By Flex Staff
We’ve compiled 25 fresh workout tips to help you get what you want most: more muscle. Included here are both cutting-edge advances and new angles on proven favorites. These are methods you probably aren’t incorporating — but should, to get bigger faster.
1. GO HIGH AND LOW
When you train high/low, you either alternate high-rep (12-20) sets of an exercise with low-rep (four to eight) sets of the same exercise, or you do all high-rep sets of one exercise followed by all low-rep sets of the next, switching back and forth throughout your workout. Use this technique occasionally to alter your rep pattern.
2. TAKE A STAND
Some exercisescan be performed standing or seated, and both methods have advantages, yet most trainers choose the seated versions. Jay Cutler, for one, likes to do shoulder presses standing to receive additional core work and incorporate momentum to cheat a few final reps.
3. DO STRONGMAN CARDIO
Add the farmer’s walk to your cardio regimen. Hold moderate to heavy dumbbells at your sides with your abs pulled and take long strides, walking until you can no longer grip the dumbbells. Rest 90 seconds each time you fail and then go again, striding for 10-20 minutes total. This gives you the calorie burning of cardio while increasing your grip and core strength.
4. GET YOUR FILL OF FILL SETS
Try hitting a lagging bodypart with one or two sets of 20-50 reps two or three days after that bodypart’s regular workout. These “fill sets” bring nourishing blood to the muscles to aid recovery and growth.
5. MAKE AND BREAK RECORDS
Consistently beating your previous bests is the surest way to increase not just strength, but also size, and keeping a workout logbook allows you to focus on precise strength goals each time you enter the gym. Throughout his Olympia reign, Dorian Yates was a loyal “logger.”
6. GIVE TRAPS A WORKOUT
Your trapezius is a relatively large muscle, so treat it accordingly. It gets work during compound exercises like deadlifts, upright rows and shoulder presses, so it may not require a plethora of isolation lifts, but, even if you do just four sets of dumbbell shrugs, always think of it as a trapezius workout, deserving of your full focus and maximum intensity, instead of as merely a few sets you throw in after delts.
7. STRETCH TILL IT HURTS
David Henry and other Doggcrapp adherents believe static stretches of 60-90 seconds performed in a deep (and painful) position soon after training a bodypart will boost flexibility and recovery, and may also lead directly to greater muscle size via fascia expansion.
8. CLEAN UP
The power clean is a compound, free-weight lift that allows you to pack on the plates and work several major bodyparts at once. In other words, it’s an excellent exercise, and yet bodybuilders avoid it like distance running. Add cleans to your back or traps routine.
9. INCORPORATE REST-PAUSE
Rest-pause is a neglected technique for pushing your sets beyond failure. When you can’t get another rep, set the weight down or hold it in a resting position just long enough to regain a limited amount of strength (about 15-20 seconds). Then eke out another two to four reps until you reach failure again. Repeat this pattern a second time, getting one or two additional reps.
10. DIFFERENT ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER
Ronnie Coleman has done virtually the same workouts for more than 15 years. Variety can spice up your workouts, shocking your muscles into expansion, but if you’re continually growing stronger in one exercise, don’t drop it for another merely for the sake of doing something new. Find the exercises that work best for you, and use them until you reach a plateau.
11. HEAT UP
As reported in our Gym Bag (April 2007), scientific research on heat shock proteins indicates they may boost muscle growth. To increase HSP levels in your muscles, sit in a sauna or soak in a hot tub or hot bath after a hard training session. Ingest 500-1,000 milligrams of vitamin C, 400-800 international units of vitamin E and 200-300 mg of alpha-lipoic acid postworkout to combat the free radicals that can stifle heat shock protein-induced growth.
12. THERE ARE NO “SHAPING” EXERCISES
Weight training is for gaining muscle mass; diet and cardio are what bring out the details. Don’t get the two confused. Even if you’re doing so-called “shaping” exercises, such as cable crossovers or leg raises, your focus should be on muscle growth.
13. PREPARE FOR BATTLE
Give your body the fuel it needs to work hard: ingest 20 grams of whey protein, 5 g of creatine and 20-40 g of slow-digesting carbs within 30 minutes before your workout.
14. PREPARE FOR RECUPERATION
Fuel for recovery is also important: ingest 40 g of whey protein, 60-100 g of fast-digesting carbs, 5 g of creatine and five to 10 g of glutamine within 30 minutes after your workout.
15. SLOW DOWN
Try using a significantly lighter weight than usual, but take five to 10 seconds to lower it and five to 10 seconds to raise it, emphasizing a full stretch and contraction. In this way, training lighter is harder.
16. PRE-EXHAUST DEADLIFTS
Victor Martinez usually ends his back workouts with deadlifts (three sets of 10 reps), as did Yates (one set of eight reps). As a bodybuilder concerned more with growth than strength, try moving deadlifts (sets of eight to 10 reps) to the middle or end of your back routine. Of course, you won’t be as strong in deads if they follow rows and pulldowns, but you will focus this compound lift more on your pre-exhausted back and less on your glutes and thighs.
17. MAKE YOUR RECUPERATION PROACTIVE
You might think the best way to recover from workouts is to lie on your back. In fact, there are several things you can do that are better than nothing. Low-intensity activities like walking, swimming and cycling can increase blood flow and aid recuperation, as can stretching and massage.
18. YOU DON’T HAVE TO ________
Mass-gaining guides often say you need to squat, deadlift and bench press to maximize gains. These are excellent exercises, and most trainers will see benefits from doing them regularly. However, sometimes an exercise just isn’t right for your physique. You don’t have to do any particular lifts. Find the ones that work best for you, and make them the focus of your workouts.
19. DO CARDIO LAST
If you pair cardio with your weight-training workouts, do it after you hit the iron. This order makes certain the cardio doesn’t fatigue your muscles. It also burns more fat because weight training has already depleted your muscles’ glycogen, and a study shows this order raises your growth hormone to a higher level than the reverse order.
20. ALTER OLD FAVORITES
We tend to get in a groove with exercises, taking the same grip and stance each time and covering the same range of motion. If we’re using proper form, this keeps us in a productive, safe motion rep after rep. But your body may be too comfortable, and altering your stance, grip or range of motion can provide just the new stimulation you need. For example, a narrower squat stance targets your outer quads more, close-grip bench presses focus on your triceps and inner chest, and top deadlifts in a power rack hit your traps more and your legs less.
21. 21S AREN’T JUST FOR BICEPS
You’re probably familiar with 21-curls — biceps curls performed by first doing seven partial reps from full stretch to halfway up, then seven from halfway up to full contraction, then seven full reps. As Tony Freeman advocates, this same principle can be applied to other exercises, such as leg curls and calf raises. (Also note that, blackjack aside, there’s nothing special about 21; you can do 15s, 30s or any other number divisible by three.)
22. STRIKE A POSE
Whether or not you ever intend to enter a bodybuilding contest, one of the best ways to increase your mind/muscle connection is to practice posing in front of a mirror. Maximally flex your muscles in the eight compulsory poses. Focus on the feelings and how subtle changes of positioning alter these sensations, indicating that you’re contracting other muscles or different fibers in the same muscle. The more you pose, the better you can target exercises to specific areas.
23. USE YOUR OWN WEIGHT
Some seemingly easy bodyweight lifts are effective and convenient as the last half of supersets. For example, you can do pushups just after flyes, bench dips just after triceps extensions or weightless lunges just after leg presses.
24. RESCUE BAD WORKOUTS WITH A “STINGER”
Sometimes, for whatever reason, your workout just doesn’t go as well as planned. If you haven’t stressed a bodypart enough, add something such as a long drop set, a superset or an additional exercise performed for high reps. This “stinger” will give the understressed muscle(s) a final shock.
25. DO NOTHING
When strength and/or growth gains stop, don’t keep doing the same thing the same way. You need to alter parameters, such as reps, exercises or training frequency, to travel a different route to muscle growth. One suggestion is to do nothing — literally. Once or twice per year, spend up to two weeks away from the gym and, when you return, you should find your intensity is revitalized.
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