with the ‘burn’ effect on your muscles.
Certain exercises are easier to cheat on than others, for example ‘pull-ups’! Using a chair or bouncing to get that extra rep or two is good. Why? Because over time your body adapts and builds on what you did the last time you did pull-ups. Since your body went beyond failure last time it will now be a little easier to get those last two reps you never could do before.
By all means, always keep proper form for at least 8-10 reps, and only do the cheat reps when you know your muscles are done. In my own experience of doing pull-ups I used to do a sloppy kip pull-up and can easily do 30 pulls even with weighted vest. But, after the past few months of doing P90X2, I focused on proper pull-up form by doing everything slowly and clean (with 1 sec down, 1 sec up, feet and torso straight down). Even though I can do around 12-15 pulls with this clean method, my back (or should I say Latimus Dorsi) has become more developed than from the past 12 rounds of doing P90X!
So ask yourself if you’re ready to cheat on a rep or not.
Caution: Cheating on reps for extra muscle ‘burn’ is not for the faint-hearted. If you’re looking to gain strength and increase muscle size and/or tone, you might want to get those extra 2 reps in. 😉
And of course, how can we forget the former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous quote [PG13]: