Building strength is not always linear process, especially if you’ve been training for a while. There are going to be days that you can lift more than others, sometimes you get injured and have to back off the weight for a bit, and sometimes your body just gets stuck. Today I’m going to share with you a few techniques that will enable you to use less or the same weight, but increase muscle activation, break that plateau and get a great workout.
1. Negative Reps
With negative reps you will lower into the bottom position of a lift super slow taking from 10-30 seconds to perform 1 rep. This recruites more muscle fibers to stabilize and control the weight. This also allows you to really focus on form and the muscles being used to perform the movement.
2. Alternating Isometric/Dynamic Reps
With exercises that your arms or legs move independently with the weight like dumbbell overhead press or machine curls with separate levers for each leg you can hold one side still while lifting with the other. For example in the overhead press you would begin by pushing the weight up, then while holding your left arm at the top, lower the right and perform the press. Return to the top position then hold the right while you perform the press with the left. Or you could hold at the bottoms of the lift in the same pattern. So you’re isometrically holding one side, while dynamically performing the movement with the other. Again, this requires stabilization muscles to fire, not only protecting your joints but making you work harder with a lighter weight.
3. Pause Reps
Lastly, similar to the previous, this requires holding in the bottom position for an extended period of time. For example in the squat, you would lower down to at least parallel then hold for a varied amount of time ranging from 2-5 seconds then explode up. This has similar stabilization recruitment as the first two, but then forces you to strengthen the muscles at what is the weakest part of any lift where you have the least leverage.
The next time you get stuck at a certain weight or are just working out at home with limited equipment, give one or all of these a try and see how it feels!