The Primal Blueprint is about maximizing the efficiency of the workout in order to reduce work time and add play time. If I can figure out the minimum effective dose and get 80% of the benefits 20% of the time, I’m for it. I have more time to hang out with loved ones, play outdoors, go hiking, or buckle up and get things done. Especially when I’m not cutting corners or shortening myself. For this reason, I love micro-workouts where, instead of spending hours in the gym, I just do movements and exercises all day – “practice snacks” – and build up a large workout load without feeling like I’ve been in the gym all day to have.
But microworkouts aren’t the only way to make training more efficient, or at least feel that way. There is also such a thing as rest training or myo-rep training.
What is Myo Rep or Rest Training?
Like most people lift weights, they lift a moderately heavy weight for 5-12 reps, rest for a few minutes, and do another set. You repeat this a few more times. But when you lift this way, the only really hard reps are the last of each set. The last 4-5 reps that start to burn, where the weight moves slowly. These reps are where the most muscle tension occurs and where all the muscle fibers are really busy. This is where the adjustments take place. These are the “effective reps”.
What if you could build up that tension and commitment, and add more “effective reps” to your workout?
One way is to just make sets at high volume – lifting a lot of weight over and over again. This is not a viable route for most people. It takes too long, it is too difficult, and it takes too much discipline and energy. You have to really love the workout to be able to do high volume and high intensity exercises. And if that describes you, you’re probably already doing something similar.
Another way is to do myo repetitions.
The repetitions of Myo focus on increasing muscle fiber engagement by starting with an “overload set” and then using mini-sets. In between you only take very little breaks so that your muscles remain fully exercised and you can incorporate more effective repetitions into your training. This is how it looks:
Choose a medium weight.
A moderate to light weight is ideal as you want to build enough volume to really activate and activate the muscle fibers. High weights and low reps are great too, but they don’t tend to trigger the “burn” like higher reps do, so they aren’t as good for Myo-Rep training.
Do 10-20 reps, stop if you make a mistake, or 1-2 reps just before you make a mistake.
The last 4-5 reps should feel heavy. You should be on fire. This is your overload set, or “activation set,” where you will reach the point of full activation and engagement of muscle fibers.
Rest for 5-7 breaths.
Breathe in normally. This should be a 10-15 second or so pause.
Do 3-5 repetitions.
All of these repetitions will either feel or “feel” heavy. Again almost doomed.
Rest for 5-7 breaths.
Do the same number of reps as in the previous mini-set.
When you’ve done 5 repetitions, do 5 repetitions again. When you do 4, do 4. 3, do 3.
Do three more “mini-sets” of the same number of reps and rest times if you can.
If you do one less repetition during a set, stop. That’s it. Complete the set.
You will be sore. You will burn Your muscles will be pumped. You might be trembling. These are good things. These indicate that you’ve hit your muscles really hard.
Some examples of what it could look like::
15/4/4/4/3 – Once the number of reps drops by 1 and you can only do 3, stop.
16/3/3/3/3/3 – Once you hit 5 mini-sets, stop.
20/5/5/4 – As soon as the number of reps in the mini-set has decreased, stop.
But these are just examples. You can use any rep scheme as long as you stick to the basics:
- 10-20 reps (almost to failure) for the overload set
- 5-7 respite
- 3-5 repetitions
- Repeat 4 times or stop when your reps drop by 1
It’s easy and quick, but not easy. These are difficult – but they are over quickly.
Progress by adding repetitions. When you hit mini-sets of 3 reps, move on to mini-sets of 4 and 5 reps.
Progress by adding weight. When you get to 20 rep sets, increase the weight and go from there.
The real beauty is that you don’t get systemic fatigue. This is not high intensity interval training or sprinting or crossfit-style metabolic conditioning training that will exhaust your whole body. Your heart rate will increase, but the main part of you that tires is the muscle itself. This is where the adaptations come from, and that’s why you can penetrate the pain further: the pain is localized.
If you want to incorporate these types of sets, I would really recommend using them as a micro-workout throughout the day. Each myo rep set is an individual microworkout. How I used them as microworkouts:
10:00 am, push-up myo-rep set (20/5/5/5/5/5)
12:00 p.m., Trap-Bar Deadlift Myo Rep Set (03.12.3 / 03.03.3)
2.00 p.m., pull-up myo-rep set (03.10.3.3.3.3)
3:00 p.m., dumbbell reverse lunge myo rep set (20/5/5/5/5/5)
In this case, each micro-workout takes about 5 minutes. And I really feel every single one and then I’m done. I don’t get hurt, I get a nice, powerful stimulus package to my muscles, and I have plenty of time to do the things I enjoy doing all day. Win win.
Of course, you can also simply do a normal training session with myo rep sets.
Anyway, if you are experienced with this type of rest or myo-rep set training I would love to hear about it.
Do you think you will try yourself?
About the author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Marks Daily Apple, godfather of the Primal Food and Lifestyle movement, and the New York Times best-selling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, which describes how he combines the keto diet with a pristine lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is also the author of numerous other books, including The Primal Blueprint, which is credited with the growth of the Primal / Paleo movement in 2009. After three decades of researching and educating people about why food is the key component in achieving optimal wellbeing, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real food company, the Primal / Paleo, Keto and Whole30 friendly kitchen staples manufactures.
If you’d like to add an avatar to all of your comments, click here!