In my last post on the four exercise necessities for building muscle, the first point I brought was that when lifting weights you should be performing repetitions until you cannot perform another one.  As a personal trainer in Schaumburg, I realize this is very difficult to do, especially if you do not have a trainer, spotter, or workout partner to help you.


As we fatigue throughout a set, we are often unable to perform the exercise through as great of a range of motion as we did earlier in the set.  However, that does not mean that we are physically unable to contract at all into those positions.

Often, all that is needed to continue to explore the very shortened end of the range is for a spotter to help with the load ever so slightly.  This little bit of help can allow us to squeeze out an extra rep or two – and I do mean squeeze, not mindlessly fling the weights into the end range position.

Once you cannot perform a full repetition with a little bit of help from your spotter, continue to squeeze out reps throughout whatever range of motion you can still achieve.

There.  One set is complete.

This is an important concept when you are trying to build muscle.  When you are squeezing out those last couple reps, you are essentially trying to use as many muscle cells as possible in order to complete the rep.  Now, this is different than using any muscles that you can to complete the rep.  In fact, you should be attempting to use only the very specific muscles you are wanting to build.

In order for a contraction to be so intense that you are able to recruit as many muscle cells as possible, the muscles must receive a large amount of electrical stimulation from the nervous system.  This stimulation will, among other things, cause calcium to enter the muscle cell.  The greater the amount of stimulation, the more calcium that will enter.

Calcium ions stimulate many different processes within the muscle cell.  One thing calcium does is it speeds up signal transduction pathways (STPs).  Oversimplified, STPs are a series of reactions that take place to change a cell, i.e. to cause it to grow, cause it to multiply, etc.  Calcium speeds up STPs, so having more calcium enter your muscle cells will allow them to build and grow.

And again, how do you get more calcium into your muscles? By getting greater amounts of electrical stimulation to your muscles by performing as many reps as you can.

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Charlie Cates

Charlie Cates is the leading consultant to high-level professional, college, & high school basketball players in the Chicagoland area for injury prevention, recovery, & muscle performance. As a certified Muscle Activation Techniques® MATRx practitioner & former college basketball player, he uses his personal experience & understanding of the game & player demands to create customized exercise options for his clients to recover faster & perform their best. Follow him on Instagram @CharlieCates!