If you’re looking to take your results to the next level, add some of these advanced weightlifting methods to your routine. These strength training strategies have been used to increase muscle growth, strength, and power by different types of athletes.
AMRAP – As Many Reps (or Rounds) As Possible
This technique is popular among CrossFitters. An AMRAP involves doing as many reps as possible of an exercise. AMRAPs are commonly used for compound bodyweight and barbell exercises. Another form of AMRAP training involves doing as many rounds as possible. This style of AMRAP involves timed circuit workouts, where the goal of the workout is to do multiple circuits before time runs out. Keeping track of AMRAPs for key lifts or circuits can be an effective way of tracking progress.
Tip: Choose a few key lifts (ex. pull-ups, dips, squats) to do for AMRAPs and track your progress with these lifts over the course of a few months.
Cluster Sets break down a set into several mini-sets, these mini sets are separated by 15-30 seconds of rest, and the mini-sets usually consist of one to two reps.
As an example, a 5-rep set done cluster set style would be done as follows: 2 reps, 15 second rest, 2 reps, 15 second rest, 1 rep.
Cluster sets are commonly used for big compound movements involving barbells. This lifting method is especially popular with Olympic lifters and powerlifters because it allows them to perform more reps at a relatively higher intensity than what they’d normally be able to do.
Tip: Use weights that are in the 80-95% range of your 1 rep max.
Drop Sets are a popular lifting method among bodybuilders to reach failure on an exercise. Drop sets involve doing a set to (near) failure and then immediately “dropping” (lowering) the weight and doing another set to failure and repeating the process until total failure is reached. While drop sets can be done with free weights, machines are more convenient for doing this technique since it’s easier to remove a pin than it is to remove plates or find smaller dumbbells.
Tip: To keep the intensity high during a drop set make sure that you “drop” the weight as quickly as possible to minimize rest between each drop.
Eccentric tempo trainingEccentric tempo training involves putting an emphasis on the eccentric (lengthening) phase of a lift. This is done by performing it at a significantly slower pace. The eccentric portion of a lift is typically the portion where our muscles can handle heavier weights and greater levels of muscular damage occur. Examples of the eccentric portion of a lift include the lowering phases of a bench press or squat. You can perform eccentric tempo training with free weights or machines.
Tip: Count slowly during your eccentric phases of a lift and be mindful of moving the weight in a controlled manner.
Forced repsForced reps involve continuing a set to a mechanical failure with the help of a spotter. Your spotter will provide enough assistance to help you complete a few extra reps, however they shouldn’t have to help you until after you’ve already done several reps on your own. Forced reps are a technique most used by more advanced bodybuilders. Generally forced reps are done using machine weights because taking your muscles to failure during barbell lifts can be especially dangerous.
Tip: If you’re going to add forced reps to your routine, be sure that you have an experienced training partner working with you so that you can use this method safely.
German Volume Training (GVT)German Volume Training is a method where you perform 10 sets of 10 reps using the same weight, with minimal rest between sets. The purpose of this training method is to stimulate muscle growth and muscular endurance. GVT is usually reserved for machine-based exercises and the loads should only be moderately heavy because of the high volume of the workout.
Tip: Use GVT on muscle groups that are lagging. The increased volume may be just what you need to accelerate muscle growth.
Giant Sets involve doing four or more exercises without resting between exercises. After four exercises have been completed, the giant set is finished, and you can rest for 1-3 minutes. Giant Sets can target just one muscle group or multiple muscle groups. Giant sets are a popular technique among bodybuilders for targeting underdeveloped muscle groups with extra volume during a workout. Giant sets usually involve a mix of compound and isolation exercises using both free weights and machines.
Tip: Do the most complex or heaviest lift as the first exercise in your giant set. This way you’re doing the most challenging exercises when your body is most recovered.
Isometric Holds or Pause SetsIsometric holds involve pausing during a challenging point of a lift to increase the time under tension. You’ll perform a lift like you normally would and then pause during a specific part of the lift for a few seconds. Pause sets are a popular technique among bodybuilders and powerlifters to break through plateaus. Bodybuilders will use this method to increase the time under tension of a lift for increased muscle mass. While powerlifters use this method to increase their strength at specific weak points of a lift.
Tip: Try using pause sets on compound sets during a strength focused phase of your training plan.
Post-Activation Potentiation is a training method that involves pairing a heavy compound lift with an explosive movement.
Examples of a PAP set include doing a deadlift followed by a kettlebell swing or doing a bench press followed by a medicine ball chest pass.
The concept behind post-activation potentiation is that exciting our nervous systems with exposure to a heavy load can increase the force of muscle contractions on subsequent movements. This method is especially popular among field sports and combat athletes looking to increase their power.
Tip: The second exercise in your post-activation potentiation set should be done at a high velocity, so it’s important to choose an exercise/weight that you can do explosively.
Pre-Exhaustion TrainingPre-exhaustion Training is a popular method among bodybuilders to pre-fatigue a target muscle by doing an isolation exercise prior to a compound exercise. This increases the intensity of the compound exercise and may help you “feel” the mind-muscle connection. Examples of this could be doing triceps extensions prior to a bench press or lying hamstring curls before you lunge. With pre-exhaustion training you can target a muscle group to make it receive a higher training volume during your workout.
Tip: Use pre-exhaustion training for muscle groups that you’d like to activate more during compound lifts.
This training method is popular among bodybuilders looking to train a muscle group to failure. Pyramids are a high-volume approach to training. Pyramids can be done in ascending form, descending form, and ascending/descending form. An ascending pyramid involves doing high reps with light weights and progressively increasing weight while decreasing your reps as you ascend the pyramid. A descending pyramid involves doing low reps of a heavy weight and decreasing the weight while increasing the reps as you descend the pyramid. An ascending/descending pyramid pair the two.
Tip: Choose a weight and rep range for your pyramids that reflects your fitness goals. Higher reps and lighter weights will mostly build muscular endurance while lower reps and heavier weights will mostly build strength.
Rest-Pause training involves taking a set to (near) failure and resting for around 15 to 30 seconds and then doing more reps until you reach failure again. This is a popular training method among bodybuilders to increase the intensity of their workouts. Like cluster sets, you’re able to perform at a higher intensity than what you normally would because of the added intra-set rest period. The key difference between this method and cluster sets is that rest-pause sets are focused on reaching failure for the purposes of building muscle. In contrast, cluster sets are performed for lower reps with the goal of increasing strength and power.
Tip: Make sure that you’re strict with your intra-set rest while using this method so that your workouts don’t become unnecessarily long.
Supersets involve pairing two exercises back-to-back with no rest between exercises. Some of the most common superset methods include antagonistic, compound, and upper body-lower body supersets. An antagonistic superset pairs exercises that target two opposing muscle groups, like a barbell row and a bench press. A compound superset pairs two exercises that target the same muscle group, like a barbell shoulder press followed by a machine shoulder press. An upper body-lower body superset pairs an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise like a dumbbell bench press followed by goblet squats.
Tip: If you’re pressed for time, do upper body –lower body supersets for a quick and effective total body workout.
Tri-Sets involve pairing three exercises with no rest between exercises. Tri-sets targeting the same muscle group are a popular strategy among bodybuilders for building a lagging body part with increased volume. You can do tri-sets with compound or isolation exercises, and you can do them with free weights or machines.
Tip: Try pairing your tri-sets with the same piece of equipment for all three exercises, this makes it easier to do, especially if you work out in a crowded gym.
21s21s is a technique that involves performing a total of 21 reps during a set. However not all the reps are the same because you’ll perform seven reps using only the bottom half of a lift’s range of motion, next you’ll do seven reps using only the top half of a lift’s range of motion, and finally you’ll do seven reps using a full range of motion. 21s are a popular technique used by bodybuilders to promote muscle growth.
Tip: 21s can be an excellent technique for single-joint movements when you want to isolate a specific muscle group.
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