RIR – Unlocking Your Full Potential with Reps in Reserve

Picture this all too often scenario: You’re in the middle of a workout, pushing yourself through each set, and suddenly you wonder if you have more left in the tank to push through – possibly until failure. That’s where Reps in Reserve – RIR comes into play, and for many of you, this can (in a few short weeks) upgrade your training and mindset to hit new heights.

What is RIR?

Reps in Reserve, (RIR) is a concept which helps you gauge how many more repetitions you could perform (with or without weight) before reaching failure. It’s like having a little counter ticking away the reps you have left in the tank. Understanding RIR provides valuable insights into your workout intensity and can be a game-changer in achieving your fitness goals.

  • Allows you to tailor your workouts to your specific fitness level.
  • Increase accuracy in load selection, ensuring you’re pushing yourself optimally, while reducing the risk of injury.
  • By reducing the overtraining, you are also avoiding the habits of pushing to failure.
  • Avoiding pushing to failure helps to offset D.O.Ms (Delayed Onset Muscles Soreness) and increase recovery between sessions; this is crucial for long-term progress.
  • RIR creates a sustainable approach to fitness by minimising burnout.
  • Long-term adherence to a workout routine is more likely with a balanced and structured approach.
  • Lower risk of injury compared to pushing your body to the absolute limit each session, a habit all beginners should aim for, and more experienced gym users should experiment with.
  • Better joint health as you reduce stress through the tendons and ligaments.
  • Develops mental resilience as you learn to gauge and manage your effort levels effectively.
  • A positive mindset towards workouts, knowing you can consistently perform well without the fear of failure.
  • Requires a increasing understanding of your body and its capabilities.
  • Some individuals might struggle with the mindset of stopping before reaching failure.Negatives of RIR:
  • There’s a risk of underestimating your true capacity, leading to a less intense workout, to avoid, this – set yourself a one month challenge (possibly as a de-load for experienced gym users) as a settling in period.
  • Some exercises may respond better to training to failure, while others might thrive with a more reserved approach. However training to failure, should be reserved for the advanced gym user due to the increased risk of injury and D.O.Ms.
  • Balancing RIR across different exercises can be a nuanced process – as a challenge, determine which exercises are best suited to this.
  • Listen to your body’s signals. If you’re consistently fatigued, unable to maintain training intensity, note joint pain, stuck in a plateau you may need to adjust your RIR.

2. Gradual Progression

  • Gradually decrease your RIR as you become more experienced and stronger.
  • This ensures a progressive overload without compromising recovery.
  • While RIR is a great tool, occasionally pushing to failure can still have its place in your training routine.

3. Stay Consistent

  • Consistency is key. Stick to your RIR plan (typically 8 weeks with my programmes), and over time, you’ll likely see significant progress.

There we have it, Reps in Reserve is a great tool in your fitness arsenal. It provides the structure needed for sustainable progress while minimising the risk of burnout and injury. As a beginner I would aim for an RIR of 2-3; to achieve this, select a lighter weight (body weight is fine) and aim to target a higher rep range to increase endurance. A RIR of 2-3 can also be used when introducing more complex exercises or heavier weights; as you progress – lowering the RIR to 1-2 (or 1) will see an increase in intensity. Note however this requires a solid foundation in exercise, so lets not rush just yet.

So, go ahead, embrace the concept of RIR, and let your workouts become a precision-guided path to success! Until next time, keep pushing those limits in a smart and strategic way.

Need to apply RIR to a workout – click here for a introductory circuit which is perfect for beginners.

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