11 Ways to Modify an Exercise to Get New Training Benefits

One of the easiest ways to challenge your body and change the benefit of an exercises is to adjust how you perform a rep.

One of the easiest ways to challenge your body and change the benefit of an exercises is to adjust how you perform a rep. But most of you totally overlook this critical aspect of training and perform reps without much thought.

But you're missing out on a huge opportunity. Changing how you perform a rep is akin to adding more weight to the exercise, performing more or less reps and opting for an exercise variation. It's simply another way to alter the exercise to change how it works your muscles.

Below are several ways to perform reps and also the various types of reps you can do in the gym for not only keeping workouts fresh, intense and interesting, but also for addressing specific training goals. Also included are some suggestions how reps in sports practices can elevate game performance.

Size-Promoting Reps

Athletes desiring more size during offseason workouts might focus several sessions doing 8-12 reps per exercise with moderately heavy resistance (70-80% RM).

Developing Strength and Power

Strength and power reps are generally in the 1-3 or 3-6 rep range using heavy resistance (90-100% RM).

Endurance-Boosting Reps

Seeking more stamina in practices and games? Aim for 15-20 reps or more or doing timed reps (e.g., doing as many reps as possible in 60-90 seconds) using lighter resistance (50-60% RM).

Full-Range Reps


These conventional reps gauge your range of motion from the weakest range of an exercise movement to the strongest range.

Partial Reps

These reps are ideally performed in the strongest range, enabling the use of heavier resistance compared with doing full-range reps while also promoting strength gains. You may need a spotter for certain exercises performing partial reps—or not if you're doing them in a Power Rack with the barbell atop safety pins or doing them on a machine or using cables or performing bodyweight exercises such as Push-Ups, Pull-Ups and Wall Squats.

The top range of an exercise is usually the strongest range (e.g., starting Overhead or Bench Presses with the bar or dumbbells almost in the lockout position and not resting on your shoulders or chest (weakest range of the lift). Additionally, doing partial reps with either heavier or lighter weight generally works well for those with joint or muscle issues when full-range reps are contraindicated until joint or muscle soreness heals.

Holding Reps

Isometric or holding reps is another intensified exercise method for triggering muscle size. Hold the contracted position of a rep for 5-15 seconds either on the last rep or between reps during each set. Or, instead of doing multiple reps per set of exercises, try doing just one long holding rep for each set, holding the position for as long as possible (20-30 or 50 seconds).

21s-Style Reps

This old-time weight training rep method makes any exercise more challenging. Each rep is done in quarter or half partial ranges seven times and then finishing with seven full-range reps. An exercise example:

  • Do seven quarter-range Squats, lowering slightly in the top range and back to start position.
  • Descend to parallel position and back up a quarter range and down to parallel seven times.
  • Complete seven full-range reps from top to bottom totaling 21 reps.

1 ¼ Reps

Using Push-Ups as an example, do a full-range rep lowering from top to bottom and back to start. Without rest, lower yourself a quarter of the way (a few inches) and back to start. Continue doing one full-range rep immediately followed with a partial quarter repetition for specific reps per set (e.g. 8-12).

Slow Concentric and/or Eccentric Reps

With Pull-Ups as an exercise example, slowly pull yourself up to the bar in 5-10 seconds (concentric phase of the rep), pause one second at the top, and slowly lower yourself in 5-10 seconds (eccentric phase) to start position. Repeat for a targeted number of reps.

This rep training style not only emphasizes proper exercise technique by doing each repetition in a controlled manner without using momentum, but is another demanding method of doing reps for building muscle. An alternative style would be accentuating the slower rep eccentric phase and doing the concentric phase in faster tempo or reverse (slower concentric reps and faster eccentric reps) instead of doing both rep phases in slow tempo.

Explosive Reps

Such reps are utilized for building explosive upper- and/or lower-body power for quickly jumping higher or throwing harder and farther, for example. Exercises such as Squat Thrusts, Plyometric Jumps on and off boxes, Power Cleans and Push/Presses typically involve fast-tempo explosive movements.

Timed Reps

Timed reps are well-suited for bodyweight exercises and/or using lighter or moderately heavy resistance. Try this as an alternative: With an eye on the timer and without counting reps, perform as many movements of an exercise using proper technique in 60-90 seconds to thoroughly fatigue muscle fibers for a growth-stimulating pump!