AT A GLANCE

Due to the regrettable emergence of COVID-19, many gyms around the country are on restricted hours or closed altogether. In this article, we’ll delve into a method we can use to maintain and even gain muscle and strength at home.


Frequent hand washing, social distancing and coughing into one’s elbow are appropriate measures to be taking with COVID-19 wreaking its havoc. I hate that our nation and the world at large is at a standstill, but these precautions must be taken.  

Refresh Twitter, and you’ll find a new statistic regarding COVID-19 every few seconds. That isn’t what this article is about. 

Attempting to maintain a semblance of normalcy (and sanity), I’ve been working out with normal intensity and frequency but vastly different equipment. My local gym, like many, is closed. Therefore, equipment is scarce.

Initially, I was bummed at the idea of working out with a pair of 30 pound dumbbells, a resistance band and a floor. It isn’t a gym, and I may not do my best work for this period of time. However, that doesn’t mean I should throw in the towel. 

Myo-reps is an advanced training technique used to bolster effective volume when limited time or equipment is an issue
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Enter Myo-reps. 

What are Myo-reps?

Traditionally, lifters use relatively heavy weights (65+ % of 1RM) and sets of 3-15 reps to achieve bigger and stronger muscles. Further, we inherently know that a certain threshold of effort is necessary. As Arnold once said, “I only start counting when it starts hurting,”1.

The ‘size principle’ dictates that as an exercise gets more difficult, more motor units are inserted into the game to keep up. Type I fibers are the first in the game, while Type II fibers are then recruited as exercise becomes more intense. Type II fibers are much more akin to gains in both size and strength. This is the reason we must train hard in order to see results.

The beauty of Myo-rep training is that exercises lower in intensity, such as those performed with body weight, resistance bands, etc. can be suitable for gains or maintenance of both size and strength.
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Here’s how this relates to Myo-reps (and working out at home)…

By performing one set of exercise to technical failure or close to it, Type II fibers are activated. If the lifter then takes a traditional 1-2 minute rest break prior to performing another set, the “fiber cycling” will start over, beginning with Type I recruitment and ending in full Type II activation. When the load is heavy, say 5RM or below, this is no issue because all fibers are activated from the first rep. 

However, training at home with minimal equipment isn’t exactly conducive to a 5RM. So, what you’ll do is rest 5-15 seconds before performing another 3-5 reps. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. If it’s the final five or so reps that reap the most benefit, those are the reps we should be focusing on by living close to muscular failure. 

How is Myo-rep training different from traditional rest-pause training? Long story short, it’s not too much different, which is great because research2,3 reports its benefits being similar to those of traditional training, at least over a period of several weeks.

I am not sure when public gyms will resume normal hours and activities. However, that doesn’t mean we should throw in the towel. Using Myo-reps for full-body training is beneficial in the mean time
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The most glaring difference between traditional rest-pause training and Myo-rep training is that instead of taking each and every set to failure with the goal of reaching a total number of repetitions, Myo-reps are geared less toward failure and more toward total volume via increased sets. 

Here’s what a conventional Myo-rep set might look like using push-ups. 

  • Set 1: 32 push-ups
  • Rest 10 seconds
  • Set 2: 5 push-ups
  • Rest 10 seconds
  • Set 3: 5 push-ups
  • Rest 10 seconds
  • Set 4: 5 push-ups
  • Rest 10 seconds
  • Set 5: 5 push-ups

What equipment do you need?

This question was the inspiration behind writing this article. As many of us have either been forced or chosen to stay away from commercial gyms, we’re left yearning for productive training. 

I, like many, have a hard time taking “home workouts” seriously. Whether it is due to the obvious lack of equipment, the setting, or a personal bias against bodyweight training, I was not excited to break out the resistance band and 30 pound dumbbells. 

However, that’s the beauty of Myo-rep training. No equipment is required and you leave the workout knowing that what you did was actually productive.

An example workout

For the past several days, I’ve been performing full-body workouts using the Myo-rep methodology. Having little to no equipment doesn’t exactly bode well for five variations of curls. 

That said, you could get pretty creative with simple equipment and rep-set schemes.  

Here are two workouts I’ve completed over the past few days:

Workout #1

Overhead Press w/resistance band

Set 1: 17 reps

Rest 10 seconds  

Sets 2-6: 4 reps

Rest 10 seconds

Lateral Raise w/resistance band

Set 1: 20 reps

Rest 10 seconds  

Sets 2-6: 5 reps

Rest 10 seconds

Dips using coffee table

Set 1: 31 reps

Rest 10 seconds  

Sets 2-6: 5 reps

Rest 10 seconds

Workout #2

Goblet Squat w/resistance band

Set 1: 25 reps

Rest 10 seconds  

Sets 2-8: 4 reps

Rest 10 seconds

Upright Row w/resistance band

Set 1: 24 reps

Rest 10 seconds  

Sets 2-6: 5 reps

Rest 10 seconds

Hammer Curls w/dumbbells

Set 1: 31 reps

Rest 10 seconds  

Sets 2-6: 5 reps

Rest 10 seconds

Take Home Points
  • Type II muscle fibers are most important for gains in muscle size and strength.
  • Myo-reps is a training technique that takes advantage of the size principle to maintain high intensity with each and every rep.
  • Myo-reps is a useful technique when the athlete has either limited equipment or limited time.

Articles References

https://app.ft.com/cms/s/3306f5d6-7887-11e9-be7d-6d846537acab.html?sectionid=lunch-with-the-ft
Korak JA, Paquette MR, Brooks J, Fuller DK, Coons JM. Effect of rest-pause vs. traditional bench press training on muscle strength, electromyography, and lifting volume in randomized trial protocols. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2017;117(9):1891-1896.
Prestes J, Tibana RA, Sousa EDA, et al. Strength and Muscular Adaptations After 6 Weeks of Rest-Pause vs. Traditional Multiple-Sets Resistance Training in Trained Subjects. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2019;33:113-121.

PT, DPT, CSCS
Dr. Brian Grant is a practicing physical therapist in outpatient orthopedics, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and natural physique athlete. Brian received his B.S. in Exercise Science and Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees from the University of Evansville in 2016 and 2019, respectively. Brian’s passions extend from training ... Continue