MY TOP 3 PICKS FOR REP TECHNIQUES
Also known as:
- INDUCING MUSCLE GROWTH
- INCREASING STRENGTH
Because you need someone spotting you as you reach muscle failure, Forced Reps always require a personal trainer or a training partner. During a set, at the point of muscle failure when you absolutely cannot squeeze out another rep, your training partner assists you in pumping out a couple more. These last 2 to 4 reps are the ones that really count. These are the reps that separate the men from the boys! This is not only a grueling technique, but it brings truth to that old saying, "no pain, no gain!"
Since I mostly train alone, I don't get to reap the benefits of implementing Forced Reps into my routine very often. When I do however, it's one of the greatest feelings knowing that I've completely exhausted every fiber in that muscle trained This technique allows you to push your muscles past their normal power capacity, thus stimulating growth that you might not have achieved otherwise. It's a great technique to use for weak point training or to push past a sticking point in your routine. It’s also a great technique used to move up in weight on a specific exercise that you’re lagging with or that you want to excel in (like bench press for example). You don't want to do Forced Reps every time you workout. This can lead to overtraining, so it's more effective to rotate this technique within a well-designed training plan. Try Forced Reps for Bench Press, Military Press and Leg Press one week, and then use Forced Reps the following week for Preacher Curls, Lat Pull-downs and Leg Curls. Each week you might pick a different movement to do Forced Reps with, so long as you keep rotating the exercises and body parts.
Also known as:
- FINISHING A WORKOUT
- REFINING A MUSCLE
- NURSING AN INJURY
- CONTINUOUS TENSION SETS
- CONTINUOUS MOTION SETS
These refining movements are great to finish a workout with, and are especially good for arms. Preacher Curls using an E-Z curl bar or cable machine can be considered an isolation exercise, but Single Arm Dumbbell Preacher Curls might be more accurate for Concentrations. Concentration movements are those that allow you to fully concentrate on both the muscle contraction and extension. Biceps play very well into Isolation Sets, but you can also do them with Overhead Triceps Extensions, Chest Fly’s, Shoulder Fly’s, and Leg Extensions to name a few.
CONTINUOUS TENSION SETS & CONTINUOUS MOTION SETS:
These type of isolation sets are great because they not only allow you to concentrate on the contraction and extension of a movement, but they don't allow for rest at the top or bottom of the movement. The key to doing Continuous Tension or Continuous Motion sets is to "continue" the motion throughout the entire set without rest. Even though you're using light weight for this technique, you can really feel all the fibers in the muscle fire as they come into play.
Isolations and Continuous type Isolation sets are excellent to refine and shape a muscle. They are excellent if you're looking to get that slight edge, especially when dieting down for more of a cut look. I often do these in preparation for a photo shoot and recommend you try adding isolations at the end of some of your workouts.
Also known as:
- WORKING DEEP MUSCLE FIBERS
- FULLY WORKING A MUSCLE
- GETTING ADDITIONAL REPS
- ADDING MUSCLE MASS
Rest-Pause or Pause Reps are exactly that—you take a pause within the set between reps. For example, let's say you're doing Leg Extensions, you would do your set until the lactic acid burn is too much, then drop the weight, shake it out for a few seconds, and then pick it back up to accomplish a few more reps. By resting for less than 10 seconds you allow the lactic acid to flush out of the muscle just enough to get a few more reps. This technique will allow you to get more reps with a heavy weight than you normally could in one continuous set. It also allows you to work past your normal pain threshold. Another great example is Calf Raises. I don't know about you, but my calves will burn much sooner than they will fail in strength. By implementing Rest-Pause Reps, it enables me to blast out more reps for a super burn while working the muscle fully. Add these together with Half-Reps and you'll blitz your calves like never before! Mike Mentzer learned this technique from Bob Gajda (former Mr. America and Mr. World), and loved this style of training so much that he made it a regular part of his routine. He credits Rest-Pause Reps for some of his greatest gains.
HERE’S 3 MORE GREAT TECHNIQUES
- RECRUITING MAXIMUM FIBERS
- SHOCKING THE MUSCLE
- MASSIVE PUMPS
- TOTAL BURNOUT
Power Stack's are not for the fainthearted, nor should they be performed every time you hit the gym. They're a great way to shock and stimulate the muscle, which is why I like to do them at least once a month. Power Stack's are also good if you're in a crunch at the gym and need to get in and out quickly. Basically it's a single movement performed for 5 sets stacked together with a Superset.
STEP 1: THE 5 SETS
The first phase of the Power Stack is the single movement. Let's use Incline Dumbbell Bench as an example. You start with a challenging weight to barely achieve 11 to 12 reps (set 1) - rest for 20 seconds - pick up the same weight and go for 10 to 12 reps (set 2) - rest for 20 seconds - pick up the same weight again and try to get 8 to 12 reps (set 3) - and continue until you complete 5 grueling sets. Keep in mind that you should not be able to match the same number of reps for each set, but try to keep your range between 8 and 12 reps if possible.
STEP 2: THE SUPERSET
The next phase of the Power Stack is the Superset. Since beginning with a chest movement (Incline Dumbbell Bench), you'll continue with two more chest movements. It's important to move to the second phase of the Power Stack with little to no rest. Here you'll be doing one body weight exercise and one refining movement. In this case I will alternate Push-Ups with Flat Dumbbell Fly's, and perform 5 sets of each exercise for 10 total sets. Even though it's a Superset and you're moving quickly between exercises, you still want your reps to be clean while concentrating on form.
OTHER POWER STACK EXAMPLES:
- 5 Set Exercise – Flat Dumbbell Bench stacked with:
- Superset – Decline Push-Ups (hands on floor and your feet on a bench) and Incline Dumbbell Fly's
- 5 Set Exercise – Standing Olympic Bar Curls stacked with:
- Superset – Reverse Pull-Ups and Concentration Curls
- 5 Set Exercise – Lying E-Z curl bar Triceps Extensions stacked with:
- Superset – Reverse Dips (on the edge of a bench) and Donkey Dumbbell Kickbacks
- 5 Set Exercise – Lat Cable Pull-downs stacked with:
- Superset – Normal Overhand Pull-Ups and Bent Dumbbell Rows
Also known as:
- SINGLE SET REP CHALLENGE
- MULTI-SET REP CHALLENGE
- FRIENDLY COMPETITIVENESS
- A GREAT MOTIVATING TOOL
- INCREASING STRENGTH
- FINISHING A WORKOUT
Place your bets! I used to do a version of Rep Challenges years ago with my training partner for weighted dips. We’d finish our chest routine by waging bets against one another to see who could meet the others challenge. What ended up happening was hilarious intensity at its best! I’d say, "If you get 20 full reps with 40 pounds strapped to your waist, I'll do my next set in my underwear!" Then of course he'd power through those reps, using all the energy and strength he could muster to get those 20 full reps. I'd do the next set in my underwear, but not before betting him lunch that I could go 30 reps at the same weight. We'd go back and forth like this with the entire gym cheering us on! Ahh the good old days!
MOTIVATE YOURSELF: While that's a lot of fun and makes for good friendly competition, there's other ways to do Rep Challenges. You can do these without a training partner. Pre-determine a certain number of reps you want to get in a single set before you begin. This is a great way to push yourself to get extra reps that you may not have gone for without that inner-challenge. For example, you might imagine, "Okay, get 12 reps here and something amazing is going happen for me today!" You'll be surprised on rep number 10 when the tank is empty, you find a way to bang out those last two reps.
DO THE MATH: Multiple-Set Rep Challenges are another good way to help motivate and push yourself to new heights. This kind of Rep Challenge takes several sets to achieve your goal. For example, you might say, "I'm going to get 80 reps of squats today!" Set 1 you get 15, set 2 you get 13, set 3 you get 12, and you’ve still got 40 more reps to go. Maybe it takes you 3 or possibly 4 more sets to achieve your 80-rep challenge. Of course you can do this type of Multiple-Set Challenge for any exercise, and this too can be a lot of fun if you do it with a training partner.
Billy Beck and I did a challenge together one day that left both of us lying on the floor in complete exhaustion. We challenged each other to do 100 reps of deep squats with the Olympic bar, 45’s and 20 lb. chains strapped to each side. That’s 175 lbs, which may not sound like a lot of weight, but don’t knock it till you try it for yourself. With the chains swinging and clanking Billy blasted out 20 quick reps, then powered through 20 more and ended with 50 total reps before racking it for his first set. Of course I couldn’t let him get the best of me, so I somehow found a way to get 51 reps. He finished with another crazy set of 50 reps to reach his 100 and I followed him with another 50. We still laugh about that day.
Also known as:
- ISO-TENSIONS BETWEEN SETS
- REST CONTRACTIONS
- MIRROR POSING
- REFINING THE MUSCLE
- KEEPING A PUMP
You don't have to be a bodybuilder to flex your muscles! This method is very simple, and is a good technique to implement between sets in your workouts. While you’re resting between sets, continue to flex the muscles your training. This helps them stay pumped while working a particular body part. It also keeps you warmed up and allows you to stretch and keep the muscle loose. Iso-Tensions and Flexing are also good for refining since it's similar to performing concentration and refining movements. Try it for improved definition, muscle refinement and adding cuts to your body.
So there you have it—my top picks as some of the best muscle confusion techniques ever developed. I encourage you to use them frequently to add intensity to your workouts. Remember, intensity in your workouts translates to strength gains, which in-turn translates to improved muscle size and definition. There are a lot more unique set techniques and alternative rep schemes out there besides the ones I've mentioned, but these will give you a solid starting point to take your intensity to the next level.
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