Did you know that you don’t have to lift crazy heavy weights all the time to build lean muscle, don’t get me wrong there is nothing better than achieving a PB in deadlift, squat or bench but the pounding takes a toll on your body and joints. Just the legendary Ronnie Coleman, the dude can barely walk now after years of some bar busting weight lifting. If you can implement other training strategies, like eccentric loading and isometrics you can achieve a crazy physique without the stress on your body.
Let’s get back to basics, in order to build muscle, you need to break down the muscle you already have in order for it to grow bigger and stronger and this is called muscle hypertrophy in which muscle fibers are broken down and repaired. The recommended formula for stimulating hypertrophy is to lift sub-maximal weights for 6-12 repetitions per exercise. Strength development calls for heavier loads—usually around 80-90 percent of maximum—for sets of 2-5 repetitions, and anaerobic endurance requires lighter sets of 15 or more reps.
Like I mention before while it’s good to increase your strength, lifting heavy increases the chance of wear and tear as well as injury. The strategies described here promote muscle growth without pushing the loads.
Alternate Rep Ranges and sets
Your body is quick to adapt to the workouts that you do which is why it’s imperative to mix things up and keep your body guessing. While the standard hypertrophy sets are 8-12 you could lower the reps and increase the weight or increase the reps and lower the weight while focusing on TUT ( time under tension). Another option is to change the tempo of the reps and this you can work on explosive power.
Increase Your Volume Of Work
The easiest way to do this is to double the amount of workload. So a prime example of this is doing GVT ( German Volume Training ) which is commonly referred to as the “10×10 workout”, is a form of weight training. It employs high set counts and moderate repetitions. GVT workouts typically involve 10 sets of 10 repetitions focused on a specific muscle group.
Another way to increase your volume is to do drop sets or super-sets that way you are fatiguing the muscle more than you usually would. There is something to be said about pairing exercises together. You won’t be maxing out, but working with sub-maximal weight in supersets will help improve anaerobic endurance, increase muscle fiber activation, and improve recovery time. There are so many ways you can approach super setting exercises: push/pull, upper/lower, quads/hams, flexion/extension, etc. It’s all about incorporating new ways to stress your body, and super-sets offer endless opportunities to change things up.
TUT – Increase Your Time Under Tension
TUT is a great way to put your muscles under a huge amount of stress without the damage to your joints. Think about how many press-ups you can do at normal speed and then try them by lowering yourself by 5 seconds then pushing up 5-10 seconds. The longer a muscle is working to support an exercise, the more opportunity it has to break down and grow back stronger and fuller. One way to do this involves the eccentric phase of the rep, which is the returning phase of every exercise.
If you’re squatting and letting the weight drop quickly down before you driving your heals back up, you’re missing half of the exercise arguably the most important portion of the lift on top of that. If you control the weight during the eccentric phase and in this case, the downward movement of the squat or which 0ever exercise you are doing your muscles will have to work their hardest to control the movement, and that’s where you reap the most benefits. Depending on the lift, and also taking into consideration the rep range and weight, an eccentric phase of 3-4 seconds is usually suggested to stimulate muscle hypertrophy.
Isometrics is not for sissy’s and it will really push and test your mind muscle connection. It is amazing for growing strong muscles as it lets you target specific muscle groups and it minimizes momentum which let’s have better contractions and breakdowns of targeted muscle fibers.
But what are Isometrics? They are exercises in which you hold your body in a certain position. It can be as simple as adding a pause when you’re benching or holding the barbell just above your chest for a 2-second count before you lift, or holding the weights in a certain position for X amount of seconds. It’s essential to implement isometric holds in your program if you want to maximize growth potential.
Mix up your Exercises and workouts
I don’t just vary my exercises I will vary the whole workout and try a variety of training styles. My body never gets stagnant from my workouts. While keeping the basics inline I will just vary the type of workout.
So let’s say I am on a 5 or 6day split and I have been training heavy for the past 2-3 weeks I will look to increase the volume of my workouts with more sets and shorter rest periods while still following the same body parts on the perceptive days.