Intensity is generally king, anyone can lift relatively heavy weight and take extended rest periods to do the same thing without feeling the ‘’burn’’ as it were. If you are trying to force adaptation within your body to gain muscle you need to work the muscles hard, in some cases people seem to misunderstand what this entails. Rep after rep, drop set after drop set, session after session is what it can take to make the magic happen – today we are going to strip down the ‘’meathead’’ approach to lifting and intelligently explain how being smarter in the gym can make results happen so much quicker.
First of all, a small word. Lifting heavy with good form is great and is recommended for a lot of people even when size is the goal, but there is much more to it which is what we are going to talk about.
Right, let’s get to business.
Taking a muscle group apart intelligently often requires using a range of techniques, often heavy weight (relatively speaking, causing you to fail around 5-6 reps or below) isn’t the best way forward. Time under tension is a very precious tool which you can and should use and this means forcing the working muscles to spend as much time as possible, working hard. Using drop sets is a great example. Nearing the point of failure you then go to a lighter weight and start all over again, and again and so on. Doing so will increase the percentage of time the muscles have actually worked for within the hour slot you spend in the gym dramatically. This doesn’t require large amounts of weight either, the nature of this training means that your fatigue levels will set in much quicker and will be there to stay. When using this approach to your training where volume and time under tension are the primary concerns solid form is key!! The whole point in using slightly less weight and going rep after rep is to stimulate the muscles and to do this that means they need to be engaged. Moving a weight from A to B no longer matters, it is all about what happens between as well as during these two points which count! There are the first two rules to taking apart a muscle, intelligently.
Next in line is another very important thing to consider, learning to resist! One of the best ‘’secrets’’ top trainers will use with clients is have them FLEX the target muscle against the weight they are using, FLEX like you are in front of the mirror. Tense up for more tension!! Get weight out of your head and replace it with ‘’get my muscles WORKING’’ for as long as possible.
Sure, not every workout is going to be like this however training with this kind of volume, focus and intensity two weeks followed by a low volume heavy week seems to work very well! Remember, muscle growth occurs following intelligent application of training tools, not ‘’push and shunt’’ kind of lifting!