Whatever the routine you do in the gym, if your goal is to build muscle, the most important principles you should follow are progressive overload and intensity. Without these two principles you’ll be spinning your wheels without any progress. The progressive overload principle is clear – you have to increase the weights you lift over time to keep the muscles from adapting. But what about intensity?
How can you add intensity to spark new muscle growth? Leaving the progressive overload aside, there are a few techniques you can apply to increase the intensity of your workout.
1. Decrease the time between sets
Very often, bodybuilders tend to forget about the length of rest periods between sets. Too long rest periods can be unproductive for muscle building. Try to decrease the time between sets gradually by 10-15 seconds every week. If for instance you need 90 seconds of rest between sets, try to decrease it to 75 seconds the second week, then to 60 seconds the third week etc. Decreasing the rest periods between sets automatically increases workout intensity and lactic acid production. The more lactic acid is produced also more HGH is produced in the body.
2. Emphasize the negative reps
When lowering the weight, try to resist the gravity and lower the weight in more than 3-4 seconds. This slow portion of the lift will limit the weights you can lift, but at the same time the muscle works harder, and this increases intensity of the workout.
3. Drop sets
Drop sets allow you to drain that last drop of energy you have left in you at the end of the set. When you reach muscular failure, strip some weight from the bar and continue lifting until you reach failure again.
4. Rest pause sets
These are very similar to the drop sets only more intense, as the weight on the bar stays the same during the set. Start lifting. When you reach failure, rack the weight, take a few (10-15) deep breaths and start lifting again. This way you break one giant set to a few mini sets.
5. Forced reps
With some help from a spotter, squeeze a couple of reps at the end of the working set. Just be careful not to put too much weight on the bar and let the spotter do all the work. The spotter should only HELP in completing the reps.
6. Pre-Fatigue Your Muscles
We can easily explain this method by an example. If for instance you are working on your pecs, try doing pec flyes before the bench press. You can apply the same principle on almost every muscle group. Lateral raises before shoulder presses, leg extensions before squats etc.
7. Cheat reps
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We don’t encourage you to cheat and use bad form, but there are times when cheat repetitions can be productive actually. You can use cheat reps after you have performed as many repetitions as you can with perfect form. Take the overhead press for an example, after you did 6-8-10 or any number of reps to failure, you can use the force of your legs and back to perform a few more reps.