Focus on Advanced Training Techniques

A look at advanced techniques like supersets, drop sets, negatives, 10 seconds, forced reps and shows you how to integrate them into your weekly routine.

Today I’m going to give Muscle&Strength readers a good explanation of the advanced muscle building techniques commonly used in gyms around the globe. I’ll also give you some examples of how to integrate these techniques into your workouts.

Before I get started, I should mention that these training techniques are designed to shock your muscles by adding variety and intensity to your training sessions. That being said, don’t use the same advanced techniques every week in your routine. These techniques will lose their effectiveness if you use them too often.

SUPERSETS

SupersetsSupersets are one of my favorite advanced muscle building techniques. A “superset” is when you do two or more exercises in succession without any rest. For example, you do a set of barbell bench presses immediately followed by a set of flat bench dumbbell flies. This forces a lot more blood into the pectorals and provides a more intense and effective training stimulus for the chest muscles.

You can use supersets for the same muscle group or for two different muscle groups, but only if they have an agonist/antagonist relationship with each other. This means when one muscle group is contracting the other muscle group is relaxing. A good example of this would be biceps/triceps when performing tricep push downs.

For supersets to work effectively you must choose muscle groups that are physically close together (triceps/biceps, quadriceps/hamstrings, back/chest for example). The reason for this is that you want to force as much blood into that region as possible. A bad example of supersetting would be, say, supersetting a bench press with a calf raise. All you’re doing here is forcing blood into your chest the immediately after trying to force the blood down to your calves. Obviously this isn’t an effective way to train.

So what exercises are good to supersets? Well as long as you follow the information you just read, there are endless opportunities.

Some of my favorites include:

Click to see the exercise videos:

That’s just some I can think of right now, but there’s plenty of other combinations I use. I encourage you to try supersetting different exercises and see what works for you. I advise you to do your supersets at the beginning of your workout as they are very taxing on your muscles.

NEGATIVES

Negatives are a very powerful training technique for building strength. Negatives are used by powerlifters, weight lifters, professional benchers, bodybuilders and strength athletes to increase their explosive strength.

When you lift a weight there is a positive and negative phase. The positive phase is when the muscle is contracting and the negative phase is when it’s stretching. Negatives focus on the negative part of the movement. The basic idea is that you overload your muscles on the negative phase of the movement with weights that you would not normally be able to lift.

One example of how negatives are used is on the bench press (commonly referred to as bench press negatives). With the assistance of 1-3 spotters the lifter slowly lowers a bar with up to 130% of his 1 REP MAX down to his chest. Before the bar hits the chest the spotters lift it back up and the process is repeated. Another example would be when a lifter is doing preacher curls (biceps) he would curl the weight up as normal but on the way down a spotter would apply downward pressure as extra resistance.

For negatives to work they must be done very slowly. I’ve found that a minimum count of five is needed (5 seconds). The longer the lifter can control the weight the better. If you find that the weight is easy to control for over 5 seconds then increase the weight.

Some of my favorite negative exercises:

  • Bench press
  • Close grip bench press
  • Wide grip pull ups (jump up and lower yourself down)
  • Preacher curls

Negatives are a very advanced technique and I definitely don’t recommend them for beginners or even intermediate lifters. The extra weight places a huge strain on joints, tendons and muscles and if not performed in a controlled and safe environment can easily lead to injury. If you are trying negatives for the first time always start with a moderate weight and work your way up.

Bench press negativesBench press negatives pic 2
Training with bench press negatives using 2 Spotters

DROP SETS

Drop sets are great for adding extra intensity and variety to your training routine. Drop sets are when you perform the same exercise for a number of sets without any rest in between and lowering the weight after each set. For example, a dumbbell shoulder press drop set would look like this:

Set 1: 50lb dumbbells, 10 reps
NO REST

Set 2: 35lb dumbbells, 10 reps
NO REST

Set 3: 25lb dumbbells, MAX reps

That’s an example of how I would use drop sets in my shoulder routine. I would add a 3 drop sets into my shoulder routine about every 4-5 weeks to add that extra intensity.

Drop set training enables you not only to increase the intensity, and thus force more blood into the muscle, but also allows you to reach momentary muscle fatigue twice or more, affecting more muscle fibers.

You can use drop sets on pretty much any exercise. But like I mentioned at the start of this article, don’t do them every week for the same muscle group. If you do them too often they will lose their effectiveness.

STRIP SETS

 The process of stripping is much the same as drop sets but using a barbell. Stripping is often used on the bench press. For example, you load up each end of the bench bar with a 45lb plate, 2 22lb plates, and a 10lb plate. For you first set you bench all the weight. For your second set you remove the 10lb plates, for your third set you remove 1 22lb plate and then for your final set you remove the other 22lb plate leaving you with 90lb left on the bar. You can use this technique if you’re training alone or even better get a spotter or two to remove the plates for you. For this technique to work effectively you need as little rest between sets as possible, so a spotter is recommended.

TEN SECOND TRAINING

Ten second training works by making your muscles work harder by eliminating momentum and keeping the muscle tensed for a longer period of time. The idea is that you take ten seconds to perform each repetition. This is a long time and makes you work extremely hard! You won’t need heavy weights for this one. I’ve found that I only need about 50% of what I usually lift.

Ten second training can be used for all exercises. I found I had good results using ten second training with bench and bicep exercises. I wouldn’t advise using this technique very often, about every 4-6 weeks is ok. A spotter is always a good idea for safety because you’ll find that you’re muscles feel like they’re dead by about the fifth rep!

FORCES REPS

For anyone who trains with a partner you’re probably doing forced reps every training session. Forced reps are where a spotter gives you’re a small (I emphasize small) amount of assistance to complete the last couple of reps for a set. By receiving a little assistance from your partner during the lifting movement, you can complete a few more repetitions, thus stimulating and fatiguing additional muscle fibers, increasing the intensity of the exercise.

With forced reps it’s important that your partner knows when to give you just the right amount of assistance. Your partner should never help you on the negative phase. Your partner must first let you push the weight as far as you can, only providing assistance when you can no longer move the weight any further. If your partner needs to give you more assistance than that it’s time to drop the weight.

BEAT THE PLATEAU!

All the advanced techniques I’ve mentioned today are plateau-killers! The emphasis of your workouts should be on variety and intensity. I never do the same workout twice in a row. Using these techniques you can really mix up your workout exercises and intensity.

One last thing, I am really pushing the point of variety here! You may get some extreme gains, both in strength and mass, from using these techniques and it’s going to be tempting to do them every week. Don’t be tempted, switch it up every week!

Want to learn more?

You can discuss these training techniques with me or the other members over at our Drug Free Bodybuilding & Fitness Forum. We have a strong community of experienced lifters and training experts who are more than happy to help you out with your routine.