If you think the only way to increase strength and get jacked is by adding more resistance to an exercise then you would be of the same opinion of many people including myself. I would hit the bench, bar and leg press, always adding poundage like I was taught, between the lengthy work sets and extended recovery time, I spent many hours performing a pretty low amount of exercise.
This is now a thing of the past, there is nothing wrong with heavy resistance training and it can produce fantastic results but is far from the only way. With these four techniques you will learn to employ physics, the motion and force kind to seek and get past your goals.
The best bit is that these methods require minimal equipment and no gym membership, as they employ adjustments in technique and not external load.
When you are trying to make things more difficult, adding an extra 5-pound plate onto the bar or lowering the pin on a weight stack one notch are not the only choices. Simply increasing the range of motion of a given exercise will give you greater yields for every rep.
As an example, try squatting all the way to the ground until the back of your thigh comes into complete contact with your calf. You may be selling yourself short when you stop with your thigh parallel to the ground as many trainers actually recommend. The same goes for push-ups, get down close to the ground and then push up all the way to where your elbows lock out and your shoulder blades spread, the human body was built for the full motion, even if you haven’t been doing it.
To get the most from a pull-up, start from a full dead hang at the bottom position. Now pull your chest all the way to the bar but don’t stop at the chin. Get high! You’d be amazed by how many people I see performing weighted pull-ups with a limited range of motion. By increasing the distance traveled, you progress the exercise dramatically without having to depend on anything but yourself. Sure, the number of reps you can perform will go down but the strength-building stimulus your body receives will go a lot higher.
By the same effect, doing push-ups on your fingertips or knuckles not only provides a unique challenge to your hands and forearms, it also allows you to get lower than when you use your palms. Give any of these a try and you will see what I mean.
This sounds like a no-brainer but it is not exactly what you think. Oftentimes, we tend to think in terms of specific exercises rather than movement patterns. However, when you step back from a particular exercise and just focus on what your body is doing spatially ‘horizontal push’ as opposed to push-up, or ‘vertical pull’ rather than chin-up, you can increase the resistance by doing the same movement pattern in a slightly different exercise. This alters the amount of weight distributed to a particular part of the body or muscle group, often in a way that humbles you immediately.
This is why a single-leg pistol squat will always require more strength than a standard squat. By eliminating one point of contact, you double the body weight loaded on to the individual leg. Fortunately, there are many steps in between the two, such as the archer squat or Bulgarian split squat. Both of these are self-assisted single-leg squats that offer an increased weight-to-limb ratio.
Manipulating leverage is also an effective tool. To understand this properly, compare a push-up with your feet on an elevated surface to a push-up with all limbs on the ground. There is much more weight on the chest, arms and shoulders in the former than in the latter, due to the change in leverage. It’s the same reason that a straight-leg raise is more difficult than a bent-knee raise. Your body weight may not change, but the challenge the move gives you definitely does.
How many times have you been at the gym and seen someone repping out, rep after sloppy rep, completely disregarding quality of movement, so they can hit a certain number of reps? It’s probably every time you’ve ever entered a gym.
Whilst the advocacy of putting numbers above all else is a shame, it comes as no surprise, after all, we live in a culture of more is more. Everyone wants to squeeze as many reps out as possible, even if most of those reps wouldn’t even qualify as one to a good trainer’s eye.
The honest answer is if you want to squeeze out maximal resistance with every single set then you have to slow down. The simple change in tempo will add more tension to ever rep and set , increasing the amount of muscle fibers being fired up.
This doesn’t mean super slow training either, that’s something different. I am talking about quality, controlled movements through a full range of motion, devoid of swinging or bouncing. This not only promotes pure strength, but also neurologically wires in proper form, allowing you to get more out of every move, from the humble sit-up to the mighty muscle-up.
Advanced exercise moves can be practice too, I have been asked many times what the next progression is after being able to do a muscle-up and the answer is simply a clean muscle-up, the first step to doing something well is often just to get it done, bu that is definitely not the final step.
Nobody’s first muscle-up is their best one. Neither is their first single-arm push-up, elbow lever or pistol squat. After you get that first one, you need to get it better. I refer to this as technical progression which involves increasing the difficulty of an exercise without ever adding on weight.
What’s next after a clean muscle-up? More air, then next? Add a clap. As you improve, increase your strength and progress your technique over time, the sky’s the limit.
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