Beyond Bicep 21’s – Using the 21 Rep Scheme to Attack the Entire Body
We hear about the same dull, repetition schemes time and time again.
If we want to improve strength stick to the one to five rep range. In order to build muscle and increase hypertrophy use the six to twelve rep range. For maximum endurance simply go above twelve reps up to infinity and beyond.
While all of these repetition schemes are beneficial in their own unique ways, people tend to forget about one rep scheme that has been around for years but is not often talked about.
I’m talking about 21’s.
No, I’m not referencing about the magical number for reaching blackjack at the casino, nor am I referring to the age one awaits eagerly to consume alcoholic beverages legally. I’m talking about the rep scheme.
You may or may not have seen 21’s used at a local gym near you. Have no fear, they will succeed in making those muscles burn. The 21’s can be applied to several different exercises even beyond what I will list in the example’s below.
The best way to describe 21 is breaking the set down into three consecutive 7-7-7 sets. Each set of 7 will vary slightly while simultaneously concentrating on the same muscle group. I would recommend throwing these types of movements into your routine at least once per muscle group per month.
Using 21’s to Work All Major Muscle Groups
Smith incline bench 21’s: For this movement, pick a weight that is approximately 50% of your one rep max. We are not focusing on going heavy here. First, perform 7 reps only going from the bottom of the movement up to halfway. Next, perform 7 reps from the halfway mark of the rep to the top. Lastly, go full reps moving the weight through the entire range of motion.
Pec dec fly 21’s: This exercise can be performed using cables as well but will be most effective on the pec dec machine. Simply perform 7 reps to halfway, 7 reps from halfway to the end of the rep, and then follow up with 7 full reps.
Lateral raise 21’s: For this exercise start with 7 full reps bringing the weights from your sides until your arms become parallel to the ground. Next bring the weights from your sides halfway to a 45 degree angle. Lastly, go from that angle until your arms are completely parallel to the ground for 7 reps.
Complete shoulder 21’s: This is a great movement to focus on hitting all heads of the shoulders in a time crunch or as a finishing movement on shoulder day. Start with 7 reps of front raises. Next, do 7 reps of lateral raises to the side. Finish off with 7 reps of rear delt flys. Keep the weight minimal as your shoulders will be burning at the completion of this movement.
For the sake of repetitiveness I will avoid going into further detail about other exercises but you most likely understand the basics. Performing 21’s involves three consecutive sets of 7 repetitions with slight variations between each individual set.
The best part of this repetition style is the amount of creativity that can be implemented. Take most any exercise and these same principles may be applied (although I would be cautious using these while performing deadlifts and squats as it could be dangerous).
Below are some examples of other movements.
- Seated row 21’s
- Lat pulldown 21’s
- Dumbbell curl 21’s
- Barbell curl 21’s
- Triceps pushdown 21’s
- Rope pushdown 21’s
- Leg press 21’s
- Leg extension 21’s
The great part about 21’s is that you are not limited and can alter the movement as you best see fit. The most important thing to remember is you are creating muscle confusion and providing the body with stimuli that it is not used to.
Throwing these movements into your routines occasionally may go a long way towards helping promote muscle growth. Sometimes the best way to see changes is to start with something new.
If you perform this movement tag me and be sure to follow me on Instagram @ryanrodal, @roballin on SnapChat and also subscribe to my YouTube channel MuscleMinds for nutrition advice and workout tips.