Is a repetition just a repetition?

Is a repetition just a repetition?

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We've gone through the biomechanics of the body and all muscle groups in a series of articles. You should now know what function the muscles have in the body and therefore how the muscles should be trained. In principle you can now train any muscle, but is that the whole picture? is a repeat always a repeat? Or in other words: “are all reps created equally? ” , that's what this article is about. We will dive deeply into the material, but when you master this material you have a powerful weapon to make your workouts so much more efficient! Many people are already playing with complex supersets, intensifiers and periodizations without having to master loose repetitions.

The stimulus

The stimulus is the intended purpose of a training. The training incentive, if you want. This incentive is the product of the repetitions times the sets, along with the amount of rest you take. This is therefore something other than total work volume! The training incentive is not only determined by the total volume, but many more factors as we will see. However, realize that the outcome of a training stands or falls with the implementation of each repetition; without control over the repetition you will have no control over the effect of the sets, therefore not over the effect of your training and therefore also not over your training incentive.

So the quality of your repetitions matters!

Quality over quantity

The quality of your work is determined by a number of factors, all of which will affect the total.

Performance of your repetitions

Everything you do to perform your repetitions correctly, both mentally and physically. This includes, for example, your set-up and loading of the exercise. Do you prepare yourself before starting an exercise or even every repetition to ensure proper execution? Are the cables at the right height? Are the dumbbells aligned with the targeted muscle? Are you neat in the leg extension?

Row Repeat

The required work

If everything is in order, you will still have to do the work. Do you train at a sufficiently high intensity? Don't you stop when it gets tough? Will your performance also look good in the last few repetitions? Do you ensure stability during the exercise?

The nervous system

Many people probably hear something about this, but find this a vague concept. "Heavy compounds such as deadlifts and squats are heavier for the nervous system." Nice and nice, but what does that mean? We want the nervous system to work effectively and intensively. We cannot directly influence this like the other two factors, but we can train and program for it.


Effective working the nervous system means nothing more than how good you are in coordinating movements, in tightening and also relaxing various muscle fibers during a movement. When you press bench for the first time, the rod swings in all directions and you can move few kilos. After a few times this already goes much smoother. This is not necessarily because you have become so much stronger in a short time, but because the nervous system learns which muscles must contract and when and which muscles must relax so that you do not oppose yourself. A large part of the beginner chains come into force because the nervous system makes this control run more efficiently the more you perform an exercise. The movement is therefore 'cheaper' for your body in energy.


Intensity is a kind of opposite of this; it is your body's ability to pull more muscle fibers together at the same time and thus generate more strength or explosiveness. So when the nervous system gets better in exercise, we can move more weight with less energy, so that we can work more efficiently towards goals and our repetitions will have a greater effect.

These 3 factors determine your result

The level of these three factors determines how many pounds you can take with which exercise and how many repetitions you can do, how long breaks should be and how complex movements can be.

If we choose things that our nervous system is ready and ready for, the execution of exercises becomes easier and we can get more out of our exercises. If we choose exercises that are so difficult in terms of execution that we cannot focus on the effort but are only busy with the execution of the exercise, we will never be able to achieve maximum progress!

Pull up repeat

But wait ... there is more!

If the quality of our repetitions is good, we can manipulate the repetitions ourselves. It may be clear by now that a repeat is not always a repeat; a repeat of poor quality will not have the same effect as a repeat of good quality. But even well-executed repetitions can still be considerably influenced and thereby also considerably influence the training incentive; does the incentive cause metabolic stress or mechanical stress? The following factors are not listed in order from most to least important; they all have their place and also overlap with each other as you will see; however, as a whole they will determine the effect of each repetition.

Weight, or Load

The amount of kilos that you hang on the bar, or the number of plates you put the pin in; the total load plays a very big factor in how much tension is created and how long we can hold this tension. Tension en time under tension are therefore to a large extent determined by the More weight means that in any case we can work less time there for exhaustion. However, the weight itself does not determine the total load on the muscle; Voltage (tension) is a much better benchmark for this.

Resistance profile

Every exercise has its own resistance profile. This means where an exercise is difficult; a squat is the heaviest at the bottom and the lightest at the top. At the bottom you will therefore be the first to fail. But does this mean that at that moment you have completely failed on the muscle in question? Or could you possibly do more work with another exercise where the resistance profile at the top is the heaviest? By combining different exercises you will probably be able to get much more out of your training sessions. Two different biceps exercises supersets such as an EZ-bar preacher curl and a dumbbell concentration curl with the same resistance profile will add little, while combining one of these two exercises with an exercise that challenges the biceps to length can actually have added value.


We have already discussed this; Beginners will be able to make a lot of progression or move more efficiently, while advanced (and certainly if you always train in higher repranges) can make much more gain in intensity. More about this in the next article, as you can read below.

Cable fly repetition


A very important factor. Together with the weight, tempo determines, among other things, a large role in the tension. Especially the ends of your exercise pattern are enormously influenced by pace. A fast pace gives a shorter time of tension than a slower pace.

The intention

The intention includes a number of points. To what extent can you perform the exercise correctly; performing an exercise slowly will have a very different outcome on the training incentive than working quickly and explosively. An explosive start in an exercise can significantly shift the resistance profile from the top of the exercise to the beginning of the exercise, while slow execution of a movement causes little tension at the beginning but more tension during the rest of the movement.


Do you work explosively or precisely? Do you accelerate during a repeat or does your speed remain constant? Are you going to accelerate more as you get tired in order to be able to turn away more volume? Momentum is therefore the last factor that can influence the training incentive.

What next?

A lot of information, and also very theoretical. Perhaps for your feeling even without practical use. However, the purpose of this article is to get you thinking about the work you do; many people, including perhaps you, do not take these factors into account, which means that ultimately you have a chance to determine to a large extent the effect of your training. At least for myself for years. By gaining insight into all these factors and controlling them, you will be able to work much more efficiently and effectively and achieve more results.

In the following article we will discuss why these points are so important in practice. And what happens if we do not take the above points into account, but simply mess around? To what extent does that actually influence your results and progress in practice?

Jan Willem van der Klis

Instagram: @Jay_Whey

This blog is written by

Jan Willem van der Klis

"My focus is on obtaining and disseminating the best possible knowledge to optimize training and nutrition"

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