Traditional weight training practices form the foundation of muscle development and strength adaptations. For beginners, sticking to the basics is important as learning proper form, how your muscles work, and adapting to training stimulus should be the focal point for anyone new or coming back after a layoff. But, should these strength training techniques be restricted to advanced or elite trainees? Absolutely not!
As your training goes beyond beginner levels, more advanced training principles can be implemented to maximize genetically potential. They allow for more work in less time, increasing work capacity, higher intensity, and varying loads for new stimuli. These training method options allow for variety and an opportunity to see what training technique may work best for you.
Resistance Training And Methods For Muscle Growth
There are a number of principles you can consider; drop sets, cluster sets, pyramid training, eccentric loading, tri-sets, and giant sets are just a few of the vast number of options you can consider. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you can read more about many options below. These different strategies generally are used to manipulate increases in volume and/or intensity and for some, it is a great way to improve how hard you work. There is also a benefit, in some strategies, that can assist in getting more work done in less time and this is an often-overlooked strategy. If you are running short on time or have other time constraints, using various techniques can get a substantial volume completed in a short period of time.
What Are The Advanced Techniques?
Listing every possible advanced technique would be an eBook, maybe this is something to consider in the future, but I will be listing and defining the most commonly used strategies so you can have a better understanding of what they are. If you want a copy of my current list of advanced techniques and descriptions, go here.
Drop Sets Or Strip Sets
Likely the most popular technique out there, here, you complete a standard set and then drop (or strip) the weight and immediately complete another set. There is no rest, other than to modify the weight, before moving on to your next set to induce metabolic stress. in most traditional programs, you complete between 2 – 4 drop sets on the last set of an exercise.
My pyramids consist of an ascending pyramid and descending pyramid. A pyramid to me is a triangle shape – you ascend or descend the pyramid and connect at the end. See two examples below.
Ascending – You start with a rep range, say 12, climb up or increase repetitions to 15, and then come back down to the original 12.
Descending – You start with a rep range, say 10, progress down up or decrease repetitions to 8, and then come back down to the original 10.
It is probably no surprise how this technique could lead to additional muscle mass and improve muscle hypertrophy with the use of different rep ranges and weight loads in an individual session to work many muscle fibers.
In a compound set, you complete exercise A and then move on to exercise B. This is done with no or minimal rest and each exercise is for different muscle groups. An example would be bench press, immediately followed by a dumbbell bicep curl. This technique is a great way to reduce workout time by completing exercises for different muscles and then taking your usual rest periods after two sets are performed. You could of course do more than two exercises and this would be up to you and your time available for your workout.
In a pause set, you complete the typical exercise motion of an exercise but pause at the sticking point for 1 – 3 seconds and then continue back to the starting position. You see these are used very commonly with the squat. You squat down to the sticking point, pause, and then press back up to the starting position.
This training program involves completing 3 exercises, for the same muscle group, back-to-back-to-back. You complete a great deal of work for a muscle group, in one straight set. I’ll use a triceps tri-set as an example here with; close-grip press to cable pressdowns to overhead dumbbell extensions. This would constitute one set.
Monster Or Giant Sets
This is very similar to tri-sets however giant or monster sets usually comprise of 5 exercises or more for a body part.
Another very common resistance exercise training session technique is completed by combining every exercise you plan to perform, all one right after each other. You can do total upper body or lower body workouts in this fashion or even work your entire body. Many programs built around circuit training are fast-paced and call for 3 to 4 total sets of each exercise. many of these training programs are geared to last no more than 30 minutes.
In a complex, you normally complete exercises in order of highest skill to lowest skill and non-competing exercise order. There are two common types identified below.
Weight Method – This is where you use the same exact weight, across all exercises, with the understanding rep ranges will differ for each exercise.
Rep Method – You complete exercises, using different weights, to target similar repetitions for each exercise.
This is one of the more complex, yet still common, training variables to cause metabolic stress and is also great at improving muscular endurance.
How To Perform Myoreps
- You choose a load that you can normally perform anywhere between 8-20 RM. You can obviously choose to go higher in reps if you want, but this appears to be a sweet spot in my experience.
- You go to either failure or 1-2 reps shy of failure on your sets. This choice is up to you and more and more research points to not needing to go to failure to get the same gains https://www.pagepressjournals.org/index.php/bam/article/view/6339. Your first set is what is called your “activation set” and here is where you first achieve full fiber recruitment. Total failure isn’t an absolute and leaving a rep or two in reserve will allow you to do more total reps, over the subsequent sets.
- After completing your activation set, rerack the weight and rest for ~5 breaths or about 10 seconds. You will then perform additional sets but with a slightly shorter ROM. You do this by reducing 10% on the top portion and 10% in the bottom portion of the lift (with no stopping) and now reach higher muscle fiber recruitment quicker due to continuous tension on the muscle.
- Now unrack the weight for the second set, called your “effective rep set” and either go to failure or 1-2 reps shy again. You should be able to complete approximately 3 – 5 additional sets until you can no longer complete the reps performed on your first “effective rep” set. These are called your mini-sets or “effective reps” sets.
- You can also modify this in other ways, if you want to use heavyweight you could take more breaths or rest in the 20 to 30-second range. This is just one option.
- Your Myo-rep sets end when you lose 1 rep from the initial effective set or when you complete 5 mini-sets.
- If you complete all 5 “effective rep sets” with the same # of repetitions, this means it is time to move up in weight. Congratulations, this is how you increase muscle mass and progressive overload is built into the technique.
Think of this program as splitting up your usual sets into multiple sets. you take intraset rest vs. completing all targeted reps at once. For example, if you looking to complete a set of 8, you would complete 4 reps, take a short 15-second rest (or your desired rest) and complete the remaining 4 reps. There are many variations to this but this allows for additional reps to be performed with the usual weight you would use or the ability to use higher weights, and get a larger number of reps completed, due to the short rest. The idea is you are not going to failure and reserve capacity for the second part of the cluster set, which should increase volume over time.
This is a rather newer technique being talked about where you restrict blood flow to a muscle using wraps or occlusion wraps. In this program, you can use lower weights and still produce sound results. There is a specific protocol on how tight to restrict and this is a good resource for more information. https://mennohenselmans.com/keep-tension-muscles/
When To Implement
I especially like to implement these techniques when I have a shorter time frame to get in a workout. Think about it from this perspective, if you incorporate drop-sets on the third set of an exercise, complete your first 2 sets as you normally would, then after your third set, drop the weight 10-20% for another 3 additional sets. In this case, you just completed a similar amount of volume in half as much time, if you completed an additional 3 sets with your regular rest periods. Now, you will have to reduce load to compensate for fatigue but if you only have 20 minutes to get a chest workout in, these (and some other) strategies are a great way to get in the work in a short period of time.
There is no perfect time in your fitness to incorporate these but they all involve different levels of skills and expertise. You should feel empowered to try these anytime you feel ready and examine which ones you respond best to and which work best for y9our fitness goals.
Advanced Technique Research
The evidence in studies on these and other strategies are now emerging more frequently to shed more light on the various beneficial effects when incorporated properly. However, more research is needed to understand which techniques are best. This certainly does not mean you shouldn’t give them a try as once you are ready, you should see what works best for your goals and workout constraints.
While more recent meta-analyses do not show a significant difference between traditional training sets vs. many of these other strategies (when equating volume), I do believe that there are certainly times to consider modifying your workouts and scheduling some of these techniques into your programming. Even if you are just looking for something new to try, your workouts feel stale, you like trying a new stimulus, or you just need these advanced techniques to help you work harder, you should not hesitate to try them.
This article, completed by Brad Schoenfeld, has links to a great number of research and studies on many of these advanced training techniques.
If you need help incorporating these strategies or need additional information on how to implement them, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. You can access definitions for these and many others at my website renegadecore.com and also get free workouts incorporating these techniques, for free.
Renegade is always here to help and can describe the benefits of each. Of course, not all of these are difficult to understand and you may have already tried some of them in the past but giving some others a whirl may just see what you need to keep your workouts interesting and keep your gains moving in the right direction!