Stumped on a plateau? Try some of these advanced bodybuilding techniques that’ll help you break through.
Training with weights is extremely rewarding. Whether you’re a competitive bodybuilder or athlete, a weekend warrior, or someone who just wants to look great at the beach, the fastest and most effective way to achieve your goals is with a proper strength training regimen. Hitting the gym on a regular basis becomes a healthful addiction, a way of life. From the first feeling of muscular soreness, to the first noticeable changes in the mirror, it’s easy to stay motivated as a beginner.
With a smart program, your beginner gains are often your best. Any sensible routine will pack on some decent mass and strength to an untrained frame. After a couple of years however, you’ll notice gains starting to slow down. They may even stop or reverse completely. Although it may be frustrating, it’s certainly no time to panic. You’ll just have to mix things up a bit. If you’re struggling with a plateau, try using some of these advanced bodybuilding techniques to break through.
Don’t rush in and try to implement all of these at once. Instead, pick one at a time, give it a try, and see if you notice any results.
Supersetting your exercises is a great way to spice up your workouts. Besides shocking your muscles into new growth, it has the added benefit of saving you time, and the fast pace will tax your cardiovascular system as well.
Basically, a superset is moving from one set of one exercise to a set of another exercise immediately. This can be done with almost any exercises you can imagine, with attention to safety. You can, for instance, do a superset for a single muscle. Perform a set of squats and then, with no rest, jump on the leg extension machine to finish off your quads.
Perhaps the most effective way to utilize supersets is during an arm workout. Alternate between bicep and tricep movements one set at a time. For example, perform a set of barbell curls. Immediately after finishing, set the bar down and do some cable pushdowns for your triceps. Then back to the barbell curls. And so on until you finish 4 sets of each. The pump you can achieve by supersetting biceps and triceps is unreal. Seeing your arms so huge is tremendous motivation.
This technique is similar to supersetting but it serves a particular purpose. You’ll be performing an isolation exercise for a muscle group, then follow it up with a larger compound movement. The idea is to fatigue the targeted muscle with the first isolation set, then allow assistance muscles to help out for the compound movement, pushing the targeted muscle even harder.
For chest – Do a set on the fly machine before a set of bench press
For shoulders – Do a set of lateral raises before a set of military press
For back – Do a set of cable pullovers before rows or pull-ups
For quads – Do a set of leg extensions before a set of squats
For hamstrings – Do a set of leg curls before some stiff-leg deadlifts
For biceps – Do a set of dumbbell curls before a set of chin-ups
For triceps – Do a set of cable pushdowns before a set of dips
Drop sets are particularly fun and also extremely brutal. Perform a set to failure with your normal weight. Then immediately lower the weight and perform further reps, again to failure. Repeat this as many times as you like.
Drop sets are best employed when you can safely and instantly lower the weight, so they don’t work particularly well with the big exercises like squats, rows, and bench press. They do however work extremely well on machines. Simply finish a set, take out the pin, drop it down by 10-15 percent, and keep lifting.
Though free weights are great for the muscles and the ego, don’t neglect effective machines in your weight training career. They can be an incredibly valuable resource when used properly. They allow you to perform some more advanced techniques, like drop sets, without the help of a spotter, and are a tremendous asset for the individual lifter.
Another fun way to use drop sets is to move “down the rack” with dumbbells. Try this with dumbbell curls or lateral raises. Start with a weight you can do for 10-12 reps. Then move down to the next lightest set of dumbbells. Crank out some more reps and then continue moving down until you’re struggling just to lift the five pounders at the bottom of the rack.
Supporting heavy weights can strengthen your joints, tendons, and also give you a boost of confidence when facing significant weights for a normal set. After holding a weight higher than your one-rep max, your brain will be tricked into blasting through sets with a lighter weight.
- Basically, you’re just holding the weight at the top portion of a strength movement. For instance, during a squat support, you’ll load up the bar, get underneath, and then stand up and step backward. Now simply stay put, take some breaths, and walk the bar back to the rack.
- Try using the Smith machine to perform heavy supports on the military and bench press. Pile on the weight and lift the barbell a couple inches to lockout. Hold for several seconds and rack the weight.
- To really take advantage of supports, try mixing them in with regular sets. Do a set of squats and then a heavy support. Then another set of squats. And so on.
- Another simple isometric move to blast your shoulders: hold some light dumbbells out at your sides in the final position of a lateral raise; keep your arms out for as long as you can. After you’re done, step into a doorway and push your arms against the frame of the door for 30 seconds. Your shoulders will be on fire.
CHEATING AND FORCED REPS
If you have a workout partner, you can have him assist you to push out some extra reps. You can also use the momentum of your body to cheat weights up.
These two methods are dangerous however, and you can easily be injured. Instead, focus on the other techniques listed above. They are more than enough to help to add some variety to your training and make some fresh gains.