First off, strength training is 100% necessary to change your physique and decrease your fat mass. Many people assume it’s countless hours in the gym on the treadmill doing cardio, and that can help; but the real game changer is strength training. Building muscle is going to help your body burn more calories and work at a higher rate all day long. After awhile it can get boring in the gym to do the same thing over and over again, not to mention it will cause you to stop seeing results. So I wanted to share with you 7 strength training techniques for building muscle that is going to keep you motivated and excited to see changes in the gym! Couple that with a great diet that includes all 3 macronutrients and fitness supplements and you have the perfect recipe!
How the body builds muscle
It’s no secret that exercising and lifting weights can increase muscle mass. In fact, skeletal muscle is the most adaptable tissue in the human body making it WANT to actually change in size and strength. When the muscle is put under stress (like with resistance training) it causes damage, or trauma. This trauma triggers a cell-signaling response to activate satellite cells. These cells go into the muscle and attach themselves to help repair the damages. These “attachments” actually promote bigger/stronger muscle fibers and act like a new nuclei source and the muscle can then breakdown and synthesize more protein. Which means, more power and contraction of the muscle! There are also several growth hormones that are involved in this protein synthesis, but that is a whole different can of worms! The human body is an incredible machine, and resistance training is just another way we can see what it is really capable of. It is important to remember that with resistance training comes adaptation. Overtime, the human body will start to adapt to the training stimulus and thus plateau, unless you continue to change up your training routine. Thus, here are 7 training techniques you can add into your program to increase muscle recruitment and size!
Training techniques for increased strength
This technique is probably the most widely known. A straight set is just one exercise by itself. A superset/compound set is putting two exercises back to back with minimal rest between them. But, there is also a difference between these.
– Superset: two opposing muscle groups back to back (ie. chest press with row)
– Compound set: two exercises working the same muscle group (ie. chest press with chest fly)
These can be added into workouts to maximize time in the gym, but also to increase muscle recruitment and fatigue the muscles in a shorter amount of time!
Pyramid sets are when you are either working to decrease reps and increase weight, or increase reps and decrease weight. This could mean:
– Squats – 15 reps @ 200, 10 reps @210, 8 reps @ 215.
Or it could mean
– Squats – 8 reps @ 215, 10 reps @ 210, 15 reps @ 200.
The benefit here is that you are working in different rep ranges so muscle recruitment is at it’s highest. Not to mention the different rep ranges also work both muscular strength and muscular endurance.
Drop sets are used when the main goal of the exercise is muscular failure. I tend to do these at the end of my workouts to get a final burnout and leave my muscles fully depleted.
– These are performed by picking a weight that failure is reached at 8-10 reps. Then the weight is dropped by about 30% and repetitions continue to failure. And then weight is sometimes dropped for a second time to continue repetitions, again, to failure.
Drop sets are effective in that they work quickly to fully tire the muscle without putting yourself in danger putting maximum amount of weight on your for a significant amount of time. Not to mention you are less likely to need a spotter when doing drop sets because as the muscle tires, the weight needed to fully exhaust the muscle is much less than if it were a fresh set.
This technique is just as it sounds, time the muscle is under tension. This can be done in a few different ways:
– Completing an exercise slowly both concentric and eccentric
– Completing unilateral movements while holding the opposite in a peak contraction, isometric hold (take bicep curls: hold left in a bicep curl and complete repetitions with the right. Then switch.)
This technique can take up to 1-2 minutes to complete!
The longer the muscle is under tension, the more muscle stimulation there is. This is a great technique for increasing muscle size (hypertrophy) as the muscles are going to fill with blood increasing the size of muscle fibers; but not necessarily heavy enough to tear them down completely and build stronger ones.
Tempo training can add a lot of different aspects to a strength routine. This is because you can constantly change the temp to keep things interesting and also add that “guessing” factor to the muscles. Tempo training is simply just adjusting the duration of the eccentric, pause and concentric part of the movement.
– If you were to do a squat at a 3, 0, 1, 0 pace it would look like: 3 second concentric (lowering), 0 second pause, 1 second eccentric (standing up) and a 0 second pause before your next repetition.
This can be used for any and all exercises in a training routine. It is great for muscle recruitment as well as concentration. The more focused you are on the movement you are doing (mind/muscle connection) the more muscle recruitment and better results you will get.
There are two motions to any movement, the eccentric (lengthening and lowering) and the concentric (shortening and contracting). Negative sets are performing the movement only in the negative direction (this means you need a spotter).
– If you were to perform pull-ups; negatives would be assisting yourself (by jumping or climbing) up to the top of the pull-up and then slowly lowering yourself down. The lower should take you 4-5 seconds so that the muscle is being fully stretched, more than it normally would.
This is definitely going to be a whole new way of training for you because it adds so much stress to the eccentric motion. Most people when lifting focus on the contraction of the muscle through their lifting, but focusing on the eccentric portion can actually create great results and muscle strength!
Rest, pause training can be done multiple times during 1 specific set of exercises. It is done by performing a certain number of repetitions, resting for 10-30 seconds and then completing more repetitions (usually to failure). This technique is a great way to add more stress to the already fatigued muscle without adjusting weights.
Rest, pause has been proven to increase both muscle thickness (size) as well as endurance. Therefore, it works mostly in the hypertrophy department and less in the strength department.
Why adjustments to your strength training routine are necessary
Always remember…the definition of insanity. “Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.” Our bodies are the same as anything else in life. If you continue training the same way day after day and expect a different outcome, it isn’t going to happen! You WILL plateau and you WILL get frustrated. So a few things to keep in mind:
→ Progress in strength comes from progressive overload (changing the intensity of your workouts with sets/reps or weight).
→ Make sure you rest to give your body time to recover properly so you do not overtrain!
→ Make sure you are eating in a caloric SURPLUS if you are wanting to increase strength/size of your muscle fibers.
→ Different training exercises/techniques are going to put a new kind of stress on the muscle and in turn, give better results.
Always make sure you are trying my exercises, techniques, intensities in your training program if you feel you have hit a plateau or are just bored with your current routine!