By Carrie Myers
Q: I see a lot of workout challenges that encourage people to do 1,000 reps—1,000 reps of a particular exercise, or 1,000 total reps of several exercises. Even when performed throughout the day, this many reps seems a little excessive to me . . . or is it?”
A: Excessive, over-the-top, grueling workouts and events seem to be the trend right now. Whether it’s performing a mile-worth of burpees or 1,000 reps of various squats, you can easily find these types of workouts and events with a quick Internet search. And with resolution season upon us, people are likely to attempt these challenges. But are they necessary? Perhaps more importantly, are they safe?
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Do you think performing 1,000 reps per day of a given exercise is a good idea? Do you recommend this approach to your clients? Share your thoughts and experience in the comments section below.
According to Len Kravitz, Ph.D., program coordinator of exercise science and researcher at the University of New Mexico, there is nothing evidence-based in performing 1,000 reps of any exercise. “Muscle is very responsive to the stimulus presented it. So if a person does thousands of repetitions of a movement or exercise, they will adapt to be able to contract an incredible number of times. They may also incur some overtraining and overuse side effects.”
Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of exercise physiology and researcher at Auburn University, Montgomery, agrees. “There is no value that has been established by science. One thousand repetitions of any resistance exercise does not fall into a paradigm known to improve muscular fitness.”
What may happen, says both Olson and Kravitz, is that you are likely to predispose yourself to overtraining and injury. “Doing something like a mile-worth of burpees would put a lot of shear stress on the spine and is just crazy!” adds Olson.
Sample 1,000-rep Workout
Perform the following 10 exercises for 10 reps, completing the circuit 10 times (for a total of 1,000 reps).
- 10 Burpees
- 10 Squat Jumps With the Sandbag
- 10 Push-ups
- 10 Toe Touch Sit-ups
- 10 Dips Using the Dip Station
- 10 Tuck Jumps
- 10 Plank Jax
- 10 Split Lunges
- 10 Leg Drops
- 10 Squat Thrusts
Some fitness pros don’t totally discount this type of challenge, however. “I do believe that there is value in doing 1,000 reps in one day from the standpoint that it is a quick way to maximize the potential for that one body part,” says Mike Z. Robinson, C.P.T., owner of MZR Fitness in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and a 2012 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year top three finalist. “However, I also believe that this would definitely need to be a short-term program and not something that one should do for long stretches of time. Injuries occur when you’re fatiguing the muscles to that extent.”
“My concerns involve doing the moves properly,” explains Olson. “With cardio activity it is possible to execute 1,000 moves such as step cycles during a step class, spin cycles during an [indoor cycling] class and foot strikes during a run. But after about five sets of resistance moves—which would be about a total of 50 reps for each exercise—you've moved beyond established resistance-training paradigms. And undue muscle fatigue can cause form breaks and what is known as repetitive stress pains and strains.”
When asked what she thought about the following circuit, promoted by BodyRock.tv, Olson responds, “I favor a lot of aspects of BodyRock and I love their moves. They’ve got great resistance and body-weight exercises, but why do them to excess, potentiating overtraining and possible injury?”