There’s nothing like a monotonous training session to sap motivational levels and make you feel like your acting out your life as a character in the Groundhog Day movie! It’s been said before and it’ll be said again; variety is the spice of life. The problem is when you’ve been training for a period of months, even years, constantly thinking up new ways to spice up your training regime can be troublesome to say the least.
One potential training exercise that might have escaped your attention and can be applied to any muscle group and exercise is the technique called 21’s. As the name suggests, you are required to perform 21 repetitions within a single bout consisting of; 7 within the outer range, 7 within the inner range and 7 full repetitions without rest.
Let’s put this into a practical example using the barbell bicep’s curl. Initially lift the barbell half way through the movement before returning to the start position and repeating 7 times, then lift the barbell through the upper range from the highest point to the middle and repeat this a further 7 times. Finally, finish the exercise with 7 full repetitions as you normally would:
The act of undertaking 21’s places the target muscle, biceps in the above example, under a sustained load. This will evoke maximal muscular fatigue due to the additional exercise duration compared to your normal repetitions. It is also an unusual means of loading the muscle and so will create a shock effect and micro trauma at a cellular level, resulting in the stimulus, if repeated over a period of time, which will allow for muscular hypertrophy. The exercise technique has also been linked with enhanced calorie expenditure.
The beauty with 21’s is that it’s a simplistic alternative that can successfully be applied to all target muscles and exercises. Whether you choose to create a full workout from it, utilise it as an exercise within your workout or save it and perform the movement at the end of your session to ensure full muscular fatigue, the options really are endless.
Previous research has identified selecting a load at 40% of your 10 repetition maximum for this exercise, although this might alter slightly depending on your choice of when you perform the exercise.
So there you have it, the simplistic yet highly effective 21’s technique. Recently, here at FitnessBeans HQ we’ve put this exercise to good use during a leg session in which we well and truly finished off the quads muscle group with a 21’s barbell squat. It really is a great way to send a shock to your muscles and a wake up call to your training in general. So if you feel as though your training has become somewhat stale of late, why not apply this alternative training technique and freshen things up.