As I continue to focus on my off-season and try to add some size, I thought it would be a good time to write a training article. I have used some different techniques that have resulted in a dramatic improvement to my physique.
They have helped me improve my mind muscle connection and time under tension, which has lead to gain muscle mass fast. Since I am in a good caloric surplus and have extra calories to put to use during my training, I have been able to maximize these techniques.
The first thing we will touch upon is one and a half reps. Here you complete a full rep, come half way up, go back down, and then come all the way up.
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I will also talk about rep tempo. This can vary from 5 second negatives, 3-4 second concentric or 2-3 second pauses. These variances allow you to to implement different tensions on the muscle.
Lastly, I will touch upon forced negatives/concentrics. Here your spotter will aid you in the movement, helping you to to break through plateaus by using a heavier weight and lower reps. [imagemap id="15756"]
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1 ½ Reps for Powerful, Painful Muscle GrowthAt first the 1 ½ reps may seem weird, but honestly once you give them a try they will really show you just how a little extra twist can make a world of difference to your training. The first few exercises I will use as examples are mostly compound exercises. Believe it or not, it may seem risky, but you just have to adjust the overall load to accommodate this new movement style.
For example, let's say you have a tough time hitting 315 x 3 on a squat. Don't try to implement a 1 ½ rep scheme and attempt to duplicate this same amount of weight you are moving. I would shuffle down to 245 or 255 and work your way up once you feel comfortable.
Some other examples that I like to utilize this movement on are as follows:
- Chest DB Flat Bench, Smith Bench with Incline, Cable Chest Flies
- Back Dumbbell Rows/Smith Barbell Rows
- Shoulders DB/Hammer strength Laterals, Rear Laterals, Standing/Seated Military Press
- Arms Any Curl Variation, Pressdown Variation, Close Grip Bench, and Preacher Curls
- Legs Squat, Hack Squat, Stiff Leg Deadlifts
Forced Negatives/Concentrics for Brutal Strength and Muscle GainsNext up is forced negatives and/or forced concentrics. These involve assistance from your workout partner. Now this is how to gain muscle mass!
Why are these important? Let's say your goal is to bench 315 and you just can't get there. You've tried multiple bench press variations and several different progression schemes.
Let's throw this technique into the mix.
Next workout session put 315 on the bar. Now have your workout partner force the rep up after your slowly lower it to your chest. What does this do? It gets you comfortable with unracking the weight, and helps you to work on exploding through a sticking point (from the pause to the concentric).
Forced reps get your muscles and central nervous system used to a weight. This is also very similar to working with walkouts. For example, when you want to get comfortable with squatting a heavier weight, just unrack the bar with the weight and slowly walk out of the squat rack. Hold the weight, then walk it back in and re-rack it.
I have done this over and over again, while working up from 315 to 405 on the squat. I continue to progress as I get used to feeling that much weight on my back. It's nice to get comfortable with it before trying to perform a rep. After a few walkouts I know what it feels like and how I should adjust my setup to get comfortable when under the bar.
While this works wonders for compound exercises, it can also get brutal on isolations.
For example, the leg press. This is one of my all-time favorites. Having someone assist with reps as you continue to push through sets. Focus on a real heavy set, like 6-8 plates a side with slow negatives, and then do a drop of one plate for each set. Continue to go down until you reach 2-3 plates a side, but have your spotter assist with 4-5 reps after each time you hit failure.
Tell me your legs won't want to fall off after trying this. It's brutal but effective.
When using laterals for shoulders you can have your partner help squeeze out extra reps by assisting on the way down, or forcing you to slow the weight on the negative.
Rep Tempo and Increased Time Under TensionLastly, we will talk about different rep tempos. The first thing I want to note here is that sometimes we don't always start movements from a complete dead stop. Let's talk about deadlifts.
How many times do you see people bouncing the bar off the ground after every single rep? Don't get me wrong, some people make great gains, but let's think about this for a second. It's called a deadlift for a reason; you rip the bar off the ground from a dead state. How much harder is it to grind out 10 reps if you reset the bar and put 0 momentum into each rep? A lot harder, I can surely bet!
Now let's factor in some different rep tempos. For instance, from now on I will talk in a (X:Y:Z) format which dictates the eccentric (X), pause (Y), and concentric(Z) part of the movement. If we vary these, it can provide a ton of variation in intensity techniques and make the lift much harder.
Some examples I have utilized in my training are slower negatives and holds for arms. I am talking about 3-4 second negatives and 3-4 second holds. Sometimes I get up to a 5:5:1 to really focus on my arms and constant tension. This method works awesome with preacher curls. I find them to be very effective because of the zero momentum factor due to having your arms braced on the incline.
I have found my chest responds very well to long pauses, sometimes up to 10 seconds at the end of a fly. Just hold the weight in place and focus on squeezing your chest and taking the tension off your arms. You want to feel nothing but your chest, and take all non-chest stress out of the movement so you aren't using your shoulders and arms in any way.
The hardest rep tempo exercise I have done was a 5:5:1 squat which I supersetted with a bike sprint. This has the lactic acid in your legs about ready to burst through. While that is pretty hard, the same can be done with a deadlift variation where I would superset a slow negative and a slow concentric in a superset fashion. I would do 5 reps with a slow concentric on the way up, and then a 5 second negative for 5 more reps after completing the first 5. You won't be able to move much weight, but the amount of tension on the muscle will be insane.
Sample Bodybuilding Workout RoutineLet's put together a basic lower body day so you can understand what I would do to add in some intensity techniques.
- Squat Perform 3 working sets with a 4:2:1 rep tempo (4 second negative, 2 second pause and 1 second explode up). Perform 4-6 reps per set.
- 1 1/2 rep Hack Squats 3 sets in the 8-10 rep range.
- Leg Curl - Two second negatives and concentric, to focus on the slow release and then holding the muscle on the way up.
- DB Stiff Leg Deadlifts - 1:0:1 tempo. Explosive reps here, and just busting it out and focusing on rolling your pelvis for 3 sets of 15-20 reps.
- Close Grip Bench Press - 2:2:1 rep tempo. 2 seconds down, 2 second pause and then explode up. Remember to really focus on tucking those elbows and pausing on your chest to engage the triceps to the fullest. 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
- Preacher Curl - 5:5:1 rep tempo. 5 seconds down, 5 second pause and explode up. Really let your forearms out of the motion and just let your bicep to do all the work 4 sets of 5.