WHAT IS IT?
Continuous Reps are a technique designed to prevent the working muscle(s) from relaxing during a set. They are to be done with exercises that have clear “dead zones” of tension, which distinguishes Continuous Reps from their cousin, constant tension reps. The goal, though, is to keep the reps out of those zones so the tension never comes off the target muscle(s).
Using a load that is roughly your ~15-20RM, perform the set with a slow, deliberate tempo and confine the ROM to the segment that creates the greatest demand on the target muscle(s)—This will typically be the middle 1/2-2/3. Take the set as far as you can while avoiding the “dead” regions of the ROM.
HOW TO TRACK PROGRESSION?
Progression with CRs can be easily tracked quantitatively through load used and/or reps achieved. Though slightly more abstract and potentially less accurate, duration of the set can also be a way of measuring the progress of CRs over time.
WHO SHOULD USE IT?
CRs are exclusively an advanced technique when it comes to hypertrophy. In addition, they are relatively niche in their application even among advanced athletes when equating the stimulus and volume load with CRs to that of traditional, straight sets or even alternative intensity techniques. Only those who have maximized the latter OR are intentionally suppressing fatigue generation should begin to consider CRs as a hypertrophy tool.
WHO SHOULD NOT USE IT?
Outside of the small, subclass of advanced trainees mentioned above, CRs have a limited argument for inclusion over other strategies. Beginners and intermediate level trainees should exhaust volume load (and related techniques) as a primary vector for hypertrophy.
WHEN TO USE IT?
Because a feature of CRs is to artificially limit the volume (in terms of reps achieved) and load, phases of training that are intentionally shying away from mechanical overload as the primary stimulus will make better use of CRs. Metabolite blocks and periods of injury rehab are going to be the best bets.
Contrary to other intensity techniques that contribute heavily towards neurological and musculoskeletal fatigue, CRs are going to be pleasantly limited in this capacity. The diminished load used and the singular failure point (which isn’t even a true failure point) can in some ways actually act as a way to proactively manage fatigue. And in this sense, the technique can be used more readily at any point in a mesocycle as well as during an individual training session, rather than being limited to only the latter weeks or the end of a workout.
WHEN NOT TO USE IT?
If the phasic goal is in any way associated with increasing volume load (i.e. strength, mechanical tension, etc), CRs are not going to be the best option. And while they have a dampened effect on fatigue compared to other intensity techniques, they should still not be used during periods of intentional fatigue reduction (i.e. deloads, maintenance phases, etc).
HOW TO USE IT?
Obviously the most critical aspect of CRs is going to be the correct exercise selection. As was mentioned previously, the variation has to have “dead zones” in the ROM where the tension is removed from our target muscle, either through the resistance curve or anatomical barriers, and the CRs are meant to work within these natural boundaries to selectively stress our target muscle(s). So we’re going to be looking for a few characteristics when optimizing for CRs: minimal axial loading, stability, contrasting strength/resistance curves, reduced points of failure external to the target muscle(s), and potential for “safe” muscular failure if needed.
Contrary to many of the intensity techniques we’ve seen thus far, CRs are not inherently biased towards machines and cables over free weight options. This is because of the needed strength/resistance curve inequality, alluded to above, that is the basis of CRs’ efficacy. Most machines and cables actually work by leveling the resistance curve for many movements which is, in effect, removing the “dead zones” that we’re looking for. Having said that, not all free weight variations will be good candidates—they still must be specific, safe, and minimally complex.
Additionally, this is NOT an overloading technique meant to maximize mechanical tension. We want the target muscle(s) to tap out due to the buildup of lactate and other byproducts of metabolic stress (i.e. the burn). So lower loads and deliberately slow tempos should be used at the expense of progressive overload and beating the logbook. I recommend using a load that would be about your 20-30 rep max with normal execution and using a consistent 2-3 sec eccentric and concentric.
1)Heel Elevated Goblet Squats- 12 continuous reps with ~25RM using a 3030 tempo (keeping the ROM in the middle 2/3 to target quads)
2)Pushups- AMRAP for 15 reps with bw using a 2020 tempo (keeping the ROM in the middle 1/2 to target pecs)
3)EZ Preacher Curls- 15 continuous reps with ~30RM using a 3030 tempo (keeping the ROM in the middle 1/2 to target biceps)
HOW NOT TO USE IT?
Any movement or variable that inhibits CRs ability to maximize metabolic stress within confined ROMs is going to be contraindicated. This includes: variations with unspecific muscle activation, high complexity, movements that are maximized in the extreme ends of the ROM, poor stability, high systemic/axial stress, indirect failure points, and most egregious of all, those lacking the “dead zones”.
Also note that CRs are not meant to be the foundation of your programming. When pushing for metabolic-stress effects, shorter time frames (i.e. 4-6 consecutive weeks) should be applied, and accessory movements will be more applicable.
1)Seated Calf Raises- The calves most stimulated with deep stretches and max plantarflexion. CRs working in between these ends of the ROM would be less effective.
2)Single Arm DB Rows- Too many conflating variables and unspecified muscle activation within given ROMs
3)Banded Leg Press- No “dead zones” due to the level strength curve created by the bands
BENEFITS OF THE TECHNIQUE:
-Huge metabolic stimulus
-Very low fatigue generation compared to other intensity techniques
-Easy to track progressions through reps, load, or total time
-Only a single “failure” point which creates a lower barrier for intensity generation
-Takes up little time and physical space
-Can be combined with other intensity techniques to create more stimulus (i.e. load drops, mechanical drops, myoreps, etc)
DRAWBACKS OF THE TECHNIQUE:
-Severely limits volume load achieved
-Not applicable for beginners and intermediates as a hypertrophy tool
-Training effect is riddled with dependencies based on trainee’s abilities (intensity, pain threshold, technical resilience, etc)
-Limited range of applicable exercises due to the “dead zone” prerequisite
-Should only be used for a few weeks at a time and relatively infrequently