The objective for any weight training session should never be to find a way to make the lifts easier. In fact, the exact opposite is the truth if building muscle is the priority. Yes, if you are a competitive weight lifter or powerlifter, you are trying to maximize the efficiency of your movements but in the actual training itself and within the preparation, you are also trying to effectively compromise your muscles to force them to work harder. The subsequent effect of that is new gains in strength, new muscle tissue and a new found level of confidence. When you decide the play the gravity game and put your body up against the pull of the earth, amazing things will happen and you will find tremendous satisfaction in being able to overcome this force. To ensure this consistently happens for you, try including these very simple yet highly effective strategies for making your lifts harder and your body better.
Increase the Load
This approach is the age-old standard for improving in the gym. Plain and simple, lift more. Progressive overload is the very foundation for building new size and strength. Eventually, you will reach a plateau in your strength and there is a ceiling to this effect but it will take a while to reach that upper echelon in power and my advice is don’t rush it. Take a gradual and linear approach to increase your training loads little by little so as to not overtax your body too soon. You want to be in this for the long haul so there’s no need to rush things. One of the greatest Mr. Olympia Champions of all time told me his favourite plate in the gym was the 2.5lb one. It doesn’t look like much when you put it on the bar but it is more than last time and it all adds up and counts in the end.
Increase Time Under Tension
Another great way to make your lifts more difficult is to increase the actual time you spend underneath those training loads that you’re using. Maybe you aren’t quite ready to up the weight on certain lifts and staying with the same weight as last week is the safer and perhaps more prudent strategy but that doesn’t mean you can’t allow it to make you work harder. In this instance, take a look at your rep cadence. How quickly do you rip through a set? How long does it take for you to descend through the negative? Are you spending any time in the full eccentric portion of the rep? Do you just blast right up out of the hole to make sure you get that rep or do you slow things down and take your time? Let’s say your regular and natural rhythm is a 2-1-2 (two seconds down, one-second hold, two seconds up). Well, you can make the same weight feel harder by increasing those numbers while still maintaining very good control over your movement pattern. Give this one a try because I think you’ll like it.
Use Variable Resistance
One final technique you can use to make your lifts more difficult is the use of variable resistance. Variable resistance takes the approach of changing the tension and making different parts of a regular movement pattern more difficult or less difficult when compared to the original range of motion. A lot of times what people will do to achieve this effect is use resistance bands and loop them on certain parts of machines or attach them to barbells and stationary objects that won’t move when the band gets stretched. Or, if you’re lucky enough to train in a gym like Brickhouse Gym, you have the option of using the equipment that already has this effect built into the design such as the Prime USA equipment. By changing the weight around on the multiple loading dowels you can effectively increase or decrease the tension at different parts of the movement to specifically target the area you want.
When you have completed your session at the gym, you want to feel like you’ve accomplished everything there was to accomplish within that training session and that you couldn’t have done any more. Your first step in achieving this is to make sure you have taken the harder route with all of your lifts and made each set as gruelling and as taxing as possible. The results of this approach will be seen quite quickly by you and others and the hard work you put in will pay off big time. Remember, taking the easy way out and cheating yourself in this game we’re playing never ever built character let alone muscle. Do things right, play by the rules and don’t ever let gravity hold you down.
Author: Dana Bushell
Gym Star Team Member