5 Training Hacks to Gain More Strength and Muscle Mass
Hitting the gym, we all have one goal - to get stronger. We pump iron, perform intense cardio sessions, and eat sensibly to gain muscle mass and strength. After a while; however, the growth curve begins to flatten out as the body gets accustomed to the daily grinding, and soon, there is no tangible increase in either the muscle mass or body strength. Sounds bad, right? Well, reaching a training plateau simply means that you need to update the workout program and keep challenging your body. To help, here are five training methods that won’t fail you ever in the pursuit of a stronger, muscular physique.
1. Back-off Sets
Back-off sets methodology requires you to perform a higher-repetition set (otherwise known as the back-off set) with lighter weights once you have completed 2 to 4 sets with your max lifting weight. You can drop the weight by as much as 40 percent and then do as many reps as possible and as quickly as you can. Studies have shown that lifting heavy weight earlier effectively excites the nerves responsible for muscle engagement. Subsequently, doing back-off sets compels the muscle fibers to work even harder and spark muscle growth.
2. The 5% Method
Although the 5-percent method sounds fairly complicated, it is one of the most effective methods to stimulate body growth. All you have to do is select the weight range that you can lift for 8 reps and then perform four sets of 7 repetitions each while resting for three minutes between sets. Thereafter, follow the same methodology for the next two workouts; however, increase the lifting weight by 5-percent in each session and reduce the reps by one. In the fourth session, perform sets of 7 reps again with the weight used in the second workout.
To help you get a grasp on the 5-percent workout, here is a sample workout itinerary:
- Workout 1: four sets of 7 reps with 100lbs
- Workout 2: four sets of 6 reps with 105 lbs
- Workout 3: four sets of 5 reps with 110 lbs
- Workout 4: four sets of 7 reps with 105 lbs
3. The Patient-Lifter's Method
Often, gym-goers hit a plateau because they continue to train over and over with the same weights and rep structure. For such individuals, patient-lifter’s method helps challenge the body and trigger fast results. In this training methodology, you need to identify your 2-rep max (weight range that you can lift for not more than two reps) and do six sets of two repetitions while resting for 2 minutes between sets. Thereafter, try to perform six sets of four reps in your next workout. In case you end up completing only two or three sets of three or four reps, don’t lose heart but keep repeating the workout until you can do four repetitions for all six sets. At that point, your 2-rep max will become your 4-rep max and you will be able to lift more for any rep range.
4. Cluster Repetitions
Cluster repetitions, as the title suggests, is the methodology of performing exercise sets with a weight that you can lift for two or three reps at maximum (this weight is usually 80 percent of your one-rep max), to engage more muscle fiber groups at once than what was possible earlier. To ensure maximum workout efficacy, you need to perform 10 one-rep sets with the weight and rest for 30 seconds between sets. Studies have shown that cluster repetitions help ensure sustained muscle growth because of increased muscle atrophy. You can also combine this workout methodology with Diminished-rest Interval Training for maximum strength gain and muscle-growth effect.
5. Inverted Sets and Reps
Many advanced level fitness athletes and bodybuilders use inverted sets and reps methodology to improve muscle definition before competitions. In case you are experiencing a lifting plateau you can use this scheme to gain muscle mass and definition. You need to take your current set/rep scheme (for example - three sets of ten reps each) and flip it so that your number of reps become your number of sets and vice versa. Therefore, your three sets of ten reps will become 10 sets of three reps each. In addition, you need to reduce the rest period to only about 20 to 30 seconds as you are doing lesser repetitions, but more sets than before.
Gym workouts are all about the pump and elation that you get after successfully lifting more weight than the previous sessions. While making gradual progression in terms of weight lifted is a desirable workout trait, often gym-goers stick to one kind of set/rep scheme and limit their potential for muscle growth. You need to mix up your exercise program with different workout methodologies and recovery periods to maximize your strength and muscle definition. By incorporating one or all methods described in this post, you can easily avoid plateaus and take your strength levels and muscle size to an all-time high.