by Matt Weik
For many people, this article will be a “duh” feature. However, I think we all fall into a routine at the gym and some people forget about different workout techniques to help stimulate the muscle and promote new muscle growth. Many people get stuck doing three sets of 10 reps and then after they reach 10, they put the weight down (even if they haven’t fully exhausted the muscle being worked).
To get the most of out each workout, you need to fully stimulate and break down those muscle fibers to create change. If you are simply going through the motions and just putting in the time without the effort, you aren’t going to see much change in your physique at all.
If you are fairly new to fitness, some of these techniques mentioned below you might have never heard of before. So, in an effort to help people of all fitness and strength levels, here are some tried and true training methods to break down muscle fibers in order to rebuild them and make them stronger and bigger. It’s time to get your swole on!
*note: you don’t need to use this with every exercise you plan on hitting at the gym, you can pick and choose one or two exercises per workout.
1. Drop Sets
When it comes to hitting those deep muscle fibers, introducing drop sets into your program might be the ticket in helping you achieve new muscle growth. The concept is simple and while the process would be sped up with a training partner, you can have a go at this on your own.
In order to utilize this technique, all you would need to do is load up the bar or machine with a weight. For instance, let’s say you are doing 225 on the bench. After you finish your set, strip off a 45 from each side so you are left with 135 and immediate rep out as many as you can without resting. This would count as one complete set.
You can utilize this technique on a machine as well. Simply set the pin at your usual weight and after you complete your set, move the pin up (to lighten the weight) and rep out as many as you can. You could even take it one step further by creating multiple drop sets where after your first is complete, you lower the weight again and continue pushing out reps until failure.
2. Forced Reps
For this technique, it is best to have a partner assist you with the movement and here’s why. Forced reps are additional repetitions that follow muscular exhaustion and failure. How you utilize this method is by having your training partner aid you in additional reps after you would have normally ended your set. For instance, if you are benching and on the 10th rep is where you fail, your partner would come in to help you push a couple extra reps out by aiding in the movement. Your training partner would have a hold of the bar and help pull it up off your chest to fire every last muscle fiber in your pecs.
3. Eccentric Concentration
Too many times at the gym I see people swinging the weights up and down on movements such as the biceps curls. They use momentum to get the weight up and then allow gravity to simply drop the weight back down to the individual’s side. This is not only a great way to never see the results you want, but it also can cause injury. So, with eccentric concentration, you are focusing on the eccentric (when the muscle is elongating) portion of the movement.
Using the biceps curl, this would be the portion where you slowly resist the weight on the way back down towards your side. You can use a 1-2 second concentric part of the movement and then the eccentric is where you want to resist the weight for around 4-5 seconds on the way down. Keep in mind, if you were using something like 30-pound dumbbells for your biceps curls, you’re going to probably need to lower the weight slightly to allow for a controlled eccentric motion. If you use your normal weight, you might end up only resisting down on the eccentric portion for 2-3 seconds due to the overload on the muscle.
The pyramid method can be done in one of two ways. You can work from the top of the pyramid down, or you can start from the bottom of the pyramid and work your way up. Heck, one workout you can utilize one way and do the other during your next workout if you wanted.
If you were going to start from the bottom and work your way up, you would use a heavy weight and as you progress through your workout it would get lighter. Now mind you, that doesn’t mean you’re making the workout any easier. When you start with a heavy weight, you might shoot for 6-8 reps. When you lighten the weight, you then push for 8-10 reps. After lightening the weight a third time, you push for 10-12 reps. So on and so forth. You might be wondering how this is any different from drop sets. With the pyramid, you are resting between the changes in weight. With drop sets, you are immediately moving onto the next weight without a rest period.
When starting from the top of the pyramid, you are literally reversing what I just laid out above. Start with a light weight for higher reps and as you increase the weight, still try to push out as many reps as you can, but ensure the weight is high enough that you cannot reach the weight you did in the prior set.
5. Run the Rack
In order to effectively run the rack, make sure you aren’t going to interrupt someone’s workout by in essence hogging the dumbbells. In addition, if there are several people using the dumbbells that you would need to use, try and come back to this portion of your workout when there aren’t as many people using the dumbbells.
To run the rack, you’re going to pick an exercise that obviously uses dumbbells. For this example, let’s use the dumbbell side lateral for the shoulders/deltoids. Start off at your normal weight for the exercise and complete one full set. From there, immediately drop down 5-10 pounds in weight, grab those dumbbells and complete another set. Again, immediately following that set move down another 5-10 pounds and do another set. Use this strategy until you run your way down the rack of dumbbells.
If you’ve never heard of 21’s, then I’m not sure where you’ve been hiding out – but, 21’s are most known for being used during biceps workouts. However, they can be used on just about any muscle group. Being that the biceps curl is the most widely used exercise to utilize 21’s, let’s use that as the example.
The name 21’s is comprised of 21 total reps for a set. These aren’t just any reps either, they are partials. The first seven reps will be from the resting position at your side to halfway through the movement. The next seven reps will be from the midway point of the movement to the very top of the exercise. Then the final seven reps will be a full range of motion going all the way through the entire biceps curl.
7. Super Slow Training
While you aren’t going to look like a monster tossing around a ton of weight, this technique is going to leave you extremely humbled. It doesn’t take a lot of weight to fully stimulate the muscle fibers when using super slow training. In fact, you’re going to be able to feel the muscle fiber firing when completing each rep.
To use super slow training in your routine, pick a weight that is lighter than your normal set. Now, while completing the movement of the exercise, you’re going to move super slow on both the concentric and eccentric portions of the movement. We are talking 4-5 seconds up and 4-5 seconds down. This training method is going to have your muscles shaking like a leaf – but that’s good. Use this technique to complete your entire set.