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Chris Cormier's Advice For The Perfect Rep!

In the September 2002 issue of FLEX, Chris Cormier wrote an article entitled, Anatomy of a Rep, explaining the importance of all aspects of the building blocks of workout routines and sets. Read how to complete the perfect rep!

flex magazineI wrote this article in a similar way that Derek C. wrote his article "Arnold Says". I came across an article in an issue of FLEX and was very moved by the article. Upon reading it, I knew that other kids my age would benefit from reading this article.

I also knew that more teenagers would read the article from than in FLEX magazine. This will be a better way of getting knowledge to teenagers.

Steps To Complete The Perfect Rep

In the September 2002 issue of FLEX, Chris Cormier wrote an article entitled, "Anatomy of a Rep," explaining the importance of all aspects of the building blocks of workout routines and sets, which is the rep. The following are Chris Cormier's steps to complete the perfect rep.

-> Pace:

    Always keep a controlled even pace. If you go too fast, momentum will take over and do the work your muscles should be doing. Also, you'll be more susceptible to injury. Go too slow and you may end up straining tendons and joints rather than working muscles. Overall, the pace of most of my reps are moderate, but it varies for different muscles.

    Chris also goes on to talk about how he likes to work his hamstrings and calves at a faster than usual pace. While working his chest, he likes to go slower than usual to really work his pecs.

-> Focus:

    bicep curlsHe focuses on the muscles, not the weight. The weight is just a tool; the muscles are what matter. Chris likes to watch his muscles while he's working them and likes to visualize how he wants them to look in the future.

    When he does dumbbell curls, he not only squeezes this bicep throughout the rep, but he also tries to keep his pinkie higher than his thumb to put more stress and emphasis on his inner biceps head. Before each set, take an inventory of the factors you need to remind yourself of during each rep. Then you can focus your attention on the targeted area and the proper form.

-> Range Of Motion :

    In most cases, Chris uses a full range of motion for each rep. Bench press is an exception to this. Chris stops the bar two inches from his chest and two inches before locking out. This helps him put constant stress on his chest and avoid putting more unneeded stress on his elbow and pec injuries. Chris always tries to keep the weight moving. He does this by keeping his lockouts short during exercises that he uses them.

    While performing triceps pushdowns with a rope, he rotates his thumbs down and pinkies up at the contraction of each rep to put more pressure on his outer triceps heads. His upper back is another area where he focuses on getting as full a range of motion as possible, from stretch to contraction.

Do You Perform Every Rep With The Full Range Of Motion?


    During rows and pulldowns, he pulls his elbows back farther than most people do. This emphasis has really boosted his back density in recent years.

-> The Negative Side:

    There are two sides to every rep: the positive (when you raise the weight) and the negative (when you lower the weight). Always control the weight during the negative phase. In fact, Chris tends to go a little slower during the negative phase than during the positive phase.

    For example, when doing seated barbell presses, it takes him about two seconds to press the bar up and three seconds to lower it. A slow descent is safer because it keep you in the groove, but also remember that you stress muscles during both phases, so if you let the weight fall too fast, you're missing out on the full potential of the rep.

Dance To The Tempo!
There are a million ways to train, and a million ways to alter your training. One great way to add variety to your training is to understand and use the concept of tempo. Learn why!
[ Click here to learn more. ]

-> Continuous Tension:

    Chris often keeps continuous tension on the muscles that he is working by flexing them throughout a rep. When he does dumbbell shrugs, instead of letting his arms simply hand at his sides, he pulls his shoulders forward slightly before each rep begins, which helps him flex his trapezius.

    He further contracts his traps by rotating his shoulders backward at the top of each rep. Chris explains that it is usually easier to keep continuous tension on isolation movements rather than compound movements.

Time Under Tension!
Well-known strength coach Charles Poliquin suggests monitoring the actual time that a muscle is 'under tension' during an exercise by using a clock or stopwatch, and recording this parameter in a the training log via a numerical system.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

-> Cheating:

    The two most important factors in Chris's training are heavy weights and proper form. He doesn't believe in cheating. All of his reps are done with strict form. A while back, Chris tried cheating on curls and other lifts, but he just couldn't get with it.

Cheating Reps Video

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    If you cheat too much, the chances of injury increase. Chris takes weight training seriously and doesn't train sloppily.

-> Forced Reps:

    Chris isn't a big fan of forced reps, but he uses them occasionally. He warms not to overdo them because as with cheating, using forced reps too often become a crutch. You should push the set to failure on your own, then use a spotter to help you get one or two more reps. There's no reason to perform forced reps if you can still get another rep on your own.

Forced Reps Video

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    Heavy weights and forced reps are dangerous. That's one good reason to use forced reps sparingly. Chris says that even the best spotter will have trouble applying the right about of pressure under each of his elbow during incline dumbbell presses. The risk is too great that the spotter, Chris, or somebody next to him is going to get hurt.

    There's a difference between a spotter helping you up on a final squat and a spotter giving you forced reps during an exercise such as incline dumbbell presses. The first should make things safer; the second often makes things more dangerous.

-> Burns:

    Chris sometimes does burns (short quick reps) at the end of a set when he has grown tired. This way, he can keep the pressure on the targeted muscle even after he can't complete a full rep. He does this for isolation lifts, such as leg extensions or triceps pushdowns. He never does burns for heavy compound lifts, such as squats or bent over rows.

    Abdominals are a good area for burns. Ab work has a short range of motion to start with. You can shorten it ever more as you grow tired near the end of a set.

-> Pain:

    Chris loves pain. Pain tells him that his workouts are working, and he takes pride in knowing that he can withstand more pain than others can. Chris says that no one can keep up with his leg workout. He does 20-rep sets of leg presses with all the plates he can pile on, and after 10, every rep is like putting a blowtorch to his quads.

    He explains that you should know the difference between good pain (lactic acid buildup in muscles) and bad pain (the start of an injury). The moment something doesn't feel right, stop the rep. Other than that, you have to be willing to ignore muscle aches to reach your potential as a bodybuilder. It's mind over muscle. Pain is something that gets easier to endure the more you experience it.

Lactic Acid
The expression "lactic acid" is used most commonly by athletes to describe the intense pain felt during exhaustive exercise, especially in events like the 400 metres and 800 metres. When energy is required to perform exercise, it is supplied from the breakdown of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). The body has a limited store of about 85 grms of ATP and would use it up very quickly if we did not have ways of resynthesising it.

-> Mind To Muscle:

    Chris CormierChris explains that probably the most important factor in the success of any rep is the connection between your mind and your muscles.

    He thinks that the best way to boost the mind-to-muscle nexus is to practice posing. If you have a weak body part, flex it throughout the day and pose it when you can.

    For example, if your back is a weakness and you don't feel as comfortable training it as you do other muscles, do lat spreads and double-biceps shots and flex your back muscles. Even if you have no aspirations to ever compete, posing and flexing will increase your connection to your muscle. This, in turn, will help you focus better on the targeted area during each rep.


I hope you learned many things from this article. The rep is to sets as protein is to muscle. It is the building block. Without the rep, there will be no sets or workout routines. Perfect the rep before going on to other aspects of your training routine.


September 2002 issue of FLEX; Article "Anatomy of a Rep" page 386

Who Do You Think Will Win The 2003 Mr. Olympia?
Ronnie Coleman
Jay Cutler
Kevin Levrone
Chris Cormier
Gunter Schlierkamp
Lee Priest
Dexter Jackson
Shawn Ray
Victor Martinez

Good Luck,