The title of this post might be construed as a tad exaggerative in tone.1
For the sake of brevity: anything labeled “life altering” should be reserved for stuff like winning the lottery, beating cancer, or, I don’t know, a really, really, really good steak.
Or having your own lightsaber.
So please forgive the sensationalism. What follows next will, in fact, not alter your life in any way, shape, or form.
Except for increased strength, muscle mass, and overall increased levels of badassery.
The Deets: 1-1/2 Reps
The idea of utilizing 1-1/2 repetitions (reps for short) isn’t anything new. My good friend, Ben Bruno, has been a huge fan of them for years.
Basically you take an exercise and “extend” the set by incorporating a “1/2 rep” in between full-ROM reps.
The idea serves a few purposes/benefits:
Increased Time Under Tension.
Can be used to address a technique flaw/weakness (which should be the main objective of accessory work anyways).
Awesome alternative to use as a finisher at the end of a workout. They also serve as a nice way to increase total work done in any given session.
Improved mental toughness. Or, put in other words: they fucking make you hate life.
Here’s Ben performing some chin-ups (with a 100 lb weight-vest no less) using the 1-1/2 method:
And here he is performing 1-1/2 reps with Front Squats:
I like to use the 1-1/2 method with the bench press, as I feel it helps trainees to:
- Better appreciate what it means to keep the lats on, the upper back tight throughout, and to learn to “meet” the bar with the chest.
- To help trainees imbue a better sense of time under tension. I.e., it’s a killer way to elicit a chest pump and overall chest hypertrophy. And, at the end of the day, a bigger chest is going to (probably) produce more force.
Some Things To Consider/Pontificate
1) Your bench set-up is going to be crucial.
There’s a sense of poignancy that festers inside me whenever trainees take a haphazard approach with their bench set-up. It’s like a Greek tragedy.
If I had to choose a few big-hitting, big-rock cues that tend to have a universal carryover, they’d include:
- Learn to drive the upper back INTO the bench.
- Shoulder blades should be “pinned” together and down (retracted and depressed) to provide more stability.
- GET A HAND-OFF
- Let be bar “settle” before you begin.
- Think about wrapping your hand AROUND the bar (I.e., lat activation).
- You don’t have to have a super aggressive arch in lower back – there’s a degree of mastery and personal comfort insinuated here – however, an arch (even a slight one) is advantageous.
- Pull the bar down to your chest.
- Chest meets the bar, rather than bar meets chest.
- Leg Drive, leg drive, leg drive.
2) I prefer to use the 1-1/2 rep method as an accessory exercise to the bench press, rather than as the”main gig.”
It implies a bit more of an “accessory movement” vibe.
I feel it works wonders with helping trainees to learn to keep their chest UP throughout the duration of a set. Many make the mistake of allowing the chest to collapse or “cave in,” which manifests into a domino effect of losing upper back stiffness, scapulae position, elbow position, and a muffled leg drive.
Here’s what it looks like in action:
During the 1/2 rep portion (where I press the barbell half-way up) I have to cue myself to maintain lat activation, upper back stiffness, chest UP (to meet the bar), and to make sure my chest doesn’t deflate at any point during the set.
It’s harder than it looks.
Generally, it’s best to use sub-maximal loads on these – in the 60-75% range. You can strive for “x” number of reps, say 6-8 for 2-4 sets. Or, another way to implement these is with AMRAP sets.
NOTE: AMRAP = As Many Reps As Possible
My coach, Greg Robins, has been using this approach in my training.
After my main bench movement of the day I’ll follow that with something like this:
ONE set at 75% of 1RM for AMRAP.
ONE set at 70% of 1RM for AMRAP.
It’s killer, but man, the pump is awesome.
And please, feel free to experiment with these. You can use this method with bench pressing, squats, chin-ups, row variations, single-leg variations, bicep curls, and deadlifts (just be careful).
Try them out, and let me know what you think.
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