There is much discussion over the most effective method for helping athletes improve maximal muscular strength. One theory is that forced repetitions—helping athletes perform repetitions after failure—can lead to improvements; however, a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2007; 21 [3], 841-47) has found no evidence that this type of training is effective.

The 22 subjects (12 elite basketball players and 10 elite volleyball players) were first tested on 6RM and 3RM bench press and on the 40-kilogram (kg) Smith Machine bench press throw to determine power production. The 6-week study protocol included free-weight bench press training three times per week on alternating days. Subjects were required to complete a variety of different sets and reps at both 6RM and 3RM while spotters assisted them upon failure. By the end of the study, the researchers had found little evidence to indicate that such methods were suc­cessful in improving strength or power gains in athletes. Study authors recommended minimizing use of forced repetitions when strength devel­opment was the goal.

Justin Price, MA, co-owner of The BioMechanics in San Diego and the 2006 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, said that while forced repetitions may not improve strength or power gains, they may be effective in improving neuromuscular coordination. “Although I do not use forced repetitions in my practice today, I have employed this technique in the past,” Price said. “I have used [it] to help add neuromuscular stress to the program of a well-conditioned athlete.

For example, once an athlete or well-conditioned exerciser has adapted to the stress of heavy-weight-bearing exercise (i.e., their connective tissues can withstand the force of increased load), a trainer may find it advantageous to use forced repetitions to increase the neuromuscular demand toward the end of a challenging set.”