No matter what goals you may have when it comes to your health and fitness, it’s pretty much a dead cert that packing on a few extra lbs of good quality lean muscle is going to help.
Wanna look better naked? Build some muscle.
Wanna feel strong, badass and ready for anything? Build some muscle.
Wanna flick Father Time the bird? Build some muscle.
See where I’m going with this?
So what are the best ways to go about building said muscle?
As much as I’m a believer in the basics done well, there are a few specialized techniques that can really help pack you on a few more lbs of the good stuff in fairly short order.
We’re gonna talk about a few of these techniques in this article. These old school methods will leave your body screaming and send your muscles a clear message: That in order to survive, they will need to grow.
The techniques we’re going to be talking about are Eccentric Overload Training and Drop Sets.
These should be saved until the very end of your workout and used as finishers, as when done correctly, they demand so much from you that there won’t be much left for anything else.
I’m gonna use the Bicep Curl to demo these as it’s a time honored classic exercise for these type of methods. And let’s face it, if wanting to look good in a tank top is wrong, then do you really wanna be right?
Let’s begin with Eccentric Overload Training, or as the O.G’s call it, “Negatives”.
Eccentric refers to that part of the lift where you are lowering the weight and the muscle is lengthening.
Overload refers to the fact that you are going to be lowering a weight that is considerably heavier than one you could lift.
This strategy takes advantage of the fact that your muscles are 25 – 30% stronger when lowering a weight (under control) than they are when lifting it.
So if the heaviest weight you can lift is 200lbs, then you should be able to lower 250lbs (ish).
This hypothetical 250lbs, of course, forces the muscles to contract to a much higher degree than the 200lbs does, and it is this increased tension that will force your muscles to get stronger.
On a related note, this is one of the most time honored ways for people to develop the strength to do pull ups. If you have ever heard the suggestion to jump your chin above the bar and then lower yourself down slowly to help build up the strength to do pull ups, it is this very concept in action.
Now in order to use this technique, you would traditionally need a training partner to help you hoist the weight. But as someone who primarily trains by himself, I have come up with some ways to employ this concept using gymnastic rings or a suspension trainer (TRX), which I’ll be sharing here.
This should be performed after your last set of curls.
Immediately upon finishing the final rep, you step to a much deeper grade under the handles, which means you will now be hoisting a significantly greater percentage of your body weight, ideally an amount heavier than you would be able to curl back up from.
Slowly lower yourself down, step back out, reset, and repeat one more time.
I would suggest somewhere in the 5 – 8 seconds range, however don’t get too caught up in the minutia, just focus on lowering yourself slowly and under control and you’ll be good.
Two reps is plenty for you to get the benefits of this type of training. Less is definitely more when it comes to this type of training.
Now let’s talk drop sets. Traditionally, these would most commonly be done using several sets of dumbbells. You would perform the exercise until you almost reach failure, then you would grab a lighter set of ‘bells and rep out until, once again, you near failure. Then you would repeat the process again, usually for a total of 3 – 5 total drops and this is a perfectly acceptable way to do them.
However, they do require you to occupy several sets of dumbbells at the same time which can be tricky in some settings. I like the fact that using the TRX keeps the muscles under tension the entire time, as opposed to using the dumbbell version where you put the weights down completely before picking up the weight for the next drop.
Here is a version using the TRX. Once again, we’ll assume we’re doing our hypothetical sets of 8. Once I reach my last set, I keep going to where I’m about to hit failure. I take a step back, and get back to repping until, once again, I hit the wall, and then I repeat this process again for a total of 3 times.
You could do more, but I’m really not sold that doing more than 3 total drops is really all that necessary to get the benefits.
There strategies can also be employed with any number of different exercises. TRX Rows and Chest Presses are a couple of other, more compound type movements you could apply them too as well.
The only limit is your own creativity, with the obvious caveat that safety should always be the number one priority.
PS: If you wanna set things off right in 2018, we’re unveiling a new small group training program over at Crave Personal Training. It’s 18 weeks in length and is designed to get you into the best shape of your life AND build the habits and skills so you can maintain it… for life. It includes in person training, nutrition and lifestyle education and a ton of other cool stuff. Shoot me a message below if you’re interested in learning more about it! 🙂