Every lifter wants to get bigger, but you don’t always have to train harder to do that. Sometimes you also have to train smarter.
Do you want to get stronger and put slabs of meat onto your frame? If you answered positively, your plan of action is most likely adding more weight to the bar with every consecutive workout. And that’s good, but it’s not the only way of building more muscle. Instead of continuously adding more weight, which cannot last forever, you will be changing the demands of each training session, meaning you will challenge your muscle in a completely different way.
Very often, one can make small adjustments to their training program that can trigger massive gains. If you are looking to make your training more effective without actually increasing the weight that you lift, you are at the right place. This article will do just that and help you to keep building muscle.
1. Decrease your rest interval between sets
Rest intervals are one of the keys (and very often neglected) parameters of how successful a workout was. If you rest too much time in between your sets, wasting your time on various social media, you gradually lose the tension and stress that your muscles are under. Decreasing your rest intervals is a great method to increase the intensity of your workouts and keep the body constantly moving and heated. When you carefully time you rest periods you are challenging yourself in a way that will help you ensure that you’re not just winging it, but actually, give all you’ve got in each set. That way you induce muscle growth.
That being said, there is a limit to how much you can decrease the rest period. For example, you cannot decrease the rest period to 30 seconds or less and still expect to do a solid set. The reason for this is that you’ll be too exhausted to even get near half of your prescribed reps for your next set. However, if you have been resting for 2-3 minutes between sets and the amount of weight loaded on the bar doesn’t require a big rest period, you can try decreasing the rest time to 45-60 seconds instead.
2. Change your squat stance
If you have been training with the same squat stance for years, the body will inevitably become accustomed to what you’ve been exposing it to. That’s why instead of adding more weight to the bar, why don’t you try to change the position of your feet? When you change your feet position, you change your base of support, which in turn changes the way in which your body uses your muscles to anchor and support the weight.
You can achieve this by tweaking the feet position or by switching to a single leg or split stance, as well as by changing machine levels and various angles. This too will change the base of support, which will engage different muscles. Trying any of these options has the potential to induce new growth in muscles you never even knew you had.
3. Change your hand position
How you position your hands can also drastically affect the quality of an exercise. Just changing to neutral grip when doing some movements like pull-ups and back rows helps the long bone in the arm, the humerus, maintain a proper alignment with the rest of the body. This can help lessen the stress on your shoulders, as well as the wear and tear the shoulder joint experience over time. And in addition to decreasing the risk of injury, this can improve your execution form, which will make your lifts more effective.
4. Change the training tempo
Be honest, how many times have you gone through a movement just because you wanted to finish it as soon as possible? If you’ve been sticking to the same training tempo/speed for the majority of your exercises, changing it up is a great place to start. There are 3 phases of muscle activity when doing an exercise: concentric (when the muscle shortens), isometric (when the muscle is static and held in place under tension) and eccentric (when the muscle lengthens). A standard tempo on a movement like a bench press might be as follows: 2-0-1, which is 2 seconds down during the eccentric phase when you’re lowering the weight to your chest, no pause (when you change from eccentric to concentric) and 1 second up when you lifting the bar upwards.
It is recommended that you make small tweaks to your tempo, which will change the mechanics of the exercise, as well as the demand and stress on the muscles. For example, you can try a 3-1-1 tempo, which adds another second to the eccentric phase and a 1-second pause at the bottom. You will definitely feel a big difference this way, which might result in some muscle soreness which you are not accustomed to, which makes it important that you start slow when first employing this technique.
5. Change the load position
Changing the position of the load is another sneaky way to trick your body and brain into building more muscle. Simply by changing the position of the weight, you also change to how the body will respond so that it can manage it. Let’s take dumbbell lunges as an example.
When you get into position to do a dumbbell lunge, it’s very likely you drop the arms down straight and hold both dumbbells by the sides. Why not change that? Instead of holding them by your sides, hold them by the shoulders, one up and one down, or maybe in a Zercher style. Do you want another tweak? You can try decreasing the weight you use, and putting more load on one side of your body, shoulder, hip or over your head. This imbalance will challenge your core and will improve your core stability.