Weight Lifting Routines

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Weight Lifting Routines

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Advanced weight lifting routines

As we have seen, there are a number of different ways of arranging your sets and repetitions. All have their merits and ultimately aim to achieve the same goal: overload. Set (see here) and pyramid training(see here) form the core of any weight lifting routine for strength, power, size or muscular endurance. However, as your body gets used to doing the same types of sets week after week, intensity tends to fall - even if you do manipulate the components of SMART training (for details of setting SMART foals see here). To avoid this, use one or more of the advanced weight lifting routines listed on the below in place of your usual workout.

The objective of all of the advanced weight lifting routines is to perform a few more repetitions after you have reached failure. In other words, they allow you to train with greater intensity, thus helping to increase muscle size and muscle strength. There are no hard-and-fast rules on how often you should use these advanced weight lifting routines as everyone responds differently. For best results, limit any one method to a short time period to shock your muscles when your training plateaus, and decrease your training volume to reduce the risk of overtraining and injury. To avoid overuse, use a periodised training programme, cycling weeks of low-intensity, higher-repetition training with high-intensity training that uses one or more of the advanced methods.

Eccentric training (negatives)

In eccentric training, a spotter assists you in lifting the bar (the concentric phase), and then you control the weight on the eccentric (lowering) phase. This technique allows you to use a heavier weight (110-160% 1RM) so should be performed after a thorough warm­up and particularly at the end of a set after you have reached muscular failure. Focus on lowering the weight very slowly.

The principle behind this technique is that it produces greater muscle growth than conventional (concentric) training techniques. During an eccentric contraction there is more mechanical load per motor unit. As a result, eccentric training can generate up to two­thirds more tension in the muscle than concentric training. Increased tension provides a greater stimulus to the muscle fibres, which, in turn, means greater strength and growth.
As this is a very intense training method, limit eccentric training to one exercise per muscle group in any one workout, performing it at the end of only one or two sets. You will need to allow longer rest intervals between sets, and following hard eccentric training you will experience greater muscle soreness because of the greater resulting muscle fibre damage. Recovery may take up to ten days, so you should allow at least 10-14 days between muscle group workouts employing this technique. For example, if you perform eccentric training on the chest on Monday, do not use it for the chest again for two weeks.

Forced, or assisted rep training

With forced rep training you enlist the help of a spotter so that you can continue past the point of failure and therefore can complete a couple of extra repetitions. The spotter should give just enough support to keep the weight moving through the sticking point.

You should only use this training technique for the last 1 or 2 reps of your heaviest sets, and should be able to complete at least 6 reps on your own in the correct form before the spotter assists you. If you cannot complete 6 reps, reduce the weight.

The advantage of forced rep training is that you can work past the point of muscular failure and thus increase the overload. For example, if you can normally complete 6 reps at 70 kg on the bench press, the forced rep training method may enable you to complete 8 reps, thus increasing the amount of stress that your pectorals receive. Whether this ultimately results in greater muscle size, however, is a controversial issue.

Forced reps should only be used during intense training cycles and you should limit this method to once a week per muscle group.

Descending (drop) sets

This method is particularly useful for reaching overload if you are training without a partner or spotter and cannot use eccentric or forced rep training.

With descending sets you complete as many repetitions in strict form as you can, then - without resting - you reduce the weight by 20-50% and continue performing repetitions (usually 4-6) until you reach the point of failure again. Repeat this process if you wish.

Again, the objective is to stimulate as many motor units as possible. The first reps, performed with a heavy weight, stimulates the FT muscles fibres; subsequent reps performed with lighter weights stimulate mainly ST fibres. So this method allows you to train for strength, muscle size and muscular endurance within the same set.

This method is safest for exercises with dumbbells and machines since you need to be able to return the weight safely and quickly when your muscles have reached failure. Examples of suitable exercises include: leg extensions, leg curls, dumbbell presses, fIyes, lateral raises, dumbbell biceps curls, lat pull­downs, seated rows and triceps push-downs. For example, if you are performing a set of lateral raises with 10 kg dumbbells, complete as many reps as you can in strict form - say, 8. Return the dumbbells to the floor, pick up a pair of 7.5 kg dumbbells and perform as many as you can until you reach failure - say, 5. Repeat with 5 kg dumbbells.

Since this method is very fatiguing, it should only be used for selected exercises and only for the last 1-2 sets, providing maximum stimulation to the muscle when it is fatigued. You will need to leave slightly longer rest intervals between descending sets (say 2-3 minutes) and reduce the total number of sets per muscle group. Again, use this method sparingly, once every three weeks. The 3-way split workout (advanced) program incorporates descending sets.

Superset training

This involves performing two or more exercises for a given body part in a row, and there are two methods:

  • supersets for the same muscle group.
  • supersets for opposing muscle groups.

The first method involves two or more exercises for the same muscle group - for example, dumbbell shoulder press followed by lateral raises and upright rows for the shoulders. The advantage is that the stress on the muscle is increased as the muscle can be worked from slightly different angles, thus involving more muscle fibres. It also increases the blood flow to the muscle due to the increased energy demand, providing greater stimulation for muscle size. However, this type of superset training should not be used for every body part or at every workout as it is very intense and may lead to overtraining.

The second and less intense method involves performing two exercises for opposing muscle groups - for example, biceps curls followed by triceps extensions, or leg extensions followed by leg curls. The advantage of this method is that the blood is kept within the same area of the body, thus encouraging a greater flow and bringing more fuel, oxygen and nutrients to the muscle. Since the rest period is eliminated, it is also a good way of reducing your workout time, particularly useful if you have only a limited period in which to train.

Unlike super setting the same muscle group, this method does not significantly increase the muscle overload. However, it does increase the demands on your cardiovascular system since the rest periods are greatly reduced, and can therefore help to improve lactic acid tolerance, raise the anaerobic threshold and develop better stamina.

Following each superset you should take a 2-3 minute rest. An example of superset workout is given in 2-way split workout with supersets program.

Pre-exhaustion training

With pre-exhaustion training the larger muscle (prime mover) is partially exhausted by performing an isolation exercise prior to performing the compound exercise. For example, performing fIyes before bench presses pre exhausts the pectorals so that when you perform the bench presses, your pectorals will fatigue before, or at the same time as, the triceps and front deltoids. (You will probably need to reduce the weight you use for the bench presses.) There is no need to change the rest intervals between sets. The objective is to change the usual recruitment pattern of the muscle fibres involved and enable you to stimulate more muscle.

Like other advanced weight lifting programmes, pre­exhaustion training should only be used for selected exercises and you should limit this method to once a week per muscle group. Here is the sample workout.

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Setting up a Weight Lifting Routine