Strength Training to Improve Athletic Performance
August 9, 2005 - By Mike Muha
RepMotions: The Science of Enhancing Progressive-Resistance Training
By Douglas Garfield
2004, Motioneering, Inc.
Doug Garfield's last two books, "The
New Steady Ski for Nordic Athletes" and "Armit,
Power for Poling" introduced the concept of "progressive resistance
training" and presented cross country ski-specific exercises that used
progressive resistance training to increase balance, stability and strength. His
latest book, "RepMotions" broadens the audience by reintroducing
progressive resistance training as a practical resource for general athletes and
medical and exercise professionals involved in training their patients and
Unlike the last two books, RepMotions dives deep
into the research and empirical findings to describe the science behind
progressive resistance training. Extensive references are provided for
readers who want to go back to original research that helped inform the
development of RepMotions.
Since I'm employ Doug's teachings in my own training, I'll both
review the book and provide some background on my own experiences with
RepMotions in a Nutshell
From a practical standpoint, RepMotions says:
- Stop and starting a moving resistance (weight) increases the
physiological intensity of the overload. As you decelerate a weight,
your muscle must generate additional power to overcome the weights
inertia. After the weight is stopped, it also takes additional force
to get the weight moving again. Stop and starting accelerations are
called "E2C impulses" in RepMotions jargon: Going from an eccentric
braking contraction to a concentric acceleration.
- By stop and starting the moving at multiple joint angles, you
increase muscle tension at more joint angles, which increases the
effective load. That is, the more times you stop and start the
weight at different joint angles, the more stress you put on your
muscles, which when rest occurs increases strength adaptation.
OK, an example: traditionally, when you do a bicep curl, you stand
with your elbows next to your waist and your hands holding the weights
up near your chest, palms facing your chest. You lower the weight down
to your knees, stop, then raise the weight back up to your chest. You do
one "E2C impulse" - when the dropping weight is stopped by the knees,
then accelerated back to the chest. This is called a "full motion
progression" - the joint goes through a full range of motion between E2C
In the RepMotions world, Garfield says you'll get more benefit is you
do more than one E2C impulse during that repetition. Besides full motion
progression, there are five other progressions:
Sample diagram from RepMotions showing
a 4-pass Progressive Motion (there are four E2C motions)
- Progressive motion: You lower the weight down 25% of your
joint angle, reverse, and pull the weight back up to the chest
position. Then the lower the weight to 50% of you joint angle, then
reverse. Then you lower the weight 75% of the joint angle before
reversing. Finally, you lower the weight to 100% of the joint angle
(the equivalent to a full motion progression). You get four E2C
Step Motion: same as Progressive motion, but when you
stop the weight, you raise it back up an inch or two (instead of all
the way up to the starting position) before lowering the weight to
the next position. So, lower the weight to 25% of the joint angle,
raise it an inch, lower to the 50% joint angle, raise it an inch,
lower to the 75% joint angle, and so forth.
- Pulse Motion: same as Step Motion, but instead of raising
it an inch, you raise and lower it 2-3 inches several times before
you lower it to the next joint angle. Garfield uses the phrase
"oscillating the weight up and down in a tight range of motion of
2-3 inches". I like the term "oscillating" - It implies that
the motion is controlled and deliberate, not jerky.
- Stop motion: same as Step Motion, but you simply stop the
motion at each joint angle, then lower the weight the the next joint
- Hybrid Motion: This is simply putting together
combinations of full, progressive, step, pulse, and stop motions
into a sequence.
Example of a 3-pass
progressive motion doing seated dips - there are three E2C
1. Starting position
2. First E2C at about
one-third of my range of motion.
3. Back to the starting
4. Second E2C at about
two-thirds of my range of motion.
5. Back to the starting
6. Third E2C at the end
of my range of motion.
7. Back to the starting
position. Repeat from the top as many times as you can
before your muscles fail.
Excluding Stop Motion, the progressions above are in order of
increasing intensity. (Think about it: the Step and Pulse motions
decrease the time between E2C impulses and the greatest intensity occurs
at the impulse).
The book provides plenty of figures and diagrams showing what to do,
along with clear explanations.
Some Practical Experience
I use RepMotions in combination with traditional full progressions
when I strength train (usually weights but sometimes elastic cords - Armit
- or my rollerboard). Here are some of
the things I've discovered:
- You can't lift as much weight doing step and pulse motions - the
frequent E2C impulses will simply bring you to your knees! Lighten
- Getting a high intensity strength session using lighter weights
is very advantageous with free weight bars when you're still working
on your balance (e.g., keeping the weights from jiggling all over
the place) or when you're fearful of injuring your back from lifting
too much weight.
- When I've had a minor joint injury - the lighter weights
used for RepMotions don't stress the joint as much, but my
muscles still get the intensity.
- If you hit a plateau doing full motion reps, RepMotions is the
"doing something different" that has got me past the plateau to the
- When you're having a bad day in the gym and simply can't push
the big weights using Full Motion reps, you'll get a great session
in with RepMotions.
- I use RepMotions to simply to keep from going nuts in the gym
doing the same thing over and over.
- It keeps the other guys wondering...
Sometimes I do full motion reps one trip the to gym, then RepMotions
the next trip, but more often I just mix it up depending how I'm feeling
at each weight station. I may do the first two sets with RepMotions,
then finish off with some full motion reps. Or vice versa...
I've only covered some of the areas in RepMotions that are most
practical for the athlete. There is a great deal of academic-style
research in the book, plus specific information for exercise
professionals and trainers, plus a chapter devoted entirely to teaching
RepMotions. Hey, he even gives you the formulas to compute how much
extra intensity there is during the E2C impulse!
You can use RepMotions with whatever strength
training equipment you already have. RepMotions works well with free weights, weight
machines, body-weight exercises, elastic cords, and pneumatic resistance
RepMotions does not replace your equipment, complements plyometrics,
and give you an important variation in how you do strength training.
[You can order RepMotions - Doug's other
products "Armit: Power for Poling" and "The New Steady Ski
for Nordic Athletes" -
Full disclosure: Doug Garfield sponsors
Team NordicSkiRacer.com and the monthly awards given to skiers who
submit trail reports to this web site. We like Doug - but we use his
Strength, Balance, &
Core training for the Nordic Skier
Help support the NordicSkiRacer web site!
says, "Join the AXCS today! Promote XC skiing & get great benefits
25 Michigan cities & across the USA