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Muscle Building Techniques


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Bodybuilding and Fitness Newsletter 10/19/2022

Workout Techniques to Build Muscle

We've all been through it - weeks, even months of training and we feel like we're not getting anywhere. We can't seem to get past a certain weight or make any noticeable gains in size. Why? Because the human body adapts. It can adapt to a training style and intensity in as little as 3 workouts. What your body needs is change. A change in intensity and style far from anything your muscles would expect. Regular change is important to keep your workouts interesting and effective all year round.

If you're not making bodybuilding progress in the gym, this article is for you! Learn the hottest techniques to build muscle and strength for serious bodybuilders.

Forced reps

Since the "heavy duty" craze emerged, forced reps have become very popular among bodybuilders the world over. The idea of a forced rep is to assist a trainer with a few more reps of an exercise when he can not continue alone. A few more reps are 'squeezed out' when a spotter helps lighten the load. Be sure to use an experienced spotter who should relieve you of only 10-15% of the load so you can complete 2-3 more reps before failure. These extra forced reps are crucial to stimulate growth and build muscle which eludes the average gym rat. This is a very intense way of training and can bring remarkable results, but overdoing it will quickly lead to overtraining and fatigue. Use them occasionally to get past a sticking point in your program. If you recuperate from workouts slowly, get plenty of rest after using forced reps or they will slow your progress and rob you of energy.

Cheat Reps

Although strict reps are recommended, especially for beginners, there are times when a bodybuilder may benefit from "cheating". This is a way of getting around a weak link in a muscle area, not just a means to increase the weight you're using. Only cheat to benefit a particular area. An example would be to lean the body backwards to help lift the weight in a standing barbell curl, instead of keeping the torso rigid. A trainer might "cheat" the weight up in order to lower it slowly on the negative part (see Negative), or cheat only for the last few reps to complete the set. Either way, cheat reps should be used to target an area of muscle that doesn't usually receive any direct resistance, and used sparingly.

21 System

Here is an example of the 21 system: using a moderate weight on the shoulder press, perform 7 reps moving the bar through the 'top half only' of the movement (from the locked elbow position to 50% of the way down) Then, without stopping, do 7 reps on the lower half of the movement, from the bar almost touching the base of the neck to half way up. Immediately after, perform 7 full reps as you do in a normal shoulder press movement. With a spotter, you could even use a heavier weight for the top half of the movement (7 reps), have him remove some of the weight straight away, before continuing with the second and third phase of the exercise (14 reps). This system can be used for almost all exercises, especially in shoulder, chest, back and arm exercises where it invariably gives good results. Use your head when choosing a weight for this method. This really is a 'shock' technique and could give you the boost you need.

Pyramid Reps

This method is used extensively by almost every bodybuilder for compound (multi-joint) movements like squats and bench presses. The idea is that, starting with a high rep set, weight is added and reps are reduced for each set as the muscles warm up and fill with blood. When a peak weight is reached (for 4-6 reps) the weight is reduced and reps increased to gain a good pump. This technique works both fast and slow-twitch fibres of the muscle, and can be very effective once mastered. Use it for compound, multi-joint movements like the bench press.

Negative Reps

To perform a negative rep, you raise the weight with help, and lower it by yourself. Let's look at an example. Take the bench press, with poundage above your normal working weight; a spotter helps you raise the loaded barbell on the 'positive' part of a rep. Then you slowly lower the weight on the 'negative' part by yourself, resisting gravity on the way down. This technique greatly stresses a muscle group and builds strength, but can quickly lead to fatigue. If you want to 'shock' the muscles, try negative reps occasionally for maximum intensity.

Burn Reps

The definition of burns is to continue a set with a few partial reps (see below) when full reps can no longer be done. This takes a set to complete failure and causes a painful burning sensation in the worked muscle, caused by a build up of lactic acid. Put the pain out of your mind and push past it, because it'll be worth it. You will notice a tremendous pump after applying burns and the added stress will stimulate new growth. Burns are used on exercises such as preacher curls, triceps pressdowns, dumbbell flyes, lat pulldowns, calf raises and chest dips.

Partial Reps

As you all know, a strict (complete) rep is performed by working a muscle through a full range of motion. A "partial" rep, on the other hand, is rep where only half the range of motion is worked - the middle part. Take the overhead barbell press. The bar would start from the top of the neck and end before the elbows locked out, only half the range of motion. Partial reps can be used for most exercises, but not all. You can benefit from using this technique as part of your program, as muscle areas will be worked differently, which is what you need to stimulate new growth. Remember to increase the weight with partial reps, as the strongest part of the muscle will be worked.


What is isotension ? To perform isotension, the muscles are flexed towards the end of a rep. Tense the muscle area really hard on the last few reps of the set - imagine yourself flexing in front of a mirror. Disregard the weight, it doesn't matter if your reps are not strict either. Just try to get the muscle severely tensed to the point of cramping. This tensing of the muscle will create visible striations in your form, and brings rapid results if done consistently.

Slo-Mo reps

Slo-Mo reps are performing an exercise in "slow motion". Why do this ? Firstly, by performing an exercise slowly you cut out the momentum of faster reps, which in turn increases the time-under-load (TUL). It also makes you concentrate more on each rep. The negative (return part) of each rep is also intensified, and this will give you the feeling the reps have been doubled. Try this technique and you'll see that it really works, but requires discipline to be used for extended periods.

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