In the quest for more muscle, we often get caught up in the craziest approaches to training, all for another pound of muscle or a few extra reps.
Think about it; I know you’ve tried some of the crazy techniques, like the twenty four-hour arm training program or the one-set-to-failure method. Heck, why wouldn’t you? Anything that is different from the normal routine can help you to grow.
The problems start when we get too far away from the basic premises that dictate how much we can grow.
Before looking at any intensity technique, you must ask yourself a few questions:
Are you getting stronger every workout, through more weight, more reps, or more reps with the same weight?
Are you sticking with a program for a certain number of weeks? While I don’t feel there is magic in a set period of training, I do believe that you must stick with a program for a few weeks in order to see how effective it is. Don’t believe some bodybuilder in a muscle magazine who tells you that you can do a different workout each week.
Have you stayed with the same rep and set ranges for too long? This is the most common problem that many people have. They’ll read the science behind hypertrophy training and think that they must perform 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps. This can only work for so long.
It’s time for a change.
New Sets And Reps For Maximum Muscle
You’re tired of the same old methods, you’ve “run the rack,” you’ve used pre- and post-exhaust training until you couldn’t do another rep, you’ve eccentrically loaded your muscles for weeks, and you’ve used bands and chains so much that you get awkward stares in the gym.
There is only so much progress that you can get by continually recycling those old training methods. Let’s expose your body to a few new methods that’ll drastically change your physique.
Method One: The Five Percent Solution
This is an awesome method for improving your strength levels. Any bodybuilder knows that to get bigger you have to get stronger. As the name suggests, you’ll increase the weight you use by five percent every time you train that muscle. Now you don’t just raise your percentages, you also drop one rep per workout. This is actually a failure-proof method. You’ll succeed each workout because you get stronger each workout. What do you think that will make you do the next time you go to the gym? Well, you’ll strive to get even stronger…so now you’re pushing for something.
Here’s how you do it. Select a three-rep bracket, with 6 to 8 reps, as an example. Now this is an intense training method so don’t use more than two to three exercises per body part. I suggest you start with two exercises.
Exercise choice is also important with this method. For maximum results, you’ll need to use compound movements like deadlifts, squats, and dumbbell chest presses. Because you’re using compound movements, I want you to rest for two to three minutes between sets.
Here’s an example workout with the 6 to 8 rep range bracket.
- 3-4 sets of 8 reps using 100 pounds
- 3-4 sets of 7 reps using 105 pounds
*Remember you’re using an 8-rep range bracket and raising your weight by five percent every workout*
- 3-4 sets of 6 reps using 110 pounds
You’ll use the same weights that you used in workout two, so that will be 105 pounds.
- 3-4 sets of 8 reps with 105 pounds.
(Get it? More reps with heavier weight equals growth).
- 3-4 sets of 7 reps with 110 pounds
- 3-4 sets of 6 reps with 115 pounds.
You see what we just did here? You went from lifting 110 pounds with 6 reps to lifting 115 pounds with those same 6 reps. Sure, it’s only five pounds, but those five pounds are a big deal.
Remember, every little strength gain eventually equals big muscle gain.
Expose your body to a few new methods and you may be very surprised with the results
Method Two: Extended Fatigue Sets
This sounds brutal doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t that bad, but it certainly isn’t easy. Everyone knows what drop sets are, right? You perform a set of curls with a certain weight, then, when you can’t possibly perform another rep, you drop the weight by five or ten pounds and bust out a few more reps.
What is different here is that this method requires that you change either your foot or hand position, depending on the exercise, to accommodate for your fatigue in order to extend the set. Traditional drop set training has you doing the same movements the same way, but not with extended fatigue sets.
Let’s use biceps training as an example. We’ll do E-Z bar curls with the traditional supine (palms up) grip. We’ll select a weight that we can use for three to four reps. If we fatigue at rep three then we’ll immediately go to a pronated (palms down) grip. We rest ten seconds, then proceed to do another three to four reps.
Wait…we’re not done yet. Because it’s impossible to take a neutral (palms facing each other) grip with an E-Z bar, we’ll go to the dumbbell rack and perform dumbbell hammer curls for another three to four reps.
What we just did was extend the set around fatigued elbow flexors.
Here’s a chart showing how you can use this method with other popular movements for maximum muscle stimulation.
|Movement||Grip One||Grip Two||Grip Three|
|Dumbbell row||Pronated/overhand||Hammer||Supine/palms up|
|Dumbbell chest press||Pronated/overhand||Pronated with hands all the way to the right side of the dumbbell||Neutral grip|
|Seated dumbbell curls||Supine/palms up||Hammer||Supine with pinky finger all the way to the right side of the dumbbell|
Method Three: Wave Loading
This is my favorite movement in the entire article. This method works from the principle that the first set of a wave, (a wave is just three sets) sets you up for success with the other two sets of that wave.
Remember when your high school football coach made you load up the bench press with more weight than you can handle and then you lowered it halfway down to your chest? Remember how weak you felt, but then when you went back to your normal weight how good you felt? It’s the same principle. You go all out on set one, but then you back off with the other two sets of wave one. However, you’re still getting stronger.
Here’s how it works:
Assume we’re doing a flat bench press.
- 8 reps with 225 lbs followed by a three-minute rest
- 6 reps with 235 lbs. followed by a three-minute rest
- 4 reps with 245 lbs followed by a three-minute rest
That completes wave one. The beauty happens in wave two–this is where we really push our strength levels.
- 8 reps with 227 lbs followed by a three-minute rest
- 6 reps with 237 lbs followed by a three-minute rest
- 4 reps with 247 lbs followed by a three-minute rest
Your training for your chest is now done because this approach is very fatiguing to the central nervous system. So now you may be asking yourself if raising your weight by two to two-and-a-half pounds in the second wave is really “pushing it”.
All I can say is try this. Wave loading works so well because it causes more muscle breakdown than traditional training in whatever rep range you choose, but it also stimulates neural strength gains.
Remember, every little strength gain eventually equals big muscle gain
There are many methods…
There are many methods that work, but the key point for you to remember is that any method is only as good as the effort that you put into it. I’ve had days where I was using one of these methods, but I went into the gym and I did not want to use that method. The best advantage to the methods outlined here is that you’re actually in the gym for less time than you would be had you not used them.
Give them a try for three to four weeks at a time (make sure not to use more than one method at a time) and you’ll see some great gains.
Written by Jimmy Smith
Discuss, comment or ask a question
If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums - Three New Methods for Igniting Serious Size & Strength discussion thread.
About Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith, MS, CSCS is a training and nutrition consultant based out of Stamford, CT.