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By Bruce Burke

Last Updated: 1/22/23

Thus far in our “Back to Basics” series, you’ve learned the importance of knowing your set-up and end-points, as well as how to limit “leaks” when strength training. You are now ready to safely get some intensity by focusing on The Last 3 Reps!

Resistance training is tough, and the last few reps are the toughest. Overcoming fatigue and discomfort in order to maintain good form is challenging, but well worth it. The last few reps produce the greatest physiological changes, so they are critical for those looking to enhance muscle tone, build strength, or improve body composition. Additionally, focusing on each rep increases intensity, which in turn boosts EPOC, maximizing calorie burn post-workout.

Regardless of the benefits that high intensity training provides, it is important not to sacrifice good form just for intensity’s sake. Proper body position, posture, range of motion, and speed of movement must be maintained to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Approach your first few reps as a build-up, preparing you for the last reps that will stimulate the greatest physiological changes. During these reps, we are strong, focused, and can perform as expected. As the set progresses and fatigue sets in, our minds are saying “this hurts, I need to stop” and our muscles are truly becoming less capable of working as expected. It is at this point that we must bear down and focus. Commit to being focused and strong through the last reps. Challenge yourself to make the last three reps look exactly like the first three. Remind yourself that you have no more than 12-15 seconds of exercise left…and that you can handle anything for 12-15 seconds!

Succeeding at the last three reps means sticking your endpoints, maintaining good posture, and making sure you are mentally focused. If you do these things, your last three reps will be done with purpose and yield the greatest benefits possible.

For this week, focus on making the last three reps of every exercise look like the first three to maximize your training efforts!