Feel like the best way to describe your progress is akin to watching paint dry? If so, you’ve likely hit the dreaded progress plateau, which is bound to happen to just about any serious trainee at some point or another.
As a beginner, as soon as you started you saw incredible results. Your body was responding, your motivation was in high gear and you couldn’t wait to see what progress you’d make next. Now, those days are long gone, and you’re wondering not when you will make progress, but if you will make progress.
It doesn’t have to be this way. As you get more experienced in the weight room, your body becomes better adaptive and as a result, you won’t see the same results you once did. Unless, of course, you change something around. The key secret to ongoing results is to keep continually adjusting your workout program, shocking your body with new techniques. That’s where the following come into play. These can be incorporated into your workout program whenever you need a kick-start in the right direction.
1. Drop Sets
This technique is a good one to use whenever you’ve hit a sticking point on a certain weight level and just can’t add any more plates to the bar. For instance, if you’ve been lifting 130 pounds for bench press for as long as you can remember – this is the protocol to use. What you will do here is perform one set using your standard weight level. Then once you’ve exhausted the muscle, drop the weight by 5-10 pounds, or whatever you deem necessary and continue to push another six or so reps.
Once exhaustion hits again, you can drop the weight one more time for a final set if you wish. Or you could stop here depending on how hard you want to push yourself and how good your recovery ability is. Just be sure that you are maintaining proper form the entire time throughout the drop set, or you will be at risk for injury. As fatigue builds, it’s easy to neglect your form.Ideally, these techniques should be used sparingly. Athlete – Arnold Schwarzenegger.
2. Giant Sets
Next up you have another highly intensive protocol, a giant set. A giant set is when you stack four or more different exercises together, working similar muscle groups. So let’s say your goal is to hit shoulders. You could do a giant set of barbell press, upright barbell rows, lateral raises, and then finish off with front raises. Each set is taken to the point of near exhaustion and you rest as little as possible between each exercise.
Then once the entire giant set is completed, rest for 60-120 seconds before repeating it again. Due to the fact that the aim of the technique giant sets is to overload a single muscle group. It’s a great way to achieve a much higher overall fatigue level, subsequently shocking your muscles into growth.
Supersets are another excellent technique to incorporate into the protocol and are similar in nature to the giant set only now you also have the option of doing exercises for different muscle groups, as well as the same one. A superset consists of two exercises back to back before the rest period is taken. You will generally want to work two opposing muscle groups with this one such as the biceps and triceps or quads and hamstrings. However, you can work upper and lower body exercises as well depending on the program set-up you are using.
Supersets help you save time in the gym, ramp up the intensity and can help you experience far superior muscle pumps as well. It’s great for pushing blood into the muscle tissue and inducing growth.
4. Pause Reps
Pause reps are the next advanced protocol to consider. With this one, you will pause briefly at some point during the exercise, increasing the total time under tension the muscle experiences.
Typically you will pause at the mid-way portion of the lift or whenever you feel weakest. In turn, you will help build strength in that area, making the entire exercise that much easier to execute. Not only that, but you can target muscle fibres that lay deep underneath your skin that often don’t get stimulated as much as the ones above. Pause reps will be highly demanding on the body, so don’t be surprised if your overall rep range does need to drop when performing them.
5. Forced Reps
Another great protocol to use when you reach that sticking point of not being able to add any further weight is the forced rep. You will need a spotter for this technique who will stand beside you. Once you are at the point where you just can’t do another rep, they will be there to assist you ever so slightly so that you can do another few reps beyond that.
This pushes your body farther than you would be able to go naturally on your own, building up a greater tolerance for fatigue. Since it also means you’re doing more total work overall, this can lead to increased muscle growth.The winner of the 1976 and 1981 Mr Olympia – Franco Columbu.
6. Partial Reps
If you feel that you are much weaker in one section of a given exercise than you are on other segments and this particular shortcoming is holding you back from hoisting more total weight; it’s time to train that weakness. This is where partial reps come into play. With a partial rep protocol, you will execute a set number of full reps through the entire movement pattern. Once that’s finished, you’ll perform a number of partial reps moving only through your weakest portion of the lift.
For instance, let’s take the most commonly used exercise for this technique – the bicep curl. Most people are stronger during the second half of the curl – the portion from halfway up to your shoulder. So, you’d perform 8-10 reps of full bicep curls and then after that, crank out another 5-8 (or more if you can) reps where you just move from the very bottom of the exercise to the halfway point where the arm is right in front of the body. Then if you really want a challenge, from there, curl all the way up through another 2-3 full reps to fully fatigue the muscle.
[one_whole boxed=”true” centered_text=”true”] “Partial reps is a great method to exhaust the particular muscle to its full capacity.” [/one_whole]
All in All
So there you have some of the top advanced conditioning exercises to consider adding to your workout protocol. Keep in mind that these should not all be used at once, but rather alternated with as time goes on.
As they are so intense on the body, be very aware of your recovery between sessions to ensure you don’t verge on overtraining. Try using the technique for just one or two exercises per session and watch your body start responding again.