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To gain strength the last repetitions are the most important ones. Depending on my mood I find it hard to do the last reps. Before I used caffeine to enhance my exercise routine, however I stopped using caffeine. I now listed to motivating music, also I try to let the arm hang without dropping the weight and then do another repetition. What are other tips to push yourself to do the last repetitions?

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    Isn't the last repetition always the last repetition no matter how many you do?
    – Thomas Markov
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 18:13
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    Just popping in here to point out that the axiom "the last repetitions are the most important" is, at best, a half-truth if talking about hypertrophy. Using weights at 15RM or heavier, leaving a few reps in the tank is just as effective as going to failure, generates less fatigue, and will keep your form from deteriorating. Not saying you shouldn't ever go to failure, but it's not necessary for effective training and perhaps best left for isolation exercises. As for strength, you probably shouldn't go to failure: link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-015-0451-3
    – gustafc
    Commented Oct 16, 2022 at 9:13

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Reduce the weight.

If you're supposed to do 12 reps and you can only do 10, you've loaded to heavy. Reduce the weight so you can complete the number of reps and sets you need to.

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  • Problem is my ability to do the last reps depends on my mood and exhaustion level. So on a good day, I easily accomplish my goal. On a bad day I'm only able to do 80% of the reps required. Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 7:33
  • @Rubus Then adjust the weight so that you do the prescribed number of reps at a similar perceived level of effort every day. Allow your load selection to meet you where you are on any given day.
    – Thomas Markov
    Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 11:28
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Considering one of the tags in this question is "sports psychology", I'm assuming the question is actually asking "How do I motivate myself to work toward failure to get the most out of my set?". That is a very valid question considering daily motivation is the most variable thing that can mean the difference between failing at 8 reps versus failing at 10 reps. Unfortunately it's also something that's different for everyone and can't be answered with one single "Do this" style suggestion. Though I can give tips that you can try to see if they help.

In General

Get Sleep

This one seems obvious, but not sleeping enough can be pretty demotivating. Ensure that you're getting enough sleep to power through your day and your workouts.

Change workout times

If you're not a morning person, then there's no reason to believe you can force yourself to become one by working out in the morning. Likewise, if the stress of daily life leaves you exhausted in the afternoon, then it would be better to choose a time earlier in the day. Choose a time that has the least amount of stress in order to keep your motivation levels at their max.

Eat well

Try to make sure you're getting enough nutrition throughout the day. Preferably from more whole foods. This can be a big mood elevator which will translate will in to performance.

Eat properly before the workout

Some people like to be full. Some people like to be fasted. Some people like that goldilocks feeling in between. Make sure you eat well enough prior to the workout to make sure you feel comfortable enough to workout to your maximum potential. This would preferably be from carbohydrate sources, but it's personal preference at the end of the day. Forcing yourself to do something you don't like because someone on the internet says you should do it is not "motivating".

At the Gym

Develop a set routine

This one may seem odd, but it can help to develop some kind of habit that you do before a set to get your mind focused. A lot of people have small routines or rituals they do just before a hard set. I, for example, always drink some water before performing the set. It helps me get in to a mindset of "Ok. It's time to go!". I also have other things that I do depending on how hard the set is. Some people shake out their arms and legs. Some people crack their knuckles. It doesn't matter what it is. The goal is to get you in to the mindset between rest and work.

Track

Track your progress and try to match or surpass yourself over time. Sometimes this can be motivating enough to just get that one last rep.

Increase rest between sets

This isn't cardio. Your goal in resistance training is to get the most out of your set. Resting at least 2-3 minutes or even 5 minutes depending on the intensity of the exercise will allow you to push a lot harder than 30-60 second rests.

Intra-workout nutrition

Whether it's BCAAs, pre-workout, gummy bears, or even just cold water, sometimes having something small within the workout can bring up your motivation to workout harder. There's a lot of debate questioning the efficacy of these things. However, in this case it doesn't matter if they work. What matters is that you believe they work. Sometimes placebo is all you really need.

Gym Buddy

A good gym buddy can really be motivating. Lifting can be quite communal, and sometimes having someone there to push yourself can be quite beneficial.

Go at it solo

People are also distracting. They talk too much. Maybe they discourage training in some way. In this case it may be best to go at it alone.

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One of my old Muay Thai boxing coaches would tell students "you can do anything for 30 seconds".

He would tell us this after we had finished 2.5 minutes of a 3 minute training round involving the performance an extremely strenuous exercise.

After 2.5 minutes, most students would want to quit, but his words encouraged people to finish the training round.

We trained heavy 3-4 days/week, and he would do this during almost every training session. One might think it would get old, but it was actually quite effective.

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