Fitness Tips

‘1.5 Reps’ Help You See Results at the Gym *Twice* As Fast

Kells McPhillips

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Photo: /Jovo Jovanovic

Repetitions (the kids call them “reps”) are the building blocks of any strength training routine. Every rep carries you from the start to the finish of a move, but  Katrina Pilkington, NASM-CPT, a National Academy of Sports Medicine-certified trainer, says that one secret to how to gain muscle faster lies in making a rep last just a bit more than usual. Gym friends, meet the 1 1/2 rep.

The 1 1/2 rep involves doing the second part of the movement twice before returning to your starting position. For example, in a squat, you would drop your butt down, bring it back up just a touch, then drop it down again before returning to standing. It’s simple, but according to Pilkington, it can speed up muscle growth by, like, a lot. “The use of the 1 1/2 method helps to increase the challenge of muscle tension in order to help overall growth,” she says.

In a full rep, there will always be a “primary muscle mover,” or a muscle doing most of the work. “By adding the 1/2, you can maximize tension and enhance the use of stabilizers in between the primary movers,” explains Pilkington. That means the muscles designed to carry heavy loads (the primary muscle movers) and the muscles made to stabilize your body (the stabilizers) will be working as a team.

A true Swiss Army knife-skill, 1 1/2 reps can be added to any move in your playbook to make it that much more effective (good mornings, lunges—you name it) but to get you started, Pilkington picked three of her favorites to try next time you’re at the gym.

3 moves to help you gain muscle faster with 1 1/2 reps

1. 1 1/2 Jump squat

For this one, you just need your body weight.

  • Start standing with all your weight back in your heals then shift it to your toes and hop into a squat jump.
  • Squat down and up again halfway.
  • Return to the start.

2. 1 1/2 suitcase squat

For this one, grab a pair of moderately heavy dumbbells. 

  • Start standing with your weight in your heels, your shoulders down, and one dumbbell on each side of your body.
  • Squat down.
  • Come halfway up and then squat right back down.
  • Return to the start.

The right way to do a squat:

3. 1 1/2 push-up

  • Starting in plank.
  • Lower down leading with the chest into a full pushup.
  • At the bottom, come back up half way, utilizing the core muscles.
  • Push back up to plank position.

Master your push-up form:

Bookmark this gym guide for your next sweat sesh, and here’s a compelling argument for treating your life like an AMRAP workout.

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