Plateau: "a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress." If your new to the world of training you may be lucky enough to have never experienced the not only physical, but mentally challenging - Plateau! For the rest of us though, it’s that time when you seem to be doing all the right things; training hard in the gym, your nutrition is on point and you are somehow finding enough time to rest and recover. But guess what? The results have stopped coming. The plateau is generally a good indication that your body has adapted to your current training and nutritional program. So here are five techniques to shake things up and get yourself back on the road to growth!
To put it simply the Super Set is two exercises paired together with no rest in between. There are a multitude of ways in which you can incorporate super sets into your work out but the following are two of the more popular:
Agonist Super Sets
Of the two methods Agonist Super Sets are probably the best for maximum muscle hypertrophy. This method targets a single muscle group with two exercises, usually of a different movement. A few examples for biceps and triceps could include: Biceps
- Rev Grip Preacher Curls x Incline DB Curls. Triceps:
- Rope Pushdown x Overhead Rope Extensions. Agonist super sets can also be used to ensure the targeted body part fails first when performing compound movements. Using bench press for example – the targeted muscle group is the pecs. However, the movement incorporates the shoulders and triceps. Smaller muscles that often fail before the pecs. By super setting an isolation movement with bench press you are essentially pre fatiguing the chest causing it to fail first. Example Super Sets:
- DB Flyes x Bench Press.
- Cable Cross-Over x Bench Press.
Antagonist Super Sets
Antagonist super sets on the other hand involve two exercises for opposing body parts. Working proximal body parts such as chest and back or triceps and biceps is a great way to increase blood flow to the working muscle. Alternating body parts also allows for more rest, which translates to increased strength on each set. Examples: - Chest and Back - Wide Grip Chins x Bench Press - Quads and Hamstrings - Leg extensions x Leg Curls
Much like the name suggests the drop set is performed by going to failure at a certain weight and then immediately dropping the weight and continuing for more reps. The principle behind the drop set is to recruit as many muscle fibres as possible. As an example let’s look at how it can be worked into your leg workout. After warming up on the leg press you perform your first three heavy sets. Let’s say you’re you go to failure on each set and get 12, 10 and then 8 reps. Using the same weight as the last set of 8 reps perform your 4th set. Once you hit failure remove 25% of the weight (this is largely dependent on how much you lift) and with no rest do as many reps as you can. If you really want to get some blood in the muscle you can do this multiple times.
Before I get into negatives let’s take a quick look at muscle contraction and concentric vs eccentric contractions. The concentric contraction is when your muscle shortens – using the bicep curl as an example, this is when you lift the bar. Eccentric on the other hand is when the muscle lengthens – or when you lower the bar during a bicep curl. The eccentric phase actually recruits more muscle fibres than the concentric and in turn you are 40%+ stronger in the phase of a lift. This is where the negative comes in! The negative aims to focus on the eccentric contraction. Best performed with a training partner negatives reps involve using a weight heavier than you can perform a strict set with and getting an assisted rep on the way up and then concentrating on the lowering of the weight where you slowly fight gravity. A great way to integrate negatives into your workout is to perform a set of negatives on the last set of an exercise. If you’re not sore the day after doing negatives then you weren’t doing them slow enough!
4. New rep range
Most of you probably follow a workout program in the gym. Whether it’s from your trainer or you found it on-line it probably specifies a rep range. If you’ve been training heavy for the past three months with a 6-8 rep range, then maybe busting the plateau may be as simple as changing it up and training 12-15 reps. The important thing to remember is the body learns to adapt and therefore it’s important to keep shaking things up and shocking it!
For the most of us this is actually harder than any exercise in the gym! But let’s face it – we all know that growth doesn’t happen in the gym; it happens when you rest! I’m not going to go too deep into trying to convince you to take a week off every few months, but what I will do is give you some of the benefits of doing so:
- Muscle recovery, repair and growth
- Gives overworked joints and ligament a break
- Relaxes your nervous system which is between herd training and day to day life is often very fatigued
- Increases motivation to get back in the gym
At some stage in your training life you will be faced with dreaded plateau. But before you turn it into a mentally frustrating challenge and let be the cause of you giving up – try mixing it up in the gym and give the above training techniques a go. If that doesn’t work, then it’s probably time for a well-deserved rest.