If you’ve never experienced the terror of set-extending methods, you’ve never trained for real. And without enough intensity, there can be no growth. It’s time to challenge yourself and deepen the effects of your hard work in the gym, and that can be achieved through four relatively simple methods for getting the most bang out of your buck. Yep, we’re going to talk about intensity. Dig in!
This gem of a technique will help you to thoroughly fatigue your muscle fibers and break through seemingly invincible training plateaus. It basically breaks down one set into more mini-sets, which are separated by a short rest. To do it properly, set a weight that’s 80-85% of your 1RM and perform as many reps as you possible can until you reach failure.
Then rest for 20 seconds and continue. Once you hit failure again, stop and rest for 20 seconds. And go back for one final round. Even though rest/pause training has obvious benefits, it doesn’t mix well with squats and deadlifts, so you’d be better off sticking to straight sets for them.
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You’ve probably done drop sets before, but perhaps you haven’t been able to squeeze the most gains out of it. If so, welcome to the 8/8/8 method. This means you’ll do a set of 8 reps to failure, then decrease the weight (so that it’s still heavy yet allows for another 8) and do another set of 8 reps.
Drop the weight again and end with a final set of 8. Since they increase the intensity of the training in such a unique way, drop sets are superb for gaining overall mass – they help you recruit different muscle fibers and grow like a beast. In addition, they allow you to get more good-quality work done in less time!
A superset is what you get when you combine two exercises into one full set, with none to little rest in-between. As you can imagine, there is a ton of superset variants, but the most popular include agonist-antagonist sets (combination of two exercises that utilize different muscle groups), same/similar muscle group sets (combination of two exercises that stimulate similar muscles) and upper-lower sets (pairing an upper body exercise with a lower body movement).
Although each of them brings powerful benefits, there is one type of supersets to rule them all: the compound superset. If you want to dramatically increase the intensity of your workout and reap gains in multiple body areas, compound supersets will blow your mind. Try combining leg presses with squats, incline dumbbell presses with dips, chin-ups with lat pulldowns, or maybe overhead presses with upright rows.
Now here’s a very simple but brilliant idea: using a single-joint exercise for a certain muscle group before moving on to a compound exercise for that same muscle group in order to maximize muscle damage and spur massive growth. For example, you can do flyes before your bench presses, lateral raises before overhead presses or pullovers before chin-ups or rows.
This way you force your muscles to work twice as hard and activate as many muscle fibers of the targeted muscle group as possible. Also, pre-exhaust training works wonders for those struggling with size and strength plateaus. That being said, beginners are not advised to attempt this type of training because it can quickly lead to overtraining.
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These four methods have countless variants and we encourage you to create your own combinations of exercises based on what kind of results you want to see. Now that we’ve got the basics covered, it’s time to pump some iron! Good luck!