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Fitness Questions From Instagram (September 2020)

The significance of tempo training, direct arm work: yes or no? And What’s so magical about high set, low rep systems for improving proficiency in movements……….

How important is rep tempo to you? Or do you just do reps and not really think about it?

Good question! Generally I always control the eccentric and aim to be forceful on the concentric. One thing I’ve noticed over the years though is I’ve almost subconsciously started exaggerating the lowering phases a little more than I used to!

With clients though, I always coach control instead of exact number counts otherwise it gets confusing as hell! I do like pauses though, where you aim to cut out any elastic/reflexive energy at the points where you change direction. This gets people strong as hell when they go back to ‘conventional’ back and forth reps.

Sometimes I’ll have them exaggerate the negative on the last rep of the last set, too. This really polishes off all the muscle fibers but I wouldn’t use it all the time.

What are your thoughts on direct arm work? Is it necessary? Only I’ve seen a few people weighing in on this topic even if only as a form of prehab/injury prevention?

This is another interesting one. Most people hammer their arms just to fill T-shirts and to get girls noticing them. But past the superficiality there’s some strong functional reasons to train the arms!

The biceps are involved in virtually all carrying movements or lifting movements, to some extent. And even on compound lifts the arms can be the weak link. I’d say particularly in the case of the triceps this is even more true – many people have seen increases in their overhead press and bench press as a result of fixing tricep weakness.

And in the world of calisthenics/gymnastics strength training, direct arm work can be a lifesaver when it comes to prevention of elbow issues and tendonitis from straight arm work. Therefore I think it’s always good to work on the biceps and triceps across different planes and different grips.

I like to think in terms of muscles worked and muscle heads worked. Long & short heads of the bicep/tricep and even bicep work with differing grips – neutral & pronated, for example.

I’ve seen you using 10 x 3 a lot on things like ring muscle ups. Seems a great idea! What’s the rationale behind it and is there a set way you like to use it?

Hell yeah! This can work great for many moves in calisthenics! It allows you to get loads of quality reps in without compromising form or control as the reps are capped pretty low.

It works phenomenal for building up capacity/confidence within a move you’ve either not long acquired or want to improve overall single set rep counts in. Some of the moves I’ve seen it work brilliantly with are:

  • Muscle ups
  • Pull/chin ups
  • Dips
  • Handstand Push ups
  • Regular push ups

I wouldn’t use something like this on the more intensive straight arm moves as that could be too intense on the tendons and ligaments. Although it would depend on what else you’re doing in a session as to what you could get away with here. If you were only doing the move in question then you’d have more leeway.

The trick with this is to not grind reps and/or fail them. The 3 reps should be WELL BELOW your repetition maximum – at least 5 reps per set to benefit from this. If you’re trying to do 10 x 3 with a move that’s a 3/4 RM for you, you’ll overtrain and stall almost straight after the first workout.

This approach has been used very successfully in the powerlifting world too, on many of the main lifts. And it’s because it WORKS.

Thanks for reading. If you’d like me to touch on a question of your own, hit me a Direct Message (DM) on Instagram (@straight_talking_fitness) or leave a comment down below.

For personal help, check out my let me help you page and get in touch today!

JR @ Straight-Talking-Fitness View All

The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.

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