If you feel linear progressive overload no longer helps you build muscle, chances are you’ve actually reached a plateau. That’s why you should probably start using some more advanced methods to bust through the plateau. The specializes exercise methods that we recommend are using forced repetitions, doing drop sets and prolonged and heavy eccentric movements. These methods will aid in building a stronger and bigger you while developing functional strength for your specific sport.
First, let’s go over the basics of muscle building mechanisms:
- The way you stimulate a muscle is by putting it under mechanical stress or tension which is applied in the form of the weight used and the time during which the stimulated muscle is under tension. This causes micro-damage to the muscle fibers which force the body to recruit maximum motor units which in turn creates more muscle growth.
- The damage done to the muscle fibers caused by the mechanical stress causes inflammation, which in turn leads to the release of various growth factors that increase protein synthesis and building of new muscle tissue.
- Anaerobic production of energy during exercising causes accumulation of hydrogen and lactate ions which cause metabolic stress which in the end stimulates the production of hormones like testosterone and GH (Growth Hormone).
The advanced training techniques:
The best way to increase functional strength is by incorporating training with heavy weights on the eccentric part of the exercise. Try going for a load that is above your 1 rep max. Good starting point is using a load that is around 15% greater than the weight you would normally use when doing a concentric 1 rep max and try to reach 40% greater than the 1 one rep max.
You should lower the weight slowly lasting 4-5 seconds. By doing this you will create a greater fatigue in the motor units and overall bigger lean muscle gain. Numerous studies have shown that the only way to reach optimal muscle hypertrophy is by doing eccentric movements because the contractions that are occurring give a tremendous boost to protein synthesis.
Heavy negative rep training will not only cause bigger damage to the muscle fibers, it will also try to recruit fast-twitch fibers as much as it can. This helps you stimulate motor units that were previously not used. Additionally, it is the best method to gain both muscle hypertrophy and develop explosive power, skills which can later be used on the playing field.
Forced reps, also known as assisted reps can also help you build new muscle tissue by recruiting a bigger number of motor units. You should be performing these assisted repetitions with a weight heavier than the one you would normally use and do them for a set of reps written in your program rather than going for extra reps.
An example would be a program where you are required to do 4 sets of 12 reps of biceps curls. First, find out how much load you can handle with 12 reps max. Next, choose a slightly heavier load and do 12 reps, while getting help when you can lift it by yourself. This type of training has been proven to optimize the release of hormones and the adaptation of motor units.
Incorporate drop sets into your training regimen to create a larger amount of fatigue in the motor units. One style that is particularly effective is doing a heavy-loaded set, resting no more than 10 seconds, then proceeding to do the same type of exercise at a lower weight of 40% of your 1 rep max. This type of training creates a bigger release of growth hormones and a bigger increase in the muscle’s cross-section area than a strength session would.