I have been getting a lot of emails lately asking me to explain what rep timing is, and why it’s important. Rather than answering each one, I’m going to write up a detailed post here and reference it for those who need to know.
So what is rep timing?
Rep timing is exactly that, timing of your reps. A rep is one movement of the weight. For example, on a bench press it would be lowering the weight down, pausing, the pressing the weight back up. How you time reps is very important, much more important than most people think.
Most of the time you’ll see rep timing displayed as 3 numbers, like “2-1-2″. This simply means that the first phase of the movement should take as long as a count of “one one thousand, two one thousand”, the middle phase (or “top”) of the movement should take a count of “one one thousand”, and the second phase should take a count of “one one thousand, two one thousand”.
Let’s apply this to the bench press. As you lower the weight down count “one one thousand, two one thousand” in your head. Once your get to the end the bar should be 1 inch off your chest. Hold it there for a count of “one one thousand”, the raise it to a count of “one one thousand, two one thousand”. Seems simple right? It is. That’s all it is.
Why is rep timing important?
Rep timing dictates how long your target muscles will be under stress from the weight. Slowing down the rep timing will mean your muscles are under stress longer, and have to work harder.
Using correct rep timing also stops you from cheating. A common method of cheating in many exercises is to use gravity or momentum to move the weight, or at least help your target muscle move it. Using correct (slower) rep timing means that you literally cannot cheat. Cheating gets you nowhere, you put yourself at risk of injury and you rob yourself of the maximum intensity available form the exercise.
Different rep timing for different goals:
You can alter your rep timing for different objectives. For example, someone training for explosive power might use a rep timing or 3-0-1. Where they lower the weight slowly, do not pause at the top of the movement, then explode back to the start of the exercise.
For those looking to build muscle (which is the majority reading this blog) slower rep timing is generally better. The stock standard rep timing for bodybuilders is 2-1-2. You might think that sounds slow, yeah it is compared to the average guy user who you’ll see using rep timing of .5-0-.5! But this slower rep timing is harder, more intense, and will recruit more muscle fibers to do the work resulting in more breakdown and bigger gains.
Next time you’re in the gym count out your rep timing. Chances are you’ll be moving the weight too fast for your goals.
Something to think about!