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Muscle building techniques to add to your workouts

Ben f4l 1
The beauty of the fitness industry is that there is many different ways of doing things – one
size certainly doesn’t fit all, so we’re always learning new things on our own
personal journeys. 
 
In this blog I’ll explore a few muscle-building techniques that you may not have used before, in the hope
of progressing your training and physique goals.
 
Gym life can be confusing right? Straight-sets, super-sets, giant sets, high intensity, high
volume, tempo, body weight vs free weights, eccentric resistance/loading, time
under tension? These terms are all familiar to me as a trainer and coach – but
to someone else it may be a mind field of frustration and confusion. 
 
Before we get started- allow me to outline something- if your goal is to build muscle - you
can be Superman in the gym for an hour per day, but if your nutritional
approaches and recovery is poor for the remaining 23 hours- you will not build
muscle. Please re-visit some of my previous blogs regarding putting on muscle
& nutritional approaches. 
 
So, you’ve been in the gym for a while now, hitting the 3 sets of 10-12 reps and your thinking-
“there must be more to this”, well my friend, try some of these bad boys- it
may be the shock to the system needed for some good progress. 
 
Super-sets, tri-sets and giant sets.
You’ve been hitting the same exercises for a while now, doing traditional straight working
sets of 10-12 reps, perhaps try some super-sets for variety. A super-set is
when you perform an exercise for the desired amount of reps, then without rest,
go straight onto the next exercise for a set. An example of this could be a
chest press movement <super-set> with incline dumbbell flyes- or lat pull
downs <super-set> with seated cable rows. You could also consider a giant
set. This is when you perform 3 or more exercises with less than 60 seconds
rest in-between sets. An example of this could be- bench press – cable cross
overs – body weight press ups. 
 
High intensity.
I’m a big fan of high intensity and lower volume sessions however I know many people who benefit
from different styles of training. 
If, for a while you have been ‘counting’ reps and not pushing yourself to failure- perhaps try
some high intensity sets. After warming up thoroughly, select a compound
movement such as dumbbell chest press and push for a set to failure between
8-12 reps. Have a 1-2 minute rest and then select some lighter dumbbells and
repeat aiming for slightly more reps than you achieved in set 1. This is just
one technique example- but please note- DO NOT sacrifice technique to achieve
more reps. As soon as you feel the move grinding to a halt and the feeling of
“oh dear god I wish I brought some fresh underwear with me- my technique will
have to fall to pieces to achieve this last rep”, that’s a good sign to put the
weights down safely and call it a day. 
 
High volume.
The Germans are renowned for being big advocates of high volume training sessions. I think it
has benefits is a good tool for variation. Some research suggests that higher
volume sessions increase metabolic stress on the body for greater growth and
protein synthesis potential. If your training is always hard and heavy (lower
volume) – higher volume is a good technique for a de-load phase or even a
periodisation consideration for hypertrophy training. Putting it into practice
could look like 5-6 exercises for a back session with 3-4 sets per exercise
with anywhere from 8-30reps per set. My experience from higher volume
approaches is that you tend to use slightly lighter weights to achieve the
volume and reps needed. If approached the wrong way though, this style of
training could hinder recovery and provoke over-training syndrome. 
 
Tempo and time under tension.
One of my pet hates in the gym - are people who are adamant that lifting big weights with dodgy
jerky movements is good for building muscle. It’s good for hurting your joints
and tendons but that’s about it. Most muscle breakdown work is done during the
eccentric phase of the contraction (lengthening)- so the lowering and
straightening of the arm from a bicep curl- or the lowering of the bar to your
chest for a bench press. Perform this phase for 3-4 seconds, hold for 1 second
on the stretch before then firing the concentric contraction (pushing the bar
on a bench press) for 1 second. The 5-6 seconds of time under tension this
places on your muscle (which burns) is a quick fire way to greater muscle
growth. 
 
Eccentric loading.
A further technique (not for beginners) could be using increased resistance during the eccentric
phase of a muscular contraction. For example using resistance bands on particular
exercises or machines. If you have a training partner this also works very
well. E.g. When performing leg extensions- as you reach the top of the rep
(extending your knee joint), your training partner will then push down on the
foot pad adding resistance- you will counteract their pressure by about 50%
effort so the flexion of your knee still takes about 3 seconds to lower for a
full range of motion, before then performing the next rep. I advise only using
this on one exercise per workout though, as it is very intense and increases
the chance of intense muscle soreness the next day. 
 
Body weight / free weights.
If you weren’t already using both, then I’d advise trying some new movements in your workouts
to shock the body into growth. Body weight exercises are often overlooked
because they are really hard when done properly. Pull ups, dips, press-ups, box
jumps, core work could all be good additions to your routine. To increase
intensity on body weight exercises you can also add weight to body
belts/chains. 
 
Free weights are great for building muscle and strength- they also improve joint stability and
proprioception. As you tire throughout your workouts- the addition of some
machines to push your muscles further is always a good tactic too. For example
if you have just done some heavy deadlifting you may then move to a seated row
machine to decrease posterior chain loading. 
 
I hope that this short blog has given you some fresh muscle building ideas. Strive for
progression- and if something becomes to easy or boring it’s probably time to
turn to a different technique to keep you on the road to bigger and better
gains.