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On your marks, get set, now grow... I know that you know all the basics on how a workout works. You’ve got your reps that make up your sets that then make up your workout. Well la di da... The same thing day in and day out only gets you the same tired results. You don’t have to reinvent the barbell or the bench press. All you have to do is change the way you use them. Change up your reps and sets and everything else will follow.
I am not just talking about the number of reps and sets. I am talking about how you do your reps and sets. I have been training for a long time now and I have run into many sticking points. Let’s face it, we are all creatures of habit, but don’t let your training techniques become habitual where they repeat themselves over and over again. Change it up or your physique will not change.
There are so many different things you can do to make your workouts harder in order to overcome training ruts. Making your workouts harder doesn’t mean that you need to do more; it just means that you need to do things differently. It could be as simple as changing your exercises, or even just one exercise. Maybe you don’t need to change any exercises—you just need to change the reps and/or sets of your exercises. Try these training techniques to help shock your body into growth.
The good old rep... We’ve done countless numbers of them and will continue to do a countless number more. Most of us do the standard rep by just moving the weight from the starting point back to the starting point, over and over again. Here are a few techniques I use on the bench press to break up my reps from time to time, to change shit up and shock the body. These rep techniques can be used on almost every exercise.
Double Reps is a favorite technique. While holding the bar, take the weight down to your chest, then press the weight up to the mid way point of the lift, then back down to your chest, then all the way back up to the top, then back down to the mid-point, and then from the mid-point lock it back out. That is one rep. Do a few sets of ten and call your doctor in the morning. They hurt, but are a good change of pace.
Stop and Go
This rep technique keeps the muscle under tension for a longer time than a regular rep. I like to do these reps when I am getting closer to a show because it helps bring out separation. Take the weight down to your chest, then press the weight to the mid-point and hold it for a 3 to 5 count. Now from a dead stop at the mid-point, lock it the rest of the way out and squeeze it at lockout.
These are great for muscle growth. Have your craziest, strongest lifting partner (not the weak one wearing the tight shirt and looking in the mirror) assist you at the end of your set to help you get in more reps. Make sure they only touch the bar enough to
keep it moving. I like to do 3 to 5 reps past failure.
This is a good way to add strength and size in the off-season. I don’t do these in season because of the depletion of my foo intake and a greater chance of injury while cutting. Load the bar up with more weight than usual. At the starting point, lower the weight as slowly as you can, for about a ten count (or whatever feels good), but it must be slow. Then, have your training partner pull the weight back up to the starting point and repeat.
Moving on from reps to sets, here are some trainingtechniques on sets. One nice thing about all of these methods is that you can mix the different types of reps with these different types of sets. I bet you are feeling like a kid in a candy store right about now with all of these endless opportunities to grow.
They don’t call them this for nothing—they are super! This set is done when you perform two different exercises back to back without any rest. The nice thing about this is that you can choose two exercises for one body part or pick one exercise for two different body parts. After you do the two exercises, take a break for about a minute and then go at it again.
This is one big old continuous mother of a set. A giant set consists of four or more exercises performed in a row with no rest. Each exercise works the same body part. You only rest after the last exercise. The amount of time you should rest depends on how many exercises are in the giant set.
You’ve got to drop it like it’s hot on this one. A drop set is performed after a heavy set. All you have to do is keep taking the weight down after you reach failure. I like to drop the weight after a heavy set and do 4 or 5 more sets to failure. It is easy to do drop sets on machines because all you have to do is move the pin.
My buddy, my buddy, my buddy and me... That was awesome. If you don’t remember it, you’re probably just too young. When doing a buddy set you need a buddy (aka, lifting partner). First you do your set and then your buddy does his. The only rest time is during your buddy’s set. The key to this set is that you have to keep the same weight on the bar and keep dropping the reps, which means the rest time gets shorter as the reps get lower. Most buddies start at 10 reps each, then 9, then 8, and keep going all the way down to 1. If you want your good old buddy to feel it the next day, go all the way back up the ladder to 10. That sounds like a good buddy beating.
All of these sets and reps ideas are great to throw into your training arsenal. When I need a change, I’ll pick a different rep or set scheme and use it for an exercise, a workout, or even for a week. Change is good, and it will help you get past any sticking point in your training. All you have to do is think in terms of reps and sets and be creative when picking the flavor of the week.