Article By Chris Chew, Singapore based AMFPT Certified Master Trainer
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Aaaaaaaarggghhh!! My Muscles Are Not Growing Bigger!
||So you have been following all the golden rules for building muscles. Enough sleep, correct eating habits and supplementation, intense training with proper form and techniques and have seen your body transformed from a sloppy Mr. Average Joe into a tight mean muscle building machine in just a matter of a few months.
As your strength and endurance grow, you are motivated to lift heavier and are enjoying the pump and satisfaction with every workout that you do. And then it happened... you begin to notice that your strength is no longer increasing like what it used to be. Your muscles have also stopped growing and no matter how you train, you are remaining where you are. You begin to get disillusioned and may eventually give up building a body that you have always dreamed of.
Sounds familiar? Well guys, welcome to the bodybuilder's most dreaded syndrome. You have just hit the "Plateau". Every intermediate and hardcore bodybuilder will be confronted with this confounded plateau sooner or later. Most remain where they were because they either believe that that is about the most where their genes can take them or they just simply do not know how to smash past the plateau. However, some will find a breakthrough and begin the next exciting phase of explosive muscle growth. Here is how.
First the fundamental rule. In order for your muscles to grow explosively, you have to shock it with different types of stimuli. This is called the shock principle. There are many ways and methods to shock your muscles into new growth and we will discuss some of them here. But if you are just beginning to lift weights, then the conventional straight sets is about all you need to do until you hit the plateau.
- Take a break
It could be your body's way of telling you that it is fully stressed. Most if not all accomplished musclemen have a program where they will skip the gym for a week or 2 and sometimes up to 4 weeks after every few months of hardcore intensive training. Then when they are back in the gym, the muscles are then shocked with the heavy stress weight lifting is giving it after being in a stage of recuperation and inactive for some time.
- Change your routine
Your body has accustomed to your routine. Many people just do the same sets, reps, exercises in the same sequence every time they hit the gym. Your body thus is saying "Yaaaawn... been there, done that, so what's new?"
So change your exercises, reps and routine after every few weeks. For example on your chest and back day, instead of starting with the chest exercises first, you will now start off with the back first. That is because in your normal routine, after your chest has fatigued then will you work on your back and now that you have switched it over, your back muscles now are stressed when your chest is fresh and vice versa. This creates a new stimulant on your muscles which must grow to adapt to the new strains. But do not change too frequently or your muscles will become used to the changes and you are back at square one.
- Drop Sets
A drop set is when you begin with a heavier weight than usual. When you reach failure, usually at lesser reps than normal because of the heavier load, you then strip off some of the weight and then perform another set to failure which may also mean at higher reps although not necessarily so, because of the lighter weight. After reaching failure, you continue the sequence until you are reaching failure even at very light weight and low reps. You will know whether it worked because I can bet my last dollar that the next day, your muscle will be so sore that you have not experienced such aches for a long time. Have you dropped with fatigue? Not yet? Then let's go on.
- Pyramid Up
This is the reverse of the drop sets whereby you start off with a lighter weight and higher reps. Then increase the weight in the next set and lift until fatigued. And repeat the sequence until you can't even do a single lift in the next set of heavier weight.
If you dare... try this. Do a pyramid up and then at the heaviest, start to drop set from there. That means you are doing both pyramiding and drop setting in that particular exercise (super set). Then tell me how your muscles feel the next day.
- Super Sets
When you perform a super set, you perform two exercises one right after the other with little or no rest in between. For example, you could do a triceps extension and immediately follow up by a barbell curl. You may choose to work super sets on opposing muscles like the example given or on the same muscles such as a bench press followed by Incline bench press. Or a compound exercise followed by an isolated one or vice versa. There many other ways of supersetting for as many valid reasons and so will be quite impossible to discuss them here.
Similar to super sets will be tri-sets and giant sets meaning 3 (tri) or more exercises
performed right after one another. But these will be more for endurance, cardio and fat
loss rather than muscle building as your muscles will be too tired to perform at its
- Forced Reps
Forced reps are, well, forced reps. You force your muscles to work beyond their normal capacity. Say if you can perform a bar bell curl at 20 kg x 8reps, with forced reps, a spotter will assist your lift after you fatigued at the 8th rep and you may continue to forced your way until the 12th rep with his help. This is definitely going to stress your muscles so much that they are forced to grow.
Word of caution. The exercises above will tax your muscles tremendously and having a spotter is definitely recommended. The spotter will help you in performing the exercises in proper form when under tremendous stress and at the same time, you are lifting more intensely than you normally would and would help you to prevent injuries.
Ahhhhh... before I forget, do bring along a pail when performing these exercises especially if you are concentrating on compound movements like squats. Why? In case you puke! SFO
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