When I first started weight training, it was all about ego lifting; pushing as heavy as humanly possible to impress my friends, and the girls in the gym of course. I mean, how ridiculous is that? But looking back, I cannot believe how lucky I am that I did not suffer any major injuries because of my poor form.

The older I got however, the more aches and niggles I started to get, whether in the joints, the tendons or in the muscles. While I do still believe in going heavy, as my body does respond well to it, I have shifted my focus from pushing heavy for going heavy’s sake to focus more on good form while incorporating training techniques which are designed to elicit the use of more muscle fibers and to subject them to a greater workload.

In this article I would like to run you through 3 of my favourite intensity techniques to help promote hypertrophy.

1. Assisted Negative-Focus Reps

Negative reps are the eccentric portion of a rep where the muscle goes from a contracted position to an elongated position. In this phase of a lift, the muscle under load is subjected to more trauma than in the concentric portion of the lift.

According to studies, it is thought that the muscle can handle up to 1.75 times more weight in the negative phase of the lift than in the concentric phase. What this means is that with assisted negative-focussed reps you can subject your muscles to a far greater load and therefore trauma. More trauma equals more growth.

There are two ways to do this, either you can load the bar with a greater weight than you are able to lift and slowly lower it through the negative portion (2-3 seconds), and then have your training partner assist you to get the weight back up through the positive portion of the lift; or you can use a weight with which you can perform 10-12 reps and slowly lower the weight on the negative portion of the lift (5 seconds) and then press it back up. You should be able to get roughly 6 reps with this weight. Whichever method you opt for, a trainer partner is required to help spot.

2. Drop Sets

Drop sets are an excellent way to push your body past muscular failure and to stimulate a greater number of muscle fibers. In order to perform a drop set, you simply have to perform an exercise until failure, and then immediately lower the weight and continue to perform the exercise. Depending on your mental toughness, you can do a single, double or even a triple drop in weight. Just make sure that you push yourself to failure with each set.

A would suggest performing a drop set only on your last working set of each exercise or you may risk overtraining. An example of a drop set of a tricep pushdown would like something like this:

  • Tricep pushdown – 80kgs x reps until failure
  • Drop weight – 65kgs x reps until failure
  • Drop weight further – 50kgs x reps until failure

The amount of weight you drop depends on the number of reps you wish to perform in each set, however, I would suggest dropping the weight by between 20-30% with each drop so as to try and stay within the hypertrophy range of 8-12 reps.

3. Compound or Giant Sets

My third and final favourite training technique is to perform compound and giant sets. Compound sets are performed by doing two exercises which work the same muscle group back to back while giant sets are performed by doing 3 or more exercises back to back with little to no rest in between.
I would start by incorporating compound sets into a routine for a few weeks before moving on to giant sets. For compound and giant sets, it is suggested to start with a big compound lift followed by isolation exercises to really drive the blood into the muscle and work a larger amount of muscle fibers.

The main thing when it comes to stimulating new muscle growth is to continually progress in your training. This doesn’t mean that lifting heavier and heavier is the only way to go. By incorporating training techniques like these, you may be able to ward off joint, tendon and muscle pain while still getting in a challenging workout.

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