If you’ve hit the gym to get stronger, build muscle and be the best version of you, then well done – you’ve taken the hardest step already. But you need to keep up the momentum. Whether you’re a seasoned lifter, or new to the game, the same principles apply: if you’re not progressing in every session then you’re standing still and risk going backwards. That’s because your muscles adapt, so you need to keep hitting them with new training stimuli.
Most gym-goers realise this, of course, which is why you’ll see people piling weight plates onto the bar like they’re pizzas. Such enthusiasm is commendable, but this is where the wrong kind of ‘cheating’ reps comes in, as good exercise form suffers and you recruit the wrong muscles into the lift, risking injury and losing exercise effectiveness. Take it from us, getting injured is the worst progress killer!
Fortunately, you don’t have to go there because RSNG has teamed up with Leon Jason, fight and strength & conditioning coach at London’s Fight City Gym, to come up with some legit cheats to use in the weights room – to create true muscle overload and provide the conditions for growth – without inviting injury. As a time-saving bonus, most of them can be performed with the humble dumb-bell…
1. Count To 21
Full disclosure: this one requires you to do more than count! ‘The 21 Method is a great technique to use when you want to work the entire bicep effectively, by splitting the range of motion to focus on building strength at different phases of the movement,’ says Leon Jason. This mega set of 21 reps involves doing the bottom half of a bicep curl for the first seven reps, the top half for the next seven reps, and then the full range for the final seven reps. ‘It’s an all-encompassing and burning workout that will hit your biceps and leave you feeling great.’
2. Build A Pyramid
The magic ingredient when working out to add lean muscle is Time Under Tension. If that’s your goal then you need to recalibrate slightly to think less about the total weight that you’re lifting and more about the total time each rep is putting the muscle under tension for. One way to boost this metric (while also getting used to lifting heavier) is with Pyramid Sets, where you increase the weight and decrease the reps with each set.
‘Say, for example, you’re doing a shoulder press; start with a low weight that you can do a lot of reps with, then increase the weight and decrease the number of reps. Changing the reps and weight of your training will lead to a more varied and well-rounded workout,’ says Leon. Just make sure you never go to failure on the lead-up sets – they will also act as a thorough warm up for the muscle you are working.
‘A giant set is an absolute killer of a workout that will help you achieve maximum results’
3. Arms Blast
One of Jason’s favourite ways to really get the pump into your arms, and provide the conditions for growth, is his ‘Arms Blast’ AKA a giant set. ‘It’s an absolute killer of a workout that will leave you achieving maximum results in a short amount of time. It should take no more than 30 minutes and hit all muscle groups in the arms.’
The arms blast involves doing five sets of different exercises with 15 reps each, back to back. ‘Repeat these three times with a one-minute rest between giant sets. Combine any five arm exercises e.g. bicep curls, tricep extensions, forearm curls, skull crushers and incline curls,’ says Jason.
4. Join The Resistance
You’ve probably seen people using resistance bands (like giant elastic bands) to add difficulty to bodyweight exercises like squats. But did you know you can use them to add extra intensity, and time under tension, to weighted moves like the bench press? ‘Set up your barbell with your desired weight. Then depending on the bench and rack you have there are different ways of setting the bands up,’ says Jason.
‘You can use heavy dumbbells on each side of the bench to attach the bands to from the barbell. You can run one single band from one side of the barbell, under the bench to the other, or if you have a rack with pull up bars at the top, you can have the band coming down from there. Bench press as you would normally.’
You can also add them to other exercise equipment, like kettlebells. ‘Loop a band around the handle of a kettlebell, step both feet onto the band slightly further than shoulder width apart (making sure they are securely over it) and swing away! This will add can add an extra 20-60kg resistance at the top of the swing depending on the band.’ Just start slowly to get used to how the weight reacts to the band.
‘If you’ve been stuck on a weight then negative reps can be a great tool to push through’
5. Get Negative
No, we don’t mean shouting at yourself in the mirror… You may not know that focussing on the lowering portion of a rep (the eccentric contraction) can make you stronger. ‘If you’re struggling to get past a plateau in your workouts, or move past a weight you’ve been stuck on for a while, then negative reps can be a great tool to push through,’ says Jason.
So, you can either decide to spend longer lowering the weight (for a 3-5 count), or get a spotter to help you lift the weight, then use your own strength to lower it, and repeat. You definitely need an attentive spotter for the second option! If you’re doing something like a pull-up then you can use a plyo box to get into position.
6. Supercharge With Supersets
We’ve seen how you can change the structure of your workouts to ‘cheat’ better results and power off a plateau. But surely when it comes to time you just can’t cheat that. A 60-minute workout takes an hour, right? Not always, says Jason – there is a way you can shorten a workout without losing any of the benefits: ‘If you’re looking to cut down on your workout time, try implementing supersets into your fitness regime,’ he advises.
‘Supersets let you work all of your muscle groups completely while still getting enough recovery. A superset is when two or more exercises hitting different muscle groups are performed in a row without rest between them. They blast your muscles in a short space of time and lead to fantastic results.’ So, even if your workout window gets slashed you can still hit your goals!
WHAT NEXT? Check out RSNG’s exclusive two-week workout from The Badass System for new strength, fitness and muscle gains.
Comments are for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.
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