The Perfect Rep
Change the Way You Build Muscle Forever
by Christian Thibaudeau
As a strength and bodybuilding coach, and as a weightlifter myself, I’ve learned more this year about training than the previous 10 years combined.
To be specific, I’ve made major advances in determining an exact methodology for sustained maximum growth of muscle cells.
More specifically, I’ve determined just exactly how to produce radical hypertrophy — every time I train — not only in myself, but in every single individual I’ve been training with these concepts.
I’m not exaggerating or setting you up for a twist on basic information that you’ve heard a thousand times before. I’m talking about huge advances in training that’ll change the way you build muscle forever — if you can fully understand and implement the core principles of what I’ve learned.
Let’s face the facts, at first glance, the act of performing repetitions with a barbell is a very simple concept involving just a few variables. And, of course, you’ve “learned” how to lift a weight the very first time you grabbed a bar…
But did you?
Have you ever really learned how to lift a weight for maximum gains — every time you train?
More specifically, do you know how to do a perfect rep, every time, that absolutely produces maximum results?
I fully admit that I didn’t until very recently. Furthermore, I didn’t even know what a perfect rep was!
For years, I’ve randomly hit and missed the edge of radical hypertrophy several times, but never really understood what part of the “lifting” was actually producing the results.
So often we focus on advanced training design, thinking it’s the key — or frequency, or rep volume, or loads, or regulating rep speed, or body-part splits, or the ideal exercise program — that we forget to look at the most basic of elements: the rep.
The very act of performing a repetition is, no matter how you dissect training, the most basic and by far the most important part of training. In fact, doing reps is training.
So what I’m about to tell you is both basic and extremely advanced. The differences between what you know and what I’m going to show you are, on the surface, subtle, but in the context of results, the methodology is totally unique and extremely different.
In short, if you want to make maximum progress every single time you train, I’ve found only one universal principle that underpins everything. It’s the foundation for all of my gains, and I base my entire training philosophy on it. It’s by far the most-important element and it alone makes everything else work.
I’m talking about the ultimate “perfect rep” for maximum growth. And as I’ve said, the perfect rep works 100 percent of the time, every time you use it. That’s because the body never adapts to its power to stimulate growth — which is why it’s so perfect.
Once you master the principles of the concept, you’ll be able to incorporate this rep method universally, across the board, in all your training.
Stimulating Radical Hypertrophy Every Time You Train
The perfect rep is extremely efficient at activating the nervous system and potentiating maximum force output from the working muscles, thereby stimulating maximum fast-twitch fibers and radical hypertrophy every time you train with it.
In other words, every single rep of every single set, when performed with this method, can be and is highly stimulatory for both muscle and nerve fibers. So, when I say every rep counts, I really mean it!
As I walk to a lift, I get into a highly focused state of mind, and direct that focus on rep performance and nothing else.
I don’t even count the reps. I literally mean that.
Most people get fixated on counting reps. That’s a huge mistake and one of the main factors for lack of progress.
It’s far more important to know when to end a set than to remember how many reps you did, and that can only be done by zeroing in on the quality of each muscle contraction and its resulting rep.
When I finish a set, all I can remember is how my performance of each rep felt, and from that experience I’m able to record the rep number.
So, focus only on the rep you’re doing, while you’re doing it, like nothing else matters — because it doesn’t.
Inducing Maximum Recovery Rate
The perfect rep, while yielding the greatest stimulatory effects, is so efficient that it burns very little nervous energy. This is probably the most interesting thing about it.
In sharp contrast, most training methods are devastating to the nervous system, making training a race between stimulating muscle as much as you can before completely draining the CNS.
Unfortunately, it’s that same nervous system that has to continue to run the entire body after you train. And it’s that same nervous system that masterminds any potential gains, as well.
The perfect rep actually potentiates the nervous system, leaving you in a potentiated (amped up) state post-training, which actually speeds up recovery dramatically. And just as incredible as that is, this super-physiologic state also stimulates metabolic rate through the roof.
Just ponder that for a minute — maximum stimulation of nerve and muscle fibers, maximum stimulation of recovery rate, and a jacked up metabolic rate — all from a rep method!
Auto-Regulation for Never-Ending Gains
Rep performance can tell you a ton of information about your current physiologic state and help you auto-regulate your workout session for maximum gains.
As such, the perfect rep is the perfect diagnostic tool for determining your next training step — whether or not to add or lower weight on the next set, continue the exercise or move on to another one, and even when to end the workout.
Knowing how to auto-regulate your workout is, in fact, the art of training, and has to be taught over time. This is why we’ve started the ANACONDA Protocol forum and section of the site — so that we can really get into advanced-level coaching. We want everyone to be able to use this information as well as we can.
So please keep that in mind as you continue to read about how to perform the perfect rep.
THE PERFECT-REP TRAINING SYSTEM
The perfect rep is actually a training system involving a maximum-force repetition style (max force reps) combined with an overall loading method, called Force Spectrum Ramping.
The entire training system is based on one objective: to activate and potentiate the nervous system’s ability to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Simple activation is not enough. To really induce radical hypertrophy, you have to stimulate the nervous system, each rep of every set, to progressively fire more and more energy into the working muscle.
If done with systematic efficiency — in other words, not wasting nervous energy on unproductive efforts— you’ll eventually experience a fully potentiated state. And that’s where all the fast-twitch magic happens.
Keep the overall objective in mind as you read on, otherwise you’ll likely get off track. Also, in the interest of keeping this article under a million words, I am only going to cover only the basics. Just know that there are variants and exceptions to the following information, all of which will be discussed in future articles and forum posts.
MAX FORCE REPS
There are three components of a max force rep:
1. Maximum-Force Lifting:
Always lift the weight as hard and as explosive as possible. In other words, each rep, regardless of the weight, should actually be a maximum effort. Acceleration is very important, as well. Try as hard as you can to make sure you actually accelerate the weight on every rep.
Hard. Explosive. Accelerate. Every rep. It’s the only way to produce the maximum force possible.
Quality of rep performance, on every single rep, should be your only concern.
This means that for most of your training, you won’t be lifting above 85 percent of your 1RM. In fact, the usual training range is somewhere between 50 – 85 percent of 1RM. Just remember, every single rep of every set is performed using maximum force.
Don’t worry about training with weights that you might perceive as “lighter” (below 80 percent 1RM). This system will soon enough have you toying with your current personal bests.
We’re about getting huge and muscular and strong. It’s not an option. And all my current training weights exceed my previous 1RMs, and that’s pretty darn heavy by anybody’s standards.
The Max Force Point and Fluctuating Physiology
Because it’s so important, and it’s all but completely overlooked in traditional training models, I want to expand further on accelerative lifting.
We’ve experimented with training the entire spectrum of forces, going from explosive lifts all the way to 100-plus percent of 1RMs. And for advanced lifters, not exceeding the Max Force Point delivers, by a huge margin, the very best and most consistent gains.
The max force point (MFP) is the heaviest weight you can accelerate, on any given lift, on any given day. By definition, this means that your MFP will vary from day to day. That’s the way your body works, it fluctuates.
You cannot predict physiologic states from hour to hour let alone from day to day. So how in the world can you go into the gym and expect to have an ideal physiologic state for lifting heaver weights every time you train?
On the other hand, every single time you train you can absolutely determine your max force point, and use that information to deliver gains as fast as humanly possible — that is, if you lift with maximum force efforts.
2. Maximum-Force Lowering:
Just like maximum force lifting, you want to achieve maximum force lowering. In other words, lower the weight as fast as you safely can. Max force lowering loads the turnaround (in the bottom position) for maximum activation. And you potentiate that action by utilizing one of the method’s turnaround techniques.
The stretched-relaxed position is a point in the range of motion of a muscle that’s at the very beginning of where it’s being stretched. It’s when the muscle is technically in the stretched position but still has all of its elasticity left in it.
And the term “turnaround” refers to the act of reversing the direction of the weight in the bottom position.
3. SRP Twitch Turnaround:
The SRP (stretched-relaxed position) twitch turnaround is the single greatest rep-activation technique we’ve found to date — and needs to be used on every full-range rep.
Here’s how you perform an SRP twitch turnaround:
As you enter the SRP, perform a micro drop —allowing the descending weight to freefall for an instant — immediately followed by a catch-reversal, pushing the weight back up as hard and as explosive as possible. In other words, you’re doing a setup twitch in the bottom turnaround.
“Ouch! My joints!” you might be thinking.
If you’re using weights you can accelerate, and you do not go below the stretched-relaxed position, SRP twitch turnarounds are extremely safe. In fact, when lifting this way, most of our lifters’ joint problems lessen significantly or disappear altogether.
SRP twitch turnarounds are critical for potentiating the nervous system and producing maximum force, and making the whole system work. The end result of utilizing SRP twitch turnarounds is nothing short of fast-twitch magic, making you feel superhuman.
We always use SRP twitch turnarounds, or another type of specialized turnaround technique, on every lift.
I know this is sounding rather ominous, requiring a lot of explanation. Don’t worry about understanding all of the details about turnarounds right now. Otherwise, this article would read more like an unabridged encyclopedia.
I promise I’ll get into the details of just exactly how to do the SRP technique, as well as the rest of the turnaround techniques, on the forum and in subsequent articles and videos. For now, I want you to really grasp the general idea of maximum force training.
In summary, if you’re performing max force reps correctly, every rep should feel as if you’re dominating the weight. Each repetition of a set should either feel progressively easier than the previous rep or the same, but never harder. If you perform a rep that feels noticeably harder or heavier than the one before it, stop the set.
It’s all about rep performance, rep quality. Every rep is a max effort — always!
THE NUMBERS — Sets, Reps, and Exercises
If every rep is a maximum effort, and quality of performance is the most important factor, then quantity, by its very nature, is the enemy. So, with the exception of an occasional max-rep set, the number of reps per set is always kept low.
Our best training results are obtained performing 3 reps per sets. Depending upon rep performance, we will occasionally drop to 2 or even 1 rep per set, but when and how to do that is a function of the auto-regulation principle, which has to be taught over time.
We always start everyone, regardless of training experience, using 3 reps per set. And we keep them there until we begin teaching them how to auto-regulate their workouts.
The target number of sets per exercise is 6 sets. With the auto-regulation principle, we will do as many as 10 sets per exercise and as few as 4 sets, but the target is always 6 sets per exercise.
The end result is, you’re performing 18 to 30 max efforts per exercise!
We get our best results from using no more than three exercises per workout. Again, we’re after quality of performance, and you simply cannot train this way and do more than about three exercises in a workout.
Overall, you should keep the entire workout pace as brisk as possible without sacrificing rep quality and maximum performance. So, regardless of whether it’s between sets or exercises, rest the least amount of time required to be able to give a maximum effort on each rep of the upcoming set.
If you actually timed my rest periods, they’d range between about 10 and 60 seconds on lighter sets, and 30 seconds to 120 seconds on heavier sets. On rare occasions, I might actually rest up to three minutes, but that’s not very often.
Above all, I never, ever look at a clock and count down time during rest periods. It totally kills workout intensity. A brisk, auto-regulated workout pace, in and of itself, is an activation technique. So use workout pace to further amp up the nervous system.
FORCE SPECTRUM RAMPING
As I said earlier, force spectrum ramping is the other vital part of the perfect-rep concept. It’s the loading method required to activate and potentiate the nervous system, and achieve the results and effects I’ve been describing.
Done right, you’ll experience force production so powerful that it’ll scare you. If you really learn how to use it effectively, your training weights soon will blow past your current personal best 1RM’s, and keep going like there’s no ceiling.
Always remember, you have to use max force reps in order for force spectrum ramping to work. And even though you’re “ramping up” the weight, from set to set, the term “ramping” (in force spectrum ramping) actually refers to the ramping of the nervous system and the potentiation of force output.
In other words, this is not what’s commonly referred to in weightlifting as ramping. So, don’t rip out the soul of this incredible method by turning it into nothing more than a simple weight-progression method.
Keeping that always in mind, the details of how to perform a force spectrum ramp, using max force reps, are pretty simple.
The following is a break-in Force Spectrum Ramp. It’s what we use to teach the concept to all of our lifters, again, regardless of training experience.
This means that the weight increases from set to set are smaller, and the number of sets per exercise is a little higher, probably somewhere around 8 sets.
The goal is to really get a feel for the max force point (the heaviest weight you can still accelerate), which is done best with smaller weight increases.
Break-In Force Spectrum Ramp
1) Perform 3 reps per set.
2) Start with two “feeler” sets to get the nervous system primed and get the movement pattern down. This is done with 40 – 45 percent of your 1RM.
3) Begin the first working set with 60 percent of your 1RM, again, always lifting the weight with max force.
4) For the next three weeks, to really get the feel and a good understanding of the max force point (MFP), limit per-set weight increases to 10 pounds.
5) Continue performing sets until reaching your MFP for that day. For most of you, that’ll occur on your 7th or 8th set.
This step is the very essence of the loading method. Blow it here and you blow the whole deal. So, don’t make this a prescriptive percentage thing and get hung up on the numbers. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about rep performance. Let that and that alone dictate the next step.
If performed correctly, you will always, at some point during an exercise, get to the “zone” set — when activation and potentiation really kicks in — and a heaver set actually feels substantially lighter than the previous lighter set.
You should be able to get into the zone (fully activated) state, and stay there throughout the workout, and experience this phenomenon during every exercise.
As you progress through an exercise, from set to set, acceleration will obviously decrease, but there should never be a dramatic difference between any two sets. Once that occurs, you’ve gone past your MFP.
6) Stop a set if any rep feels noticeably harder or heavier than the previous rep of that set, and never, ever lift the weight with a slow grind. Grinding reps absolutely kills progress.
You want max force, not max pain. Super heavy, slow-moving weights, although heavy, are not your highest-force sets. On the other hand, lifting a moderate to heavy weight that you can accelerate — and that you do as hard and as explosive as humanly possibly — those are your highest-force and by far most-productive reps.
7) Once you reach the max force point for that lift on that day, stop the exercise and move onto the next exercise.
8) Stop the workout at any time if overall performance is beginning to diminish. This doesn’t mean to keep training until that occurs. It simply means that if you begin to experience diminished performance levels before you’ve completed your workout, stop right there and get out of the gym.
Break-In Force Spectrum Ramping
1. Always lift the weight with maximum force — hard and explosive. Think about your rep performance while doing each rep, and make sure it’s max effort.
2. Lower the weight as fast as you safely can, setting up the SRP twitch turnaround.
3. Use an SRP twitch turnaround to activate and potentiate the force in which you explode the weight up.
4. Each rep of a set should feel the same or lighter/easier than the previous rep, and if it doesn’t, stop the set, regardless of the rep prescription.
5. Select two or three exercises per workout, and keep them basic for the next three weeks. For example: squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, chin-up, etc.
6. Perform two feeler sets with 40 – 45 percent of your 1RM.
7. Begin your first working set with 60 percent of your 1RM, and add 10 pounds per set until reaching your MFP for that day on that lift.
My Personal Guarantee
Let me end this discussion for now by saying that I have had 100 percent success in teaching this method to the guys I train with. It’s not difficult at all to learn. So, don’t get hung up on anything, just keep practicing the fundamentals I’ve outlined, and chatter it up in the forum. I’m there to help you nail this.
About the Video
In the following video I teach force spectrum ramping to Kevin Nobert and Nate Green. In the video you’re going to notice that both ramps go a couple of sets past the MFP. I wouldn’t often do that with anyone who’s at an advanced level with the method. On the other hand, for lifters new to the technique, like Kevin and Nate, and pretty much everyone reading this, I recommend going one set past the MFP for the first three weeks.
Going through a three-week phase where you go one set past the max force point — really feeling the dramatic difference between the sets done pre-MFP and the one set post-MFP — is the very best way to learn the principle.
Also, you might notice that neither Kevin nor Nate performed reps using the SRP twitch turnaround. There’s a real good reason for that… I hadn’t taught it to them yet.
When teaching our training method to first-timers, I always start with no other rep-activation technique other than the rep speed itself, and simply give these instructions:
“Lift the weight with as much force as possible — hard and explosive!”
Also notice the difference between Kevin’s rep speed and Nate’s. Even though Kevin is much stronger and has more muscle mass than Nate, Kevin lacks Nate’s explosiveness.
Nate on the other hand, has the ability to efficiently recruit high-threshold motor units, but he’s nowhere near his strength or bodybuilding potential. He’s simply not yet learned how to use his explosiveness to his advantage in building mass and strength.
Our method has very specific answers for addressing the deficiencies of both guys, and anyone else who wants to pack on muscle and strength as fast as humanly possible.
So, watch the video and let’s talk training on the forum.
If You’re Going to Make a Mistake…
One last word of advice. If you’re going to make a mistake, go too light, which is not a mistake at all if you’re lifting the weight as hard and as fast as possible. The only mistakes you can make are going too heavy too quickly, or adding too much weight from one set to another.
Note from TC
I know the average mind is going to probably want to resist this methodology. The average mind is going to say, “This is too different from anything I’ve ever read, seen, or experienced. I’m not going to even try it because that might mean that everything I thought I knew is wrong and my ego can’t handle that.”
I’m hoping the average mind doesn’t win out. I’m hoping the average mind, for once, gets its ass kicked, because the potential rewards from learning the perfect rep methodology are too great.
If you nail this, you’ll soon be tossing around weights that used to scare you. Furthermore, a lot of your sore joints will heal up, you won’t get worn out, you’ll actually feel incredibly athletic after a workout, and best of all, you’ll make the kind of strength and size gains you made when you first started lifting — you know, when all you had to do to grow was pick up a weight.
Put aside your skepticism for just a few weeks. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.