Following on from my previous article, I wanted to share some more advanced training techniques I have used in the past to great personal success. These regimes are best performed over a relatively short period, with a specific goal in mind. The principle being to shock the body in either growth or strength (or both), depending on your goal. Regardless, all shown here require focus and lots of dedication.
Advanced methods – Building
10 sets method – German Volume Training
German Volume training has been very successful for me in past. I have found it particularly useful in the months leading up to my Summer holidays, since it strips the fat and whilst increasing muscle-volume. Although in the final weeks prior to beach-body ready, I have swapped it for a cutting phase (more on this in a later blog).
The principle behind German Volume Training is to exhaust a whole muscle group to aquire maximum hypertrophy. This is achieved by performing 10 sets of a compound power exercise. Using 70% maximum lift there should be a maximum of 30s rest between Sets. Subsequent isolation exercises are performed as normal – but you may need to reduce the number of sets. Good examples of power exercises, as shown in my power workout are deadlift, squat, bench press and shoulder press.
As discussed in a previous blog post, the principle of Cheat Reps is to try to squeeze out a few further reps in the final set of an exercise, by relaxing the form. By doing so, you ensure the muscle is taken to exhaustion. I am very much an advocate of performing an exercise correctly, however provided care is taken, cheating an exercise can reap rewards. For example, leaning slightly forward whilst performing the arm-curl, although effective, may risk back injury if performed badly.
This method can be used for power exercises or isolation exercises to equal affect. However, for the former you may need a training partner to ensure it is safe. Example cheats are:
- Elbows moving forward during Bicep curl
- Step up or assistance in upward motion for Pull-ups
- Arching back during bench-press
This is a useful for training the Biceps at the end of a workout; although may be adapted to other exercises such as calf-raise. The method is to perform the first half of a motion for 7 reps, then 7 reps for latter half. Followed by 7 reps of the full motion. I have found this approach to help on days where motivation has been lacking. Performed correctly, this really pumps up the muscle.
Advanced Methods – Strength
Each of below advanced training techniques look to increase your ‘maximum weight’ load. As such, a training partner or ‘Spotter’ is recommended for your safety.
As the name suggests, this method involves lifting your maximum loaded weight for one-repetition of a power exercise. Of course, this can only be once you have applied an accelerated pyramid set. This approach must be performed under supervision and with the express aim to improve strength. By example a deadlift set could be done thus:
- 6 Reps@80%
- 1-2 Reps@100%
It is good practice to always put more emphasis on the negative motion in most exercises. By this I mean slowing the return to the resting point (opposite to contraction). However, this method takes this one further by making the negative motion become the exercise. Such that the move toward contraction is fast, held under contraction, then very slowly returned (4-8s). This differs from the Super-Slow method discussed previously, in that the weight used can be more than maximum-weight; provided a ‘spotter’ helps in first (or contracting) part of the motion. The purpose of this method is to primarily to improve strength, helping to overcome a plateau in weight lifted. Examples where this is best seen are:
- Bench Press
- Pull ups
- Tricep Press
This strength building method is based on the Pyramids principle discussed previously. However, rather than applied in one session, this is spanned over a number of weeks – ideally 6-8 weeks. In essence, each routine looks to increase the weight and decrease the repetitions each week. Hence, to be effective requires some planning such that by the end of the period you have gained 5-10% on your maximum weight. This is best explained by example, each requires 3 sets minimum:
- Week 1: 8reps@70%
- Week 2-3: 6reps@80%
- Week 4-5: 4reps@Max load
- Week 6: 1-2 reps@ 105% Max load
Half-reps / Partials
Finally, a good strength and/or mass-building approach are Partials. How these are performed depends on your goal. Regardless, care must be taken when doing partials as any relaxing on form can result in injury.
For strength, the aim is to load the bar with more than maximum weight and only perform a half-range motion; never going to full contraction. For example, the following exercises help to benefit squats and bench press respectively:
- Chair squats
- Half-range Bench press (using Smiths Machine)
For building mass, the principle can be used as a form of cheat reps. Thus, a few repetitions of the final set employ the use of half-reps in order to eek out a few more; ensuring hypertrophy through muscle exhaustion. Example exercises where this work well are:
- Tricep Press
As I say, these advanced training techniques are not for the casual or faint hearted gym-goer. I have used them myself when trying to get through a plateau, or looking to make quick gains. Try them and let me know how you get on.