Have you reached a mental wall when it comes to getting the motivation you need to go to the gym? Do you feel like you’ve reached a plateau and your weight is at a stand still? If you’re tired of doing the same thing, the same way, with the same weight, then this is the article that might make going to the gym a little bit more exciting next time.
Personally, I find it fun to experiment with different ways to lift when I’m at the gym and I constantly seek to learn new credible techniques. Everybody gets bored with their workouts from time to time, and I’m no exception – I am always switching up my routine. Whether your goal is to lose weight, maintain and tone, or to build muscle, these training styles will benefit you and help keep you out of a workout slump.
What is a Negative, or Eccentric Exercise? The best way to understand a negative exercise is to imagine doing a dumb-bell curl. As you pull the weight up to your shoulder, you are performing the positive, or concentric, motion of the exercise. As you lower the dumb-bell, you are performing the negative, or eccentric, motion.
How it’s done: For any given weight lifting exercise, use a steady positive motion and a much slower and steady negative motion. It is extremely important that you do not over extend yourself with too much weight and too long of a negative motion. This is important because as your muscles engage in the negative motion, they use less oxygen and less muscle fiber. Because of this, the weight puts more strain on the fiber and can cause injury – and we want to avoid any injury! This is not a recommended exercise for beginners or novice weight-lifters. You have to have a plan and this plan must include knowing your limits and respecting them. Don’t forget to control your breathing properly during every rep and make sure you never squeeze the weights too tight – this can raise your blood pressure make you dizzy if you aren’t careful.
Why it works: Because your muscles use less fiber and oxygen on the negative motion, they are under more strain and break apart more easily. As your muscles heal, they are creating more fibers, making you stronger. It is important to let your muscles rest and fully rebuild.
What is Periodization? Periodization is the breaking up of your workout routine into cycles. These cycles should be personalized to your individual training and fitness goals.
How it’s done: Break your training routine into cycles (microcycles every 1-7 days, mesocycles every 1-3 months, or macrocycles every 6-12 months) and manipulate as many variables as possible: sets, reps, exercises, rest periods, weight and tempo (how fast or slow you exercise). Here’s an example (you can replace any variable):
WEEK 1: Three sets, light weight, fast tempo
WEEK 2: Three sets, moderate weight, medium tempo
WEEK 3: Four sets, heavier weight, slow tempo
WEEK 4: Rest or do cardio activities only
Why it works: Periodization brings new stimulation to the table, so your neuromuscular system never adapts. By allowing yourself a long rest period and utilizing “muscle confusion,” you prevent injury and improve endurance, strength and sports performance all in one.
- DROP SETS (BURN-OUTS)
What is a Drop Set? A drop set is basically reaching absolute muscle failure by continually lowering weight after sets (without resting) until you can virtually no longer lift even the lightest weight.
How it’s done: When you reach failure (lifting until you can’t do one more rep) with the weight being used, decrease the weight by 10% and continue lifting. Do this until you can no longer lift at all.
For example: Do as many squats as you can with a 15 pound weight in each hand, then drop them. Pick up a 10- 12 pound weight and continue doing as many as you can with this weight until failure, working your way down to five pound weights. Rest for one to two minutes and repeat three to four sets. You can either lift normally with your initial sets and end with a drop-set, or start heavy and make every set a drop set.
Why it works: Presumably, your body is only recruiting enough muscle fibers to perform the immediate task (you only reach failure with that particular weight). By decreasing the weight and continuing, you recruit the ‘reserve’ muscle fibers and nerves that have not yet fired. You’re essentially breaking more muscle fibers, leaving your body to repair more. If there’s more muscle to repair, your body rebuilds thinking that it must compensate where in it failed – thus creating bigger muscles.
- CIRCUIT TRAINING
What is Circuit Training? This type of training method is pretty self-explanatory – utilizing a full body workout, you exercise each muscle group into a circuit until the circuit is complete.
How it’s done: Circuit training is perfect for people trying to lose weight or improve their endurance. Pick a single exercise for each muscle group, starting from largest to smallest (legs, back, chest, shoulders, tricep, then bicep). Starting with the leg exercise, do as many as you can in 30 seconds. Immediately switch to a back exercise, and do as many as you can for 30 seconds. Continue down the muscle line until you do a total body circuit. Rest is minimal, 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat this circuit four to five times to burn a lot of calories quickly. This routine can be done with strength exercises, plyometric power moves, or a combination of both.
Why it works: Because you’re moving around nonstop, your heart rate remains elevated. This burns a ton of calories during and after, in such a short amount of time. It’s perfect for those with little time on their hands, but will require dedication and motivation.
What is a Super-Set? Super-sets are very similar to circuit training. In fact, it is basically circuit training for weight lifting. Instead of resting between each set and continuing onto the next one to perform the same exercise you just did, you move onto an entirely different exercise within the same or opposing muscle group (biceps & triceps). Super-setting usually involves 4-6 exercises involving the same or opposing muscle group. Rest in-between super-sets.
How it’s done: For this routine you’ll want to use moderate to heavy weights. What you are doing is picking two different exercises for the same or opposing muscle group. Example of opposing: doing bicep curls and immediately doing tricep extensions. After you finish your 3-4 sets with those two exercises, pick another exercise for each muscle group (like concentration curls and tricep kickbacks) and super-set between them. Usually 4 to 5 super-sets is all it takes to give you the pump you are looking for.
Why it works: By doubling up the workload, you’re extorting your nerve and muscle fibers to work beyond their normal capacity, which boosts growth and strength. You also raise and maintain a higher heart rate by super-setting.
Comment below and let me know which one you liked the most, I’d love to hear from you. I’ll also pay close attention to any questions you may have.
I know my favorite is “negatives” – if done correctly and with respect to avoiding injury, they build some serious muscle. And ladies, as long as you’re keeping your reps anywhere from 10-12, you won’t get too big… and you’ll tone up quite nicely too.