exercise weights – iron dumbbell with extra plates.

Shock techniques

Almost everyone will reach a point in their training program where it seems they are working their butt off but getting nowhere. This is described as a “plateau”. When you plateau, something needs to change. First, you should evaluate your program. Ask yourself: How long have I been consistent? How often do I change up my workout routine? What is my diet like? And HOW MUCH SLEEP AM I GETTING?

Here are some tips on getting over plateaus:

Varying intensity. You can sometimes challenge yourself by putting more exercises into your routine without using more time. Or you can try to get the same routine done in less time. This means less time between sets and it requires a fast recovery rate.

Heavy and light days. The best way to shock the muscle and keep it growing is to use heavy and light training days. Here is an example: On heavy days, use as much weight as you can for 3-4 reps and on light days, put on as much weight as you can for 12-15 reps.

Rest between sets can also be varied to give you some change. Try adding more rest for large muscle groups and less rest for small ones.

Forced reps are pretty popular. A forced rep is considered as trying to lift more weight than you can lift by yourself and needing your partner to help you finish the set. This is good on heavy days when you are at your failure point and you just need a little help to get that last rep. Another form of forced reps is to have your spotter force down the bar to your chest (on benchpress) on the eccentric (downward) phase of the lift by applying his bodyweight to the bar. You may need the spotter to help you get the bar back to the top of the movement.

Partial reps are a great way to get your muscles to burn. When doing partial bench press reps, you should only lift the weight about 4 inches off of your chest. This works great when used as a compound set w/ dumbbell bench or incline flies. This goes for any other exercise as well. Only do the first half of the rep. But don’t do these for squats; it’s a waste of time.

21’s are another form of partial reps. Instead of doing the full motion of the rep, do only the first half of one full motion for 7 reps. Then, do the second half of one full motion for 7 reps. Then, finish off the set with 7 reps of full motion for a total of 21 reps.

100’s are a killer exercise. This is particularly effective with bench. You simply use a weight that you think that you can lift for one hundred continuous reps. Like burn outs, this should be done at the end of a session due to the inevitable exhaustion of glycogen stores and build up of lactic acid. It is not known how this causes any muscle growth. It defies most principles of muscle growth in that it does not use enough weight to cause a tear down of tissue. Bodybuilders have realized its effectiveness. It may be that the vast amount of blood that accumulate in the muscle actually tears down the muscle fiber due to pressure.

Isolate your muscles to get the most out of a particular workout. Doing leg extensions are a great isolation workout for your thighs. For biceps I recommend doing dumbbell preacher curls. Isolation works only one specific muscle instead of a compound movement (ex. Bench= compound due to chest, triceps, and front delt involvement).

Isotension is when you continuously flex and relax your muscles before, between, and after your workout and even between sets. Pressing your palms together during a chest session is an example of adding isotension.

Isometric uses a partial range of motion. It is performed at the top of the movement like going down only six inches in the benchpress. The driving force behind this technique is the amount of weight that you use. Add a little more than what you think your one rep max may be. Make sure your spotter is very close and lower the bar 6 inches or so. You shouldn’t be able to squeeze in more than 5 or six reps even though you only go down for a few inches. This is a big strength and mass builder. It will also make your one rep max climb higher because you’ll get used to feeling heavy weight.

Negative reps (eccentric motion) are when you are lowering the weight. A good exercise is to do negatives with straight bar curls. To do this, you curl the bar up as normal then lower it very, very slowly. Concentrate on holding the weight tensing the muscle as hard as you can. Exaggerated negatives may take eight seconds to lower but only one or two seconds to raise while doing curls.

Slow reps are fun… not!  Basically, using a lower weight, you can do any exercise in slow motion. This not only takes away the momentum of the faster movements, it forces you to do a good slow negative rep and will give you a great pump. But we’re not going for pump; we’re going for muscle breakdown. So only do these at the end of your workout because you’ll fatigue your muscles and they won’t be strong enough to give the contraction needed to give you microscopic tears (which is what we’re looking for).

Break the bar! This is an awesome alternative to standard lifting that will leave you with more muscle fibers being broken down. It’s an exercise in which you reap anabolic benefits by putting the weight on yourself instead of using the poundage of the plates. Here is an example of breaking the bar on bench: Grip the bar with a normal width. Instead of lightly holding the bar grip it as tight as possible and while lowering and pushing the bar, try and pull it apart or squeeze your hands toward each other and try to bend the bar. In your mind, try to focus on pulling the bar apart from its center. This is a good exercise for increasing the one rep max because it places added stress on the triceps.

Cheating is when you lose your form just for a rep or two on heavy days to help you get some extra reps with some serious poundage. For instance, if you are doing standing military press and you can’t seem to push out the last rep and you begin to use your legs to give you momentum to lift it, this is cheating. Keeping generally good form is one of the most important criteria to becoming strong and staying healthy, so this type of practice should be avoided most of the time.

Pyramid reps are probably the most common in weight training. For instance, someone might usually workout with 300lbs on bench press. He would start with 225lbs for one set, then go up to 285lbs for one set, and then go to 300lbs for three or 4 sets. Then maybe he would finish the exercise with a set of 225 again doing as many reps as possible.

Heavy-Duty training is when you go to your usual workout weight right after warming up. Usually, I do a few (3-4) sets to pyramid up to my workout weight and get the blood pumping. With the heavy-duty method of training, you skip the pyramid and go straight to the heavy weight. Make sure you warm up!

Burn out is beneficial in that it can aid in overall muscular endurance and strength by making your muscles more efficient at using available oxygen. After finishing a workout session for a particular muscle group, do an isolation exercise (one that uses ONLY the muscle that you wish to burn out) and use light weight till you get a really good burn. Only use this as a finishing exercise or you will not have enough energy left over to break down muscle tissue

Staggered sets are usually used to help develop an underdeveloped area. For instance, if your calves were a little smaller than you like, you might incorporate an extra day of calf exercises on a day that they aren’t scheduled for. So when chest day comes around you would do a set of calf raises between each exercise you do that day. By the end of the day you may have done 20-30 sets! This is a great way to do abs. You might also need to take a day off to get your body part to grow (can you say irony).

Prioritize your workout so that you are putting a specific emphasis on your “weak” areas. For instance, if your back could use a little more work, work that body part first. On back day you could use one or more of the techniques above to help make your workout more enjoyable and effective. You could also schedule your back day on Monday so you are more fresh if you just took the weekend off… get the point?

Work order is the sequence by which you lift. You want to work the big muscles first to fatigue them so that they want interfere when you work your smaller muscles. For instance, work your chest really hard before you do close grip bench for your triceps so that your chest won’t be doing as involved in the movement.

Supersets can be done two ways.

You can superset the same muscle group i.e., doing pushups or dips between sets of bench press, and you can superset opposing muscle groups i.e., doing one arm rows between sets of bench press.

Stripping weight as you go is a very effective way to build muscle. This allows you to work through your fatigue. Basically, you do as many reps as you can until you are completely fatigued, then you “strip” some weight off of the bar and immediately go again until you are fatigued at that weight. This is a good way to get a pump. Don’t make a habit out of stripping weight because it’s only used to shock the muscles. Doing it all the time won’t tear down muscle fibers for growth.

I Go/You Go: This is a fun exercise, especially when you and your partner are about the same strength. If you are doing straight bar curls, once you are done with your set you hand the weight off to your partner then he goes. You can go back and forth until one of you gives up. Or you can do one, then your partner does one, then you do two, then he does two, then three and go up to 15 or so then back down.

Peak contraction is one of the best things you can do to encourage muscle growth. When you get to the end of the movement, tense the muscle as hard as you can before letting the weight back down. For instance, when doing biceps curs, curl up the weight and SQUEEZE before letting it slowly go back down. That squeeze at the top of the motion is NOT REST, but it is the complete opposite.

Pause is closely related to peak contraction. When you reach the top of the movement, hold the weight for a good one or two count. Make sure that you HAVE CONTINIOUS TENSION or else this will be counterproductive. Do it at the top of the movement but not at a rest. It should be just completely opposite of a rest. An example would be to hold the bottom of a row movement for a two count.

Rest this is by far the most crucial element of muscle gaining as protein synthesis is at a maximum during deep sleep.

Brian Gallagher

Brian Gallagher is an english born online fitness and nutritrion coach who's mission is to help people get lean, healthy and sexy. Brian is also specializing in eating disorders, REDs, athlete health and performance. He hates beer, Tik-Tok, and lame excuses. He is regularly asked to work directly with high performing and professional athletes that have developed a dysfunctional relationship with food that is impacting their performance, health and career.

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