Myo-Reps Workouts: Effective, science based training protocol

A man doing barbell overhead presses in a Crossfit gym.

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Are you looking for a quicker, more efficient way to get your workouts done? Myo reps might just be the solution you’ve been searching for. Over the last few years, this has become one of my favorite training methods for maximal effectiveness in minimal time.

Myo-reps are a lifting technique designed to stimulate muscle hypertrophy and strength by maximizing muscular fatigue in a very short period of time. It is done by first performing a single activation set close to muscular failure, followed by 3-5 mini-sets, called “myo-reps.”

The mini-sets are typically performed with a fixed number of reps, ranging from 3-5 reps, using short 10-15 second rest periods.

Myo reps are believed to help stimulate muscle growth by inducing high levels of metabolic stress and muscle fatigue, leading to an increase in muscle fiber recruitment and activation.

What are myo reps

A man holding a dumbbell.

Myo rep training was first introduced by the Norwegian strength coach Borge Fagerli in the 2000s and follows a protocol that works similarly to the old-school rest-pause method in lifting.

The theory is that when we get a muscle close to failure by taxing it with a (relatively) high-rep set close to failure, we can continue to cash in on the muscle-building effects of these near-failure “effective” reps by performing multiple mini-sets with minimal rest.

How to do myo reps

To perform myo rep training:

  1. Choosing a weight on a given exercise that is between 40-60% of your one-rep max.
  2. Complete as many reps as possible with that weight until you are close to failure. This would typically be expressed as being within 1-2 reps of muscular failure on the exercise. A rough gauge of this is to stop after the first rep that is significantly slower than the rest.
  3. Take 5 deep breaths, leading to around a 10-15 second rest period.
  4. Perform 3-5 reps with the same weight. This is your first mini-set.
  5. Repeat until you’ve either completed five mini-sets, or until you hit true failure (cannot complete the same number of reps you’ve been doing in all of your mini-sets.

An example of completing all myo reps for a lifter whose close grip bench max is 275 would look like this:

  • Close grip bench: 145×15, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

The lifter above was able to complete all four reps for each mini-set, and thus they continued until all five mini-sets were done.

An example of the same lifter stopping due to muscular failure would look like this:

  • Chest supported row: 145×13, 3, 3, 3, 2

In this case, the lifter stopped after the fourth min-set because they were unable to complete all three reps of the fourth mini-set.

Are myo reps effective?

A woman doing dumbbell bulgarian split squats.

The question of whether or not myo reps are effective is dependent on the context. As with most things, the correct answer is it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Let’s examine myo reps by goal, from the standpoints of hypertrophy, time efficiency, endurance, and strength:

Myo reps for hypertrophy

Since myo reps bring us close to failure and keep us there for an extended period of time, this methodology is fairly good at building muscle. The fact remains that proximity from failure is still the largest predictor of muscular hypertrophy from resistance training. Myo reps are fantastic for this purpose.

This is true despite the fact that the original pitch of “effective reps” has been largely debunked (see Greg Nuckols’ article on the topic here).

In fact, this was the main selling point behind the original book by Fagerli, whose tagline espoused that myo reps would “build lean muscle in 70% less time.”

Are they better at building muscle than normal “straight” set and rep schemes? Probably not – but they don’t have to be. Since straight sets (multiple sets with full recovery between sets) is the gold standard for hypertrophy, we only need to know that myo reps are “as good.”

Put another way: if we could receive similar hypertrophic benefits of normal straight sets with less weight and less time, why wouldn’t we?

Myo reps for time efficiency

Here, we have what I believe to be the true benefit of myo reps (or other similar methodologies like traditional rest-pause training).

The main benefit of myo reps is that they are extremely quick to finish. One could complete all of one’s sets of resistance training exercises in just a couple of minutes, allowing the lifter a lot of freedom to shorten their workouts, pack more exercises into a given workout, or simply leave the gym feeling fresh.

The first time I ever did myo reps, I tried them on a close-grip bench press, and I was amazed at how quickly the set was finished. The muscles were pumped and fatigued, and I felt as though I had just done a full 3-4 set close grip bench press session – but it had only taken around 4 minutes total.

What’s more, since I was intentionally using a light weight (around 50% of max), it cut my number of warm-up sets in half.

Not too shabby.

Myo reps for muscular endurance

Front squatting a barbell.
The author performs myo reps with a barbell for muscular endurance in the legs.

If one’s goal is to build muscular endurance to achieve a rep goal (say, if you’re needing or wanting to improve the number of push-ups you can do in a certain time frame), then myo reps are an excellent option.

The nature of this methodology is that the musculature is pushed just shy of the brink of failure, and then forced to keep going by utilizing short rest periods and low-rep sets. This is a fantastic way to train the muscles (and the mind) to resist fatigue.

However, if you are training for a specific endurance-based goal, I recommend also training specific to the event. For example, if you’re attempting to improve your push-ups in two minutes for an upcoming test, you should still train for the test specifically, especially as the test draws closer.

Myo reps for strength training

Here is, I believe, the myo rep methodology’s main weak point.

Myo reps, while great for hypertrophy and time savings, are not actually that great for strength. If your goal is to build maximal strength, I’d look elsewhere.

Since we are not using heavy weights, we aren’t taxing the central nervous system in the same way we would on, say, a heavy 5×5 program that focuses on lifting weights above 75-80% of our 1RM, with “full” recovery between sets.

It’s likely the same reason that high-rep programs like “Super Squats” (during which the lifter performs 20 reps of squats with a 10RM weight) aren’t that great for building strength – the weights we are using are so far from our 1RM that they simply aren’t that useful at moving the needle where maximal strength is concerned.

Subjectively, this has been my experience as well. I have never noticed a significant 1RM shift from using myo reps alone.

How to fit myo reps into a workout program

A woman doing seated resistance band rows in a park.

As examined above, there are a number of reasons one would choose to use myo reps in the context of their program, depending on their goals. Below, we’ll discuss a few options to insert myo reps into a program.

One thing of note, it has been stated that intensity techniques like myo rep sets, drop sets, and rest-pause sets tend to induce a similar amount of stress onto the muscle as approximately three sets of a normal resistance training exercise.

If you’re shooting for the optimal range of 10-20 work sets per body part per week, then we can use this number to determine the overall amount of work we should do to replace a traditional exercise in the gym:

Option 1: Shorten a regular gym workout

For the traditional gym-goer, using myo reps for supplemental or “accessory” movements can slash time off at the end of your workout.

If you’re someone who wants to maintain a traditional lifting program, but needs (or wants) to shorten your sessions, then try using myo reps for your second or third movements for the day.

Below are a couple of examples of sessions being shortened with myo reps.

 Original workoutNew workout (with myo reps)
Sample workout 1Bench Press 4×6 (20 min)
Squat 4×6 (20 min)
Barbell Row 4×6 (20 min)
(1 hour total)
Bench press 4×6 (20 min)
Squat 4×6 (20 min)
Barbell row – Myo Reps (5 min)
(45 min total)
Sample workout 2Deadlift – 3×3 (20 min)
Weighted pull-ups – 3×8 (15 min)
Curls – 3×12 (10 min)
(45 min total)
Deadlift – 3×3 (20 min)
Weighted pull-ups – Myo reps (5 min)
Curls – Myo reps (5 min)
(30 min total)

I have used the technique for this purpose quite a lot, and with good success.

Option 2: Complete more work in a given time frame

A man doing burpees on a gym floor.

Another possible use for myo reps would be to add more movements into a given time frame. Below are a couple of possible examples:

 Original workoutNew workout (with myo reps)
Sample workout 1Bench press 4×6 (20 min)
Squat 4×6 (20 min)
Barbell row 4×6 (20 min)
(3 exercises, 1 hour total)
Bench press 4×6 (20 min)
Squat 4×6 (20 min)
Barbell row – myo reps (5 min)
Tricep extensions – myo reps (5 min)
Curls – myo reps (5 min)
(5 exercises, 55 min total)
Sample workout 2Deadlift – 3×3 (20 min)
Weighted pull-ups – 3×8 (15 min)
Curls – 3×12 (10 min)
(3 exercises, 45 min total)
Deadlift – 3×3 (20 min)
Weighted pull-ups – Myo reps (5 min)
Weighted dips – Myo reps (5 min)
Curls – Myo reps (5 min)
Tricep extensions – myo reps (5 minutes)
(5 exercises, 40 min total)

Option 3: Consolidate your number of training sessions

If you’re attempting to reach a weekly volume goal, but you’re unable to make it to the gym often enough, you can use myo reps to easily consolidate training sessions. The example below assumes that a single round of myo reps equals approximately three sets of traditional weight training.

For simplicity’s sake, we will use “chest and back” as the muscle group in the example, but you could easily transfer this same logic to other body parts:

Original schedule

Bench press – 3 sets
Barbell rows – 3 sets
Cable crossover – 3 sets
Lat pull downs – 3 sets
Close grip bench press – 3 sets
Cable rows – 3 sets
Weighted dips – 3 sets
Weighted pull-ups – 3 sets

New schedule (with myo reps)

Bench press – 3 sets
Barbell rows – myo reps
Cable crossover – myo reps
Lat pull downs – myo reps
Close grip bench press – 3 sets
Cable rows – myo reps
Weighted dips / pull ups – myo reps

Both of the above examples feature 12 sets per week of pressing and 12 sets per week of pulling.

As you can see, the “new” schedule allows a busy lifter to complete the same amount of weekly training volume with only two sessions, allowing a lot more flexibility for scheduling considerations.

Option 4: Micro workouts from home

A lifter performing curls with adjustable dumbbells.

As a business owner and father of two, the micro workout method is near and dear to my heart. Using something as simple as resistance bands, we can get a full-body workout done in just a few minutes:

Workout AWorkout B
Push-ups – myo reps (5 min) Seated resistance band row (5 min) Bulgarian split squat – myo reps (5 min per leg, 10 min total)Close grip push-ups – myo reps (5 min) Resistance band hack squat – myo reps (5 min) Seated face pull – myo reps (5 min) Resistance band curls – myo reps (5 min)

This method can, of course, be adapted to whatever equipment you have – a pull-up bar, weight vest, or a single adjustable dumbbell. The possibilities are literally endless.

Which exercises to choose, and which exercises to avoid

Though I’m hesitant to recommend anyone “avoid” a particular exercise, I’ve found that this method works particularly well with certain exercises and not others.

While some people may be able to pull off “big” exercises like barbell squats or deadlifts in myo rep fashion (Allan Thrall, apparently, has no problem doing so), I’ve found that exercises that require a strong breathe and brace don’t lend themselves very well to doing myo reps.

This is simply because you will find yourself significantly out of breath during the set. If you’re breathing heavy, it’s very hard to brace, and I find myself losing power significantly. Therefore, I choose to simply avoid big compound lower body exercises when I’m using this method.

On the other hand, exercises that lend themselves well to myo reps tend to be smaller exercises like isolation exercises, or upper body compound movements like bench presses, dips, pull-ups, rows, and pull-ups.

Your mileage may vary.

In conclusion

If you’re looking for a way to shorten your workouts without compromising weekly volume, intensity, or progress, give this method a try. As we’ve seen, this method is very adaptable and can be used by anyone from a regular gym lifter to a suitcase warrior who’s travelling constantly, and everywhere in between.

When I first started using myo reps, I felt that lifting got a whole lot more convenient, almost instantly. Give this method a try some time, you may be pleasantly surprised!