It happens to all of us… the inevitable process of hitting the dreaded plateau which halts muscle growth/progress.
And it’s bound to happen after your body has responded to progressive training stimuli for so long. But the good news is, you can stimulate new gains by modifying your training routine and implementing new techniques/methods.
Some of you may already include these different training variations on the list and that’s great. Hopefully, we’re able to provide you with some additional information on the benefits and why you should continue to practice them.
Otherwise, there’s some great information for people who are new to these effective training principles.
Check out these 8 awesome training techniques/methods for continued growth…
1- Cheat Reps
You probably hear/read it all the time… “Always use perfect form and don’t cheat”. And you definitely should maintain proper form for the majority of your training for safety and to ensure the target muscle is doing the work.
However, this way of training is not always conducive to achieving maximum gains.
How so? The perfect form doesn’t provide the same amount of maximum muscle fiber recruitment/overload that a little momentum would, mainly during the eccentric (negative) portion of a repetition.
And maximizing the effectiveness of the eccentric phase by placing more weight load on the muscle as it lengthens can induce more muscle growth according to research! (1)
So to perform cheat reps, you should be using weight heavier than you normally would for a particular exercise, like with the barbell curl for example. So, the concentric (positive) portion of the rep should involve just enough momentum to get the weight up safely. The negative should be slow and controlled.
And lowering the weight slowly will allow you to maximally stimulate those muscle fibers.
So, the focus here is the weight and don’t let anyone tell you the weight doesn’t matter. It sure as heck does, but of course, you want to use cheat reps strategically without compromising your safety.
2- More Unilateral Training
Unilateral (affecting one side) training is so very important for performance improvement and overall fitness. It improves balance/muscular imbalance, core stability, functionality, sports performance, and is even extremely helpful for rehabilitation; which are definite reasons why you need more of this type of training.
But, another neat fact about unilateral training is that if you’re in the process of rehabbing an injury, isolating one side of a muscle results in a neural process called cross-education of muscles. And so what happens during this process is that when you train one side of a muscle, the opposite side is indirectly stimulated (pretty cool right). (2)
So this is very beneficial when you’re not able to train both sides together. But, it’s such an awesome and insightful occurrence that you should be convinced of the necessity for unilateral training as part of a serious training routine. And rest assured, you’ll see improvements in all areas.
3- Don’t Be Afraid Of Machines
Machines are often shunned by the gym meatheads who think free weights are the only option for getting huge!
But they couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, machines can offer a few advantages over free weights (you definitely heard correctly).
For one, machines don’t require as much stabilization which means you can focus more on lifting the weight rather than trying to balance and lift. But machines actually increase stability, they’re relatively easier to use with no prior skill requirements necessary, you don’t need a spotter which means you can train heavier more safely, and the movements are pretty straightforward (pun intended). (3, 4)
And another benefit of machine use is that their use can improve motor skill development making it an effective prelude to learning and progressing with free weight exercises; which are a must for maximum physical development and performance.
Tip: Use machines that allow a freer range of movement which many of the modern pieces of equipment are capable of.
4- Drop Sets
Pretty much anyone who has been training for a while knows what a drop set or strip set is. But if you don’t…
It’s generally a training method where you perform a certain number of reps with a heavier weight until you’ve reached failure. Then you immediately drop the weight and continue to perform more reps until failure again. You can then continue this pattern a few additional times until you’ve reached the desired number of reps.
And the idea here is to be able to keep cranking out the reps to extend the time under tension and muscle fiber overload. Now, you don’t have to reach failure every time you attempt a drop set but the general concept of “stripping” the weight should ideally remain the same.
But an important point to remember is that drop sets should not be used excessively as overtraining can occur. And really, the purpose of a drop set is to introduce a different stimulus (shock) to the target muscle/s.
And according to ACE research, drop sets increase mechanical and metabolic fatigue which are both essential components for muscle growth; since it increases acidosis which breaks down muscle tissue and elicits a repair response for new growth. (6)
Another notable benefit of utilizing drop sets is that this training method increases nervous system activity by enhancing motor units through continuous repetition.
So, make sure to incorporate drop sets into your workout routine to push your muscles past their previous limits!
5- More Isolation Exercises
If you’re the type who prefers to stick with the basic compound exercises… then good for you! You’ve got the right idea.
But… we don’t want you to leave any gains on the table so just hear us out on why more isolation exercises can help you to progress and experience some new muscle growth.
Many studies have been conducted by the American Council On Exercise (ACE) where university researchers have tested the effectiveness of several common exercises using electromyographic (EMG) testing. And it turned out that the exercises which isolated the muscle the most saw better EMG activity.
One example is the concentration curl which outperformed the barbell curl in the study because it allows you to isolate the muscle better without involving other muscles.
Now, although the isolation exercises generally fared better overall for EMG activity the aforementioned studies, that doesn’t mean you should only do isolation movements. Compound exercises obviously have many muscle-building and strength advantages over isolation movements as well.
So, using a combination of both is the best way to achieve maximum results.
6- Use Full Range Of Motion For The Exercise, Not The Joint
Range of motion is a very misunderstood aspect of training for many because a lot of gym-goers just follow what everyone says is the best way to train, and as a result, they leave gains on the table.
And we’ll explain why…
Range of motion for an exercise does not mean range of motion for a joint! You have to find an ideal range that allows you to fully stimulate the muscle and not shortchange your potential for making maximum gains.
Just because a joint can move and extend through its entire range of motion, doesn’t mean this will maximally stimulate a muscle and keep the tension where it needs to be.
For example, (And you’ll see this in the video we’ve provided) during a dumbbell tricep kickback, many people will overbend the elbow and curl the dumbbell before extending the arm back and flexing the tricep.
This is completely unnecessary and it’s a waste of energy to be quite honest. So, it’s very important to understand when a muscle is completely activated and when it’s not during a repetition.
Check out this video where Jeff Cavaliere, MSPT, CSCS explains why using a “full range of motion could be killing your gains”!
7- Do Periodization Training
A Periodization routine/program involves multiple cycles and phases where each focuses on a specific training goal followed be Deloading phases to prevent overtraining.
This method manipulates essentially all training variables in an effort to optimize every aspect of an effective training routine to result in maximum muscle growth and strength.
Many lifters find that they cannot effectively make progress either because they’re not training hard enough, they’re overtraining, or both. So, following an effective periodization program will ensure you experience the gains you desire.
Now, many comparative studies have concluded that periodized training provides strength, body composition improvement, and motor performance advantages over non-periodized training. (9)
But, not all will yield the same results as periodization training should be structured appropriately to elicit desired results.
And consider Renaissance periodization for an excellent program that is sure to yield results.
8- Consider A Clean Bulk
Bulking exists for a reason. It works amazingly well for adding muscle as quickly as possible. Now, the human body can only put on so much muscle in a certain period of time, so there has to be a strategy put in place to ensure we don’t gain too much body fat.
And the general idea of bulk is to consume a surplus of calories (with an ideal macronutrient ratio of course); which is conducive to muscle growth. But this process does indeed result in a little extra fat gain (it’s hard not to gain muscle in a reasonable timeframe and only put on lean muscle).
But that’s why we go through a cutting phase afterward which will get rid of that extra fat mass so that we can reveal the hard work we’ve been putting in at the gym. Hence the reason why keeping fat to a minimum will make the process so much easier and stress-free for you.
Now, 3,500 calories are generally believed to equal roughly one pound of bodyweight. So, you want to make sure you’re consuming an ideal amount of calories every day to support the bulking process. (10)
But according to research, macronutrient (protein, carbs, and fats) quantities do matter regarding body composition and one study showed that consuming more protein has a protective effect against the accumulation of fat gain in a caloric surplus. (11)
This finding also suggests that protein may be the difference-maker for promoting positive changes in body composition. And this is very helpful information based on scientific research.
Check out our awesome bulking guide for more information on how to do an effective bulk.
We hope you found this information helpful for your own training progress. And we can assure you that implementing these techniques/methods (if you haven’t already) will make a noticeable difference.
Now, you don’t have to do everything all at once, so just incorporate one or a few at a time to start. But, just make sure you’re practicing these techniques/methods safely and properly to ensure you reap the benefits while avoiding injury.
Continuing to make progress is entirely possible even if you’ve hit a plateau but it’s vital that you change things up a bit every now and then to force new growth!