Get Much Stronger With Half the Effort


My entire business and all of my courses are built around the concept of increasing muscle tone without adding a ton of additional muscle mass.

Creating a firm and compact physique.

*NEW* Visual Impact Fat Loss Boost Diet
For 15 years I've helped fashion models get lean for photoshoots. Use my plan to Lose 5-10 pounds of PURE body fat in 14 days.

The way to accomplish this is by using high-tension training without excessive breakdown of the muscle.

High tension to a muscle is accomplished with strength training, NOT light weights and high reps.

The KEY to a compact and tight physique is that you want to stop your strength training sets WELL short of failure.

I’ve covered all of this before, but…

In this article, I want to encourage you to test out doing HALF the number of reps you are capable of on a given set.

low rep training

I can pretty much guarantee you that almost nobody in your gym trains like this.

This challenges almost everything we have been taught about resistance training.

I’ll cover this in a second.

Right after a quick music break.

I like to include music videos in some of my blog posts to break things up a bit.

The music theme for this article are songs from “The Radio 1 Ibiza Prom” (classic house/trance dance songs performed by an incredible orchestra).

Does a set have to feel difficult in order for you to get results?

About 5 years ago I was training in a gym and a reasonably fit personal trainer hopped behind me while I was doing a set on the bench press.

I was finishing my set and about ready to re-rack the bar.

He yelled “Come on! You have at least 2 more reps in you.”

Instead of arguing, I completed 2 more reps.

After that, he screamed, “Come on, you can do one more rep!”.

bench press

I completed 3 more reps than I had planned.

He then pitched me on his personal training service, claiming that he could push me to get much better results than I could on my own.

In his mind, I wasn’t challenging myself hard enough.

He didn’t understand my strength training strategy and he thought he was doing me a favor.

I get where he is coming from.

I used to believe that training to failure and “going for one more rep” was the key to strength.

I think the majority of people who workout train like that.

It obviously works.


It certainly isn’t the only way to get strong.

It may not even be the best way to increase strength.

It’s actually possible to gain strength doing half the reps you are capable of on a set.

Let’s say your bench press 1 rep max is 245.

With this 1 rep max, you should be able to bench 185 about 10 times and 225 about 3 times.

This will vary depending on the person, but it is a good rough estimate based on my experience.

A traditional bodybuilding pyramid for a person with this level of strength would look something like this.

  • 135 X 5 (warmup)
  • 165 X 5 (warmup)
  • 185 X 10 (work set)
  • 195 X 8 (work set)
  • 205 X 6 (work set)
  • 225 x 3 (work set)

The numbers aren’t exact.

The point is that all the work sets are pushed to failure or extremely close to failure.

The idea is that if your muscles are challenged to the max that they will adapt by recovering and coming back a little stronger.

The strongest Olympic Weightlifting athletes from the former Soviet Union got strong using an entirely different approach.

From the 1960s to the 1980s they tested countless innovative approaches.

The strongest Soviet Olympic athletes spent most of their time lifting 1/3 to 2/3 of the reps they were capable of, on the majority of their sets.

So a person who could bench 185 pounds for 10 reps, would do sets of 3-6 reps instead.

Their strength training session would look closer to this.

  • 135 X 10 (warmup)
  • 185 X 6 (work set)
  • 185 X 5 (work set)
  • 185 X 4 (work set)
  • 185 X 3 (work set)

It doesn’t have to be done exactly like this.

Even 4-5 sets of 5 reps with 185 would be fine. It’s easy to just aim for about half of the reps you are capable of (or close to half).

The point is that each set is well short of failure.

How does someone become stronger while training short of failure?


Strength adaptations do NOT require going to muscular failure.

Training to failure is more of a bodybuilding approach and less about strength.

When you train to failure the muscle gets broken down and slightly damaged, then muscles get repaired and can increase in size over time.

Strength is more of a skill.

Effective strength training is a skill that gets better with frequent practice… in some ways, it is similar to improving your golf swing.

golf swing

You aren’t really trying to break down or exhaust the muscles.

You want to increase the mind-to-muscle link and strengthen the neural network of your muscles.

Frequency is more important than intensity.

The Soviets got their best results by practicing their lifts often.

They trained their lifts daily (even multiple times per day).

This exactly what I cover in Visual Impact Frequency Training.

When you are only lifting half the number of reps you are capable of, you are able to train muscles more often.

You are still using progressive resistance.

In a few week’s time instead of lifting 185 for 5 reps, you should be able to lift 195 for 5 reps. Your new 10 rep max for bench would be 195 (and your 1 rep max would go from 245 to 260).

You are improving all your maxes without lifting to failure.

It almost feels wrong how effortless strength gains come when training like this.

I recommend physically challenging yourself in cardio or HIIT part of your workout.

When you combine this type of strength training with HIIT style cardio, you develop a slim, tight and toned physique.

woman with toned body

Visual Impact for Women is based on similar concepts.

What if you are after muscle mass?

I still recommend spending at least part of the year doing this type of strength training.

Once you have greatly increased your strength you can apply it to a more traditional bodybuilding program where you train to failure.

Training to failure with heavier weights is the fastest approach to increasing muscle mass.


Even if you love lifting to failure, give this a shot for a few months.

This is easier on the joints.

…and will give your body a chance to heal if you have nagging pains and injuries.

*NEW* Visual Impact Fat Loss Boost Diet
For 15 years I've helped fashion models get lean for photoshoots. Use my plan to Lose 5-10 pounds of PURE body fat in 14 days.

Just another lifting strategy to add to your arsenal.


-Rusty Moore

As a former fitness coach to fashion models, I can teach you how to increase muscle definition without adding size.

Click Here to check out my premium courses.