Forced Reps: The Key to Unlocking Muscle Growth

June 2, 2023 / General
Forced Reps: The Key to Unlocking Muscle Growth

Forced reps are a training technique commonly used in strength and resistance training to enhance muscular endurance and hypertrophy. If you’re truly committed to your gym regimen and serious about your training, you’ll grasp the necessity of consistently challenging your target muscle groups to foster meaningful progress in strength and size.

Forced repetitions are one of several techniques available out there that will help you achieve and maintain a state of optimal training. Previous research has also demonstrated it as a powerful tool for overcoming training plateaus. The only downside is that you will require a spotter, so if you train alone it could be time to find a workout partner.

So what is a forced reps?

This technique involves performing additional repetitions of an exercise immediately after reaching failure or near failure on a given set. It can be best defined as a repetition which you can’t perform without assistance.

For example, you set yourself a target of 6 free standing squats. You perform 4 on your own but on the 5th and 6th repetitions require a spotter to assist you on the upward phase. The last two repetitions are therefore deemed as forced because despite your target muscles still being fully activated, you could not complete the repetitions without help.

Difference from Regular Sets and Effectiveness: In a regular set, you perform an exercise with a specific weight until reaching muscle failure or completing a predetermined number of repetitions. However, forced repetitions extend the set beyond failure by providing external assistance to help you complete more repetitions.


The Benefits Of Forced Reps

1- Muscle Hypertrophy:

Working close to failure is thought to further increase muscle hypertrophy.(1) Muscle hypertrophy, the increase in muscle size, is a complex physiological process that occurs in response to various stimuli, including resistance training. When you perform resistance exercises, such as forced repetitions, you create micro-tears in the muscle fibers. The body responds to this damage by initiating a process called muscle protein synthesis, where new proteins are synthesized to repair and strengthen the muscle fibers.(2)

The act of continuing to persevere with the exercise enhances muscular stress and brings about a state of further stimulation. It also means that your repetition numbers don’t drop, whereas before you might have stopped on 7 or 8, you’re now going to 10 each time and pushing your muscles to their absolute limits. All this will ultimately equate to additional growth and development.

Forced reps promote muscle hypertrophy through several mechanisms:

  • Mechanical Tension: The external resistance encountered during forced repetitions creates mechanical tension on the muscle fibers, which is a primary stimulus for muscle growth.
  • Metabolic Stress: Forced repetitions generate metabolic stress within the muscles, leading to the accumulation of metabolites such as lactate and hydrogen ions. This metabolic stress triggers a cascade of cellular responses that contribute to muscle growth.
  • Muscle Damage: The additional stress imposed by forced repetitions causes more micro-damage to the muscle fibers. The subsequent repair and remodeling processes result in increased muscle size and strength.

By incorporating forced repetitions into your training routine, you take advantage of these mechanisms to optimize muscle hypertrophy and accelerate your progress towards your fitness goals.

2- Increased Training Volume:

Training volume, which is the total amount of work performed during a workout, is a key driver of muscle hypertrophy. Forced repetitions allow you to extend the working set, performing more repetitions than you could on your own. This increased volume creates a greater stimulus for muscle growth and promotes progress.

3- Elevation of Growth Hormone Levels:

Growth hormone (GH) is a crucial hormone involved in muscle growth and repair. Research suggests that forced repetitions can lead to a higher growth hormone response during the training session compared to regular sets.(3) This hormonal response may further contribute to muscle hypertrophy and overall training adaptations.

4- Progressive Overload and Plateau Breaking:

Forced repetitions provide a method to continually increase the demands on your muscles. By pushing beyond failure, you introduce a new level of challenge and stimulate further adaptations. This helps you break through plateaus and avoid stagnation in your training progress.

5- Mental Toughness and Motivation:

Performing forced repetitions requires mental fortitude and determination. By pushing your limits and overcoming the challenge of additional reps, you develop mental toughness and a stronger mindset, which can translate into other areas of your life. The sense of accomplishment and the feeling of pushing beyond your perceived limitations can also boost motivation and drive.

While forced repetitions offer these benefits, it’s important to note that they should be used appropriately and in moderation. Integrating them strategically within a well-rounded training program and ensuring proper form and safety are crucial for reaping the benefits while minimizing the risk of injury. Consulting with a fitness professional can help you tailor forced repetitions to your specific goals and abilities.

Implementing Forced Reps:

For the rest of the exercises you will require a reliable spotter. Pick an individual who you trust and whom you can build a level of communication with so that they are right on hand to assist you without delay. For health and safety reasons always ensure a spotter is on standby and increase the weighted resistance gradually, never substituting good form at any time.

Choosing Appropriate Exercises:

  1. Compound Movements: Compound exercises involve multiple muscle groups and joints, making them ideal for incorporating forced repetitions. Exercises like squats, bench presses, deadlifts, and rows are excellent choices.
  2. Targeting Larger Muscle Groups: Focus on exercises that target larger muscle groups, such as the chest, back, legs, and shoulders. This allows for greater overall muscle recruitment during forced repetitions.

Partner-Assisted Forced Repetitions:

  1. Communication and Trust: Establish clear communication with your training partner to ensure a smooth and safe execution of forced repetitions. Trust is essential since they will be providing the assistance required to complete the additional repetitions.
  2. Proper Technique: Your training partner should be familiar with proper exercise technique to provide assistance without compromising your form. They should be aware of how much assistance to provide, ensuring it’s enough to help you complete the repetitions but not so much that it takes away the challenge.
  3. Spotting Techniques: Depending on the exercise, different spotting techniques can be used. For example, your partner can provide assistance by lightly supporting the weight or by helping you push through the sticking point of the movement.

Forced Reps: Sample Workout Routine

The beauty of forced repetitions is that you can apply it to almost every exercise. If you’re working unilaterally, for example isolated bicep curls, then you can even use your non working arm to assist the target arm and negate the need for an independent spotter altogether.

Chest Workout

  1. Bench Press (Forced Repetitions):
    • 3 sets of 8-10 reps (reaching failure on the last regular repetition)
    • Training Partner Assisted: Provide assistance to complete 2-3 additional forced repetitions
    • Rest: 90 seconds between sets
  2. Dumbbell Flyes (Regular Sets):
    • 3 sets of 10-12 reps
    • Rest: 90 seconds between sets
  3. Incline Dumbbell Press (Regular Sets):
    • 3 sets of 8-10 reps
    • Rest: 90 seconds between sets

Back Workout

  1. Lat Pulldowns (Forced Repetitions):
    • 3 sets of 8-10 reps (reaching failure on the last regular repetition)
    • Training Partner Assisted: Provide assistance to complete 2-3 additional forced repetitions
    • Rest: 90 seconds between sets
  2. Barbell Rows (Regular Sets):
    • 3 sets of 10-12 reps
    • Rest: 90 seconds between sets
  3. Single-Arm Dumbbell Rows (Regular Sets):
    • 3 sets of 8-10 reps per arm
    • Rest: 90 seconds between sets

Legs and Shoulders

  1. Squats (Regular Sets):
    • 3 sets of 8-10 reps
    • Rest: 90 seconds between sets
  2. Leg Press (Forced Repetitions):
    • 3 sets of 10-12 reps (reaching failure on the last regular repetition)
    • Assisted Equipment: Use a resistance machine with adjustable assistance
    • Rest: 90 seconds between sets
  3. Shoulder Press (Forced Repetitions):
    • 3 sets of 8-10 reps (reaching failure on the last regular repetition)
    • Training Partner Assisted: Provide assistance to complete 2-3 additional forced repetitions
    • Rest: 90 seconds between sets
  4. Lateral Raises (Regular Sets):
    • 3 sets of 10-12 reps
    • Rest: 90 seconds between sets


Forced repetitions can be a valuable addition to your training toolbox, helping you break through plateaus and achieve new levels of muscle growth and strength. By understanding the principles behind forced repetitions, implementing them safely, and gradually progressing, you can unlock their potential and take your training to new heights. Remember to always listen to your body, consult with a fitness professional, and enjoy the journey of continuous improvement with forced repetitions.

Posted by
Kelvin johnson
With a career spanning over a decade, Kelvin holds certifications as a Strength and Conditioning Coach and Exercise Physiologist. His mission is simple yet powerful: to provide effective training for individuals willing to put in the work.