Bag Of Muscle Tricks
If you’ve hit a lifting plateau, you know how difficult it can be getting over the top and continuing the climb for more muscle gains. That’s why MF asked me to open the vault and pull out my heaviest hitters: 10 training techniques designed to ensure you won’t fail again in the pursuit for more muscle.
Here’s what to do: Incorporate any of the following techniques into your workout regimen with virtually any exercise you perform — but only for four weeks at a time. Since each is so effective, you’ll be tempted to stick with the first one you try. Don’t. Instead, trade one method for another every four weeks. This will help prevent plateaus and take your size and strength levels to an all-time high. The added bonus: You’ll never get bored.
Whether you’re stuck in a long-time lifting rut or you simply want to add another weapon to your workout arsenal, these methods will help you make the fastest gains ever, in the quickest time possible.
1. The 5% Method
How to do it: Choose the heaviest weight you can lift eight times (your eight-rep max) and do four sets of seven repetitions, resting three minutes between each set. Do the same for your next two workouts (do one workout every five days), but increase the weight by 5% each session and decrease the reps by one. In your fourth workout, do seven-repetition sets again, but use the weight you used in your second workout. You’ll be 5% stronger than when you started. Here’s an example:
Workout 1: Do four sets of 7 reps with 100 pounds.
Workout 2: Do four sets of 6 reps with 105 pounds.
Workout 3: Do four sets of 5 reps with 110 pounds.
Workout 4: Do four sets of 7 reps with 105 pounds.
Why it works: By always increasing your weights or the reps, you’ll improve a little each workout for a dramatic cumulative effect.
2. Diminished-Rest Interval Training
How to do it: Time the rest you take between sets in your current workout. In each subsequent session, try to perform the same total number of sets and reps, but reduce your rest periods by five to 10 seconds each time.
Why it works: This forces your muscles to recover faster between sets, which stimulates growth.
3. The Patient-Lifter’s Method
How to do it: Find your two-rep max and do six sets of two repetitions, resting two minutes between each set. In your next workout, try to perform six sets of four. You may be able to get only three sets of three, or three sets of two, but keep repeating this workout until you can perform four repetitions for all six sets. When you do, your two-repetition maximum will now be your four-repetition maximum, so you’ll be able to lift more at any repetition range.
Why it works: Most guys hit a plateau because they train with the same weights and reps for too long. This method shocks the body to trigger fast results.
4. Back-Off Sets
How to do it: After performing 2-4 sets with your six-rep max, perform a higher-repetition set with lighter weights, known as a back-off set. Drop the weight by 40% and do as many reps as possible, performing them as quickly as you can. For example, say your first and second sets were six reps with 100 pounds. Do set No. 3 with 60 pounds for as many reps as possible. (You’ll be able to complete more repetitions than you’d usually get with 60 pounds.)
Why it works: The nerves that stimulate your muscles are already “excited” from your heavy sets, so they’re psyched up to do more work than usual. Doing the back-off set forces your muscles to work harder than normal, sparking muscle growth.
How to do it: Choose a weight that’s about 10% to 20% greater than your six-rep max. But instead of doing a full repetition, lower the weight about one-fourth of the way down before lifting it back to the starting position. Do 3-4 sets of 4-6 repetitions, resting three minutes between each set. (Use a spotter.) Follow that up with 1-2 regular sets of 4-6 repetitions using a weight that’s a little heavier than the amount you could normally lift for 4-6 reps.
Why it works: It preps your body for heavier weight because it allows you to overload the part of the lift where you’re strongest, without being limited by the portion of the movement where you’re weakest.
How to do it: Find your five-rep max and follow these guidelines:
Do four repetitions.
Rest for three minutes.
Increase the weight by 5% and do three reps.
Rest for three minutes.
Increase the weight by 5% and do two reps.
Rest for three minutes.
Repeat the process, but start with a weight that’s about 5% heavier than the one used in your first set.
Why it works: In the second set, your muscles’ nerves are highly activated from the heavy load of the first set. This allows them to recruit more muscle fibers than usual, allowing you to lift even heavier weights.
7. Cluster Repetitions
How to do it: Choose a weight you can lift at most 2-3 times (about 80% of your one-rep max). Then perform 10 sets of one repetition, resting 30 seconds between each set.
Why it works: It allows you to perform 10 repetitions with a weight you can usually lift only two times. So it works more total muscle fibers than is typically possible. Combine this with Diminished-Rest Interval Training for maximum muscle-building effect.
8. 6-1 Principle
How to do it: Take your seven-rep max and do six repetitions. Then rest for 3-5 minutes. Then increase the weight until it’s about 90% of your one-rep max. Do one repetition and rest 3-5 minutes. Repeat the procedure, but this time do six reps with a weight that’s about 2% to 3% heavier than your six-rep max. For your one-rep set, choose a weight that’s about 2% to 3% heavier than your max. (Congratu-lations, you set a new personal record.)
Why it works: In the one-repetition set, your muscles are expecting to do six repetitions, so it doesn’t seem as hard. In the six-repetition set, your muscles are expecting a heavier load, which makes the weight seem lighter. The end result is a plateau-busting effort.
9. Inverted Sets and Reps
How to do it: Use this scheme if you’ve been doing three sets of 10 reps or a similar workout. Take your current set and rep scheme and flip it, so the number of sets you’re doing becomes the number of repetitions, and vice versa. Instead of doing three sets of 10 reps, you’ll do 10 sets of three reps. Since you’re stopping at three reps instead of 10, you need to rest only about 20-30 seconds between sets.
Why it works: Inverting your workout allows you to do the same number of total repetitions but increases the average amount of force your muscles apply to the weight.
How to do it: Cut in half the number of sets you normally do.
Why it works: If none of the other muscle tricks work for you, your muscles are probably overtrained. By reducing the demand on them, you’ll allow them to recover. Another option: Take a week off