If you’re anything like me, you hate hitting that plateau in the gym. Your lifts start to get stagnant, as you’re stuck at the same weight on the bench press, squat, or deadlift for months. You get frustrated with your workout program. How could something that used to be your bread and butter stop working?
Simple. You’re body is extremely good at adapting to the stresses you put on it. If you’re not trying to push the envelope during your workouts and occasionally mixing things up, you’ll continue to be frustrated – and you’re boys at the gym will start to creep up on your numbers. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
What I’m going to share with you is a few set styles that kick me in the ass every time I use them, spark now growth through RIDICULOUS intensity, and keep me humble.
On a side note, if you don’t currently give 100% in you mass gaining or strength workouts – try and do that first. These set styles are not for the weak.
[NOTE] If you do decide to give these a shot, be sure you use a spotter or do your training with machines of inside a power rack for safety. You’re going to failure here. No need for anyone to get hurt.
 Partial Reps. When you’re looking to maximize muscle mass and improve your bar lifts, there’s no way around it. After all what good is training, if you’re NOT looking to get bigger and stronger? Here is a surefire way to increase your intensity and your gains in the gym by using heavier weight than you would normally use with a full range of motion.
Here’s how you do it:
Lets say you just did 225 for full reps on the bench. Try loading the bar up with 275 (or more) and hit it for heavy partial reps going from about halfway down to lock out. Trust me, the added weight will overload your muscles and give you a nice boost in growth and strength. Use this one once in a while, as it can be rough on the joints if you do it too much.
 Negative Rep Training. This is a classic. It’s documented that the negative portion of a movement is the strongest out of all strength types. The weakest is the positive portion (or raising the weight) and next in line of strength types is static or holding the weight in place by maximum muscular contraction. If you want serious jumps in strength, start training your negative strength a bit.
Here’s how you do it.
According to Mike Mentzer “we can’t really say we’ve trained to failure until we exhausted our ability to lower the weight.” (Mentzer, HIT the Mike Mentzer Way, p 92)
He recommends completing 6 positive reps (raising the weight) and 2 forced reps (with help from your spotter after you reach momentary muscular failure). Once you do this Mentzer recommends you have you spotter(s) lift the weight back up and allow you to perform a reps to failure on the negative portion of the movement (or lowering of the weight).
 Static Contractions. I like to use these to wrap up a workout. Since they are the second strongest form of strength (after negative strength), they’re good to practice as well. Remember, it’s not all about the positive portion of training. Exercise your static strength, and not only will you get stronger, but you will see a huge improvement it the quality of your muscle density as well.
Here’s how you do it.
Contract a loaded muscle group with a substantial amount of weight for as long as you can. Don’t think of this as simply holding a weight in place, but contracting and recruiting ALL the muscle fibers to hold that weight still. The best position for these are the the top of a curl, a straight contracted leg, top of a bench press, etc. These will recruit the most fibers in a maximum, high-intensity style contraction. Hold it and squeeze the target muscle. It will hurt. You will grow. You’re welcome.
 The Rest Pause Set.
This one is by far my favorite. Think of this one as the bastard child of advanced techniques. By no means is this something new, its simply an old-school High Intensity Training method that is rarely used today because most guys can’t stomach the fact that it instantly turns boys into men, and men into beasts.
[WARNING] You can use this set protocol on virtually any exercise, but it is especially brutal on any of the major compound movements – mainly squat and deadlift variations.
Here’s how you do it:
After warming up the muscle group/body part you will be working, you choose a weight you can lift to failure for about 15 reps. Complete as many reps as you an with great form. Take 10 deep breaths. Complete another set to failure (this time you may get 7-9). Take 10 deep breaths. Complete another set to failure (this time you may get 2-5).
That’s it. Simple, but brutal.
If doing a set of deadlifts or squats in this fashion don’t make you cry, puke, or break out in cold sweats, you didn’t go heavy enough. Try doing them right next time.
I swear, if you put a set of these in your next workout, you will be exhausted afterwards.
If you’re looking for a hybrid bodybuilding program that includes some of these advanced techniques (and other brutal training methods) to help muscle you up quickly, get lean, and get strong, check out this simple, but effective 4-week program.