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⭕️Accumulation Methods⭕️

What this article will cover:

1- What are accumulation techniques? Why are they beneficial? When should you use them?

2- 1 1/4 reps

3- Drop Sets

4- Rest/Pause

5- Mechanical Drop Sets

What are they?

When it comes to developing muscular strength and size there are a few main factors and principles that should always be emphasized to get the most out of your training: Mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic fatigue.

These factors can be achieved by implementing higher volume training (3-6 working sets of 5-15 reps) with intensities of 70-90% executed in a time frame of 40-70 seconds of time under tension. Depending on your goals we can manipulate these variables and factors to maximize results and muscular gains.

Accumulation techniques are training methods that can be implemented in a training program to increase total training volume, metabolic fatigue, and muscle damage.

Whether your goal is improved body composition, increased muscle size, or busting through strength plateaus, accumulation methods are great tools to add to your training arsenal. Each of these accumulation methods has a specific purpose and goal in their implementation and can be highly effective when appropriately planned within one's periodization.

At Lift-STL we use a variety of training techniques and methods to get our clients their best results!

Here are a few of our favorite accumulation methods:

1 1/4 Reps

1 1/4 reps are partial movements that are performed in strategic positions of an exercise’s range of motion. These partial reps can be used to affect various positions of an exercise's strength curve, overload and develop weak muscles, or drive mechanical tension and fatigue.

By implementing a partial movement in various ranges of exercises we can extend the total time under tension and work done throughout the set. This is especially beneficial with the goal of increasing muscle size (hypertrophy). Increasing the work done and fatigue within a muscle increases the mechanical tension and metabolic build-up, which are two key variables in hypertrophy training.

The use of partial reps in a specific range of motion can be used for both hypertrophy and strength gains.

Increasing the work done in specific positions can be a powerful tool for improving sticking points and maximizing muscular tension in relatively weak muscles.

How this looks in training:

A1) Heels Elevated Back Squat - 1 1/4 rep in the bottom position

This would be executed by lowering to the bottom position of a squat to full depth, driving back up to just above parallel (1/4 of full range), squatting back down to full depth, then back up to a fully extended starting position. This is one full 1 1/4 rep, you would then repeat this for the prescribed number of reps.

A2) Lying Leg Curl - 1 1/4 reps in the bottom position

Implementing a 1 1/4 in the bottom position of a squat helps develop strength and power out of the weakest position. This is similar to the concept of a paused squat, but rather than using an isometric pause we are using a dynamic muscle action. In contrast, using the 1/4 in the fully contracted position creates more concentric fatigue and total hamstring muscle fiber recruitment.

Performing 1 1/4 reps correctly with intent is physically and mentally challenging. Performing high-quality and controlled reps requires full attention and focus.

To get the most out of 1 1/4 reps you have to be focused on each rep controlling the exercise with proper technique and form, any breakdown will no longer target the desired muscles. You have to learn to not only feel and control the exercise but also work and push through burning pain and fatigue.

Drop Sets

Drop sets can be a very effective tool in developing pure muscle hypertrophy. The general concept of drop sets is to perform a set to its specific prescribed rep range or momentary technical failure. Once the set reps or failure is reached you then reduce training load by 10-20%, followed by immediately performing another set to muscular failure with no rest. This can be repeated for a total of 2-3 drops within a given set.

It's important to remember that hypertrophy is stimulated by both training load and set duration. Any drops performed beyond 3 intra-set drops would result in too significant of a reduction in intensity to warrant any more benefit in training stimulus.

This method is typically used to extend sets and total volume of work throughout a given exercise or set. The reduction of training load between mini-set allows for more work to be performed, leading to greater metabolite build-up and maximizing muscular fatigue. Both of which are key factors in increasing muscle size.

Example Drops Sets with Pendulum Squats:

Athlete 1: Use this as an example for athletes who are familiar with drop sets and are ready to push their limits (safely of course, with a spotter).

- Mini Set 1: 190lbs performed for 12 reps; immediately reduce weight by 10%

- Mini Set 2: 170lbs performed for 9 reps; immediately reduce weight by another 10%

- Mini Set 3: 150lbs performed for 4 reps (to failure)

(Taking into account that the pendulum squat with no weight added is 50lbs)

*Video is at 1.5x speed*

Athlete 2: Use this as an example for athletes just learning drop sets. The most important thing is to pick weights that you KNOW you can complete reps prescribed - start lighter than you think to ensure you can pump the reps out, then go up next time.

- Mini Set 1: 135lbs performed for 12 reps; immediately reduce weight by 15%

- Mini Set 2: 115lbs performed for 9 reps; immediately reduce weight by another 15%

- Mini Set 3: 95lbs performed for 5 reps

(Taking into account that the pendulum squat with no weight added is 50lbs)

*Video is at 1.5x speed*

Drop sets are ideal for phases of training in which you want to significantly drive up training volume while sticking to moderate or low training intensities.

This is often a great method to implement when wanting to off-load joints and tendons from heavy compound work while still driving toward a great hypertrophy stimulus!


If you lift a heavier weight for more reps then you can stimulate both strength and size gains. This is exactly what rest/pause sets aim to do. This accumulation method is not only effective at increasing total training volume but also allows for higher training intensities.

Similar to the drop set method, rest/pause training implements small breaks or mini-sets within a prescribed set. In using rest/pause training there is no reduction in weight between mini-sets, instead, the lifter would perform a short 10-30 second rest period (depending on goal and intensity) before performing the next set to technical failure.

Implementing a short rest-period of 10-30 seconds is just enough time to partially replenish energy substrates (such as ATP and Creatine) in the muscle before performing additional reps. This partial rest allows for the lifter to accumulate a greater amount of total reps with heavier training loads, compared to a drop set where weight is reduced.

To effectively perform a rest/pause set you would perform a lift for its prescribed number of reps in the first "mini-set". Once the prescribed number of reps are completed we would then rack the weight and rest 10-30 seconds before performing the next set. You would then perform 2-3 addition sets working just shy of technical failure.

The intra-set rest period is goal dependent and specific to the individual's strength levels and work capacity:

- 10-20 seconds rest for more slow-twitch dominant individuals or when working with moderate intensities and higher reps closer to the pure hypertrophy end of the rep spectrum (8-15 reps, 70-80%).

- 20-30 seconds rest between rep bouts - These intra-set rest periods are aimed to be used with higher intensity loads (75-85+%, 6-10 reps) or fast-twitch dominant individuals. though an extra 10-15sec doesn't seem like much it can be just enough to allow you to get even 1-2 extra reps with these higher training loads.

How this would look in training:

Hack Squat - (Rest/Pause) - 3-0-1-0 Tempo:

Mini-Set 1- 110lbs performed for 11 reps, followed by 10-15 seconds of rest.

Mini-Set 2- 110lbs performed for 7 reps (just shy of complete failure), rest 10-15 seconds.

Mini-Set 3- 110lbs for 4 reps (failure), end of the set.

*Video is at 2.5x speed*

Rest/Pause Training benefits both strength and size gains.

With the use of higher training intensities (70-85%), we recruit and fatigue a greater number of fast-twitch muscle fibers. These fibers are responsible for increased muscle contraction strength and size, or functional hypertrophy. Through extending these sets to a technical failure we further increase this fiber recruitment and fatigue with continuous exposure to heavier loads past that of what we could normally perform in a set. Combining this high level of muscular fatigue and recruitment with the metabolic build of incomplete rest periods makes a perfect recipe for strength and hypertrophy gains.

Cluster Reps

Cluster reps are the high-intensity heavy-duty big brother of the rest/pause method. To their core cluster reps and the rest/pause method are essentially identical in application. There is, however, one major difference.

Cluster training is typically reserved for much higher intensities compared to rest/pause.

Generally, when implementing Cluster reps we would target intensities closer to 85-92% which more specifically targets absolute strength rep ranges. Therefore, the main difference between the two would be the overall intensity used during each method, Cluster training targeting more absolute strength and rest/pause training falling higher on the functional and pure hypertrophy end of the rep spectrum.

With Cluster Reps, we would typically implement this method with the primary exercises of a training program. This method is typically used to extend and accumulate a greater number of total reps within a set to drive neural adaptation and exposure to high-intensity loads.

How this would look:

A) Bench Press- 4x3/1/1/1 - 40X1 Tempo. This loading parameter would use your 5RM on the bar for each rep and set.

Mini-Set 1: 225lbs performed for 3 reps with, rest 15-20seconds.

Mini-Set 2: 225lbs x 1 rep, 15-20sec rest.

Mini-Set 3: 225 x 1 reps, 15-20 sec rest.

Mini-set 4: 225 x 1 rep, end of cluster set, rest 3-4 minutes. Repeat this for another 3-5 total workings sets.

As you can see by the end of the working set you have completed a total of 5 reps with your 5RM broken up with short 15-20sec rest periods. These short rest periods allow for partial recovery between reps and staving off complete muscular fatigue that usually accompanies bouts of max-effort training. This allows you to accumulate more total working sets at a given rep maximum or intensities, more exposure to these high loads and demands helps drive greater stimulation and neural adaptations!

Video example of a 3/1/1/1 cluster set on a supinated chin-up:

*Video is at 2x speed*

Mechanical Drop Sets

Mechanical Drop Sets consist of performing 3-4 exercise variations of the same muscle group of the same weight with minimal to no rest periods. They are performed similarly to drop sets except for instead of reducing the weight used, you just switch to an easier exercise variation of the same muscle group.

Once you hit muscular failure and are unable to complete another repetition of the exercise, you simply switch to another position or similar variation to allow yourself to keep pushing out reps with the same weight. This change can be a change in hand position, grip, foot stance, or angle of movement.

How this looks in training:

Arms Workout:

A1) 45° Incline Reverse Grip DB Curl- 3x6-8 reps - 3-0-1-0 Tempo

A2) 45° Incline Supinated Grip DB Curl - 3x6-8 reps - 3-0-1-0 Tempo

A3) Seated Hammer Grip DB Curl - 3x6-8 reps - 3x6-8 reps - 3-0-1-0 Tempo

*Video is at 2x speed*

B1) Lying DB Tricep Ext. - Neutral Grip - 3x6-8 reps - 3-0-1-0 Tempo

B2) Telle Tricep Ext. - Neutral Grip - 3x6-8 reps - 3-0-1-0 Tempo

B3) Flat DB Press - Neutral Grip - 3x6-8 reps - 3-0-1-0 Tempo

*Video is at 2x speed*

As you can see within the workout you are making slight changes to the exercise variation. As you reach muscular failure on the initial exercise you then switch to a slightly stronger more advantageous position or angle and keep pushing out reps.

The benefits of mechanical drop sets are similar to both drop sets and the rest/pause methods.

By switching between similar exercise variations we are able to extend the total mechanical tension and metabolic build-up way beyond what normally could be done using straight working sets.

In addition to the extended duration of the working sets, the small changes in exercise variation force an even wider pool of motor units to be recruited and fatigued. These high levels of muscular recruitment, tension, and fatigue make this accumulation method highly effective in developing muscular hypertrophy!

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