I'm a proponent of high intensity training to stimulate the greatest amount of muscle growth possible during training sessions—none of the half-hearted training you see at most gyms.
To build the most muscle, you need to push or pull the weights with a do-or-die effort during intense workouts. It may be impossible to accurately measure 100 percent effort, but if you take most, or preferably all, sets to muscular failure, you will be training at a capacity that will yield the best results in the minimum amount of training time.
Is it possible to amplify results by training with even greater intensity? Yes, by adding HIT variables to the mix. In my training manuals, available at most online sources or my blog, I offer dozens of ways to take sets to failure and explain how to take them past failure.
For instance, if you do a set of barbell Overhead Presses to exhaustion using proper lifting technique, you will have completed a productive set—one likely to stimulate muscle growth. Using the HIT protocol, you would normally do 2 or 3 sets of three exercises in a shoulder routine, taking all sets to exhaustion.
If you add forced reps to the end of a set—in the neighborhood of four additional reps—you will subject your delts to additional stress levels such that it will be necessary to reduce your total set count to 1 or 2 sets or risk overtraining.
Forced reps are a mainstay of high intensity training because they allow bodybuilders to end their sets past failure, which adds extra intensity and in-roading of their muscles, which is great for growth.
To derive the most benefit, it is important to execute forced reps correctly. Train with a partner who is familiar with your strength levels and experienced with the use of HIT techniques. He or she will begin assisting you only after you have exhausted your ability to complete a full rep. Using only two fingers, your partner will help you complete additional reps by applying just enough pressure as is necessary.
A forced rep workout for delts looks like this:
Barbell Press — 1x8+4 forced reps
Complete 8 reps to failure. Have your training partner assist with as little pressure as is necessary to help you complete an additional four reps.
The important takeaway here is the necessity to end all sets at failure and continue to grind out additional forced reps.
Static holds are another great way to blast new size into your muscles. Using Machine Chest Presses as an example, select a weight on a selectorized stack that allows a 10-second hold in the pre-lockout position before the handles begin to return to your chest. Hold for 10 seconds before returning the weight, then reduce the stack by one plate. Repeat until you have completed eight 10-second holds.
The workout is simple but effective. It looks like this:
Machine Chest Press — 1x8 static holds: hold 1, rest 10 seconds , hold 2 , rest 10 seconds, hold 3, rest 10 seconds, etc.
One of the most effective forms of training to overload your muscles is to use negative-only reps. Instead of doing a conventional rep, have a partner do the lifting and carefully transfer the weight to you. Lower it to a count of eight. Use weight around 140 percent of your normal training load, great for overloading your muscles.
Using Cable Tricep Pushdowns as an example, as you allow the weight back up using an 8-count, your tricep muscles use their fibers' friction to resist the movement. This causes heavy micro-damage to the muscles, causing your body to overcompensate with additional growth as a result of the trauma. Negative reps have also been proven effective at building strength. Expect to be very sore two days after using this technique, due to the extra micro-damage the training inflicts on your muscles.
The following routine is an example of a tricep workout:
- Cable Tricep Pushdowns — 1x8, partner presses handles down and transfers the weight to you.
- Allow the weight back up to an 8-count.
- Rest 30 seconds.
- Seated Machine Dips — 1x8-partner presses handles down and transfers the weight to you.
- Allow the weight back up to an 8-count.
- Use a steady motion throughout.
Add these techniques to your workouts for more effective and productive training sessions.
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