How can you consistently train hard for maximum strength and gains?
In our previous blog post, we discussed the importance of form, technique and the proper ways of determining the right level of resistance for specific movements. We also learned that no one can tell you how much weight you can safely push, pull or lift… You’ll have to find out for yourself.
Today’s post will focus on additional performance tips that will make you train harder and more effectively than you did before. Are you ready?
The Pro Tip Sheet
- Steer Clear of “Resistance Explosions” – A resistance explosion occurs when a tremendous amount of weight is carried by a muscle or joint for a very short period of time.
In bodybuilding, 1 second of applied resistance can shock a muscle or joint to the point of breaking. That’s why it’s important to reduce your momentum as you complete the positive phase of a movement. By reducing the momentum you also prolong the duration of the lift and this reduces the overall impact on your joint or muscle.
Ever wondered why experts always say that “slow and sure” is better than swinging a weight around?
You can actually break something by using pure momentum. Momentum is risky because you’re relying on physics to carry the weight for you, instead of steadily controlling your muscles so that they will oppose the natural downward movement of your weights.
- Rep Speed – Speed isn’t a key factor in building strength and big muscles. You don’t need to complete a full rep in 1 second if you’ve increased the resistance significantly. The ideal speed or tempo for regular workouts should be at least 2 to 4 seconds.
Let me explain: a complete repetition is actually composed of four distinct phases: starting phase, positive phase, pause/stasis and negative phase. Previously I discussed that there are two main phases (positive and negative).
If you want to make real gains, you have to take the other 2 minor phases into consideration, too.
When you lift a barbell, dumbbell or any piece of gym equipment that involves resistance, you have to make sure that you pause at the top (positive phase) before performing the negative or relaxation phase of the movement.
Pausing after completing the positive phase of a movement prolongs the duration of the repetition but it safeguards your soft tissues and joints, which is more important in the long term.
Slowing your repetitions also improves muscle growth!
Adding speed to the equation may sound like a macho thing to do, but it’s actually slow, controlled ascent and descent that greatly improves muscle tone and size. Why? Because your muscles have to work extra hard to maintain proper form as you are performing the movement.
- Train All Muscle Groups Equally – If your goal is to be in contest shape soon, you need to pay attention to all of your muscle groups, not just the ones that you see when you admire your physique in the mirror. The real champions of bodybuilding know that the muscles that can’t easily been seen on the mirror are the deciding ones during competition.
Overtraining is also a serious problem when you’re lifting weights regularly. A good rule of thumb would be to train the larger muscle groups first before focusing on the smaller groups that are present around/on the arms and legs.
By focusing on the larger muscle groups first, you will be able to reduce the overall impact on your smaller muscle groups because they are also conscripted when training your back, chest, etc. If you tire them out at the beginning of your training session, you won’t be able to perform well when it’s time to hit the larger groups.
- Re-prioritize When Needed – After half a year of hard training and endless changes to your diet, you may start seeing serious gains in your large muscle groups. But wait… Is that a small muscle I see?
If you think that you’ve under-trained some muscle groups because you’ve focused too much on your “mirror muscles” or your muscles in the front, your training system should be modified to prioritize these under-trained muscles.
Develop under-trained muscles as soon as you can before they are dwarfed by your other muscles. It’s important that you change the order the intensity of your workouts to center on muscles that need the most attention.
- Don’t Train to Failure – Unless you have been blessed with natural strength and large muscle cells, “training to failure” will become your “road to failure”. Overtraining can cause catabolism and loss of muscle size, or even plateaus that can last for months. Listen to your body and train adequately at all times.