Now that you’re an advanced trainee, you need training tips that will get you measurable results fast.
Remember those days back when you first started training and it seemed like every workout you were setting PRs? Results came fast and big. Now that you have many years of training behind you, progress is slower to come by. You need tried and true training techniques that will overload the body for continued strength and body composition results. Here are ten advanced training techniques that need to be part of your workouts.
#1: Count Tempo
Counting tempo isn’t an advanced training tip, but the reality is that many experienced trainees ignore it, just raising and lowering their weights however they feel like. This is a big mistake. Tempo, or the speed with which you perform the up and down phases of a lift, has a powerful effect on the stimulus applied to the muscles.
We typically recommend that you use a slower tempo to perform the down motion of a lift (called the eccentric phase). Use a faster tempo for the up motion (concentric phase). For example, a 4010 tempo for the bench press means you’ll lower the bar on a 4 second count and raise it on a 1 second count. The zeros in between the 4 and 1 indicate there is no pause in between lifting phases. You can apply the same tempo to the squat. Lower the bar in 4 seconds and raise it fast but under control in 1 second.
#2: Include Isolation Lifts
Multi-joint, compound lifts are a top priority to gain total body strength and muscle. However, once you’re advanced, you can make additional gains with single-joint exercises that hit the fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers scattered throughout individual muscles.
Consider the hamstrings. The short head of the biceps femoris of the hamstrings is only significantly activated during knee flexion. In practical terms, this means that during hip extensor movements such as a stiff leg deadlift, or good morning, only the muscles of the upper hamstrings will be trained. You should also train leg curls, in which the knee is bent, to optimally train the lower part of the hamstrings.
#3: Use Cluster Training
Cluster training, also known as Intra-set rest periods, allows you to rest for up to 20 seconds in the middle of a set in order to get more work done. Say you’re doing deadlifts—pick a weight that you can do for 6 reps. Do 6 reps and then rest 20 seconds before completing as many additional reps as possible. Rest 20 more seconds and rep out again.
#4: Use A Longer Eccentric Tempo
Modifying your eccentric tempo is an advanced training tip that everyone should use. A simple way to increase the stress on the muscle is to use a longer eccentric tempo. Taking 4 to 10 seconds to lower a weight will produce greater muscle fatigue and larger gains in lean mass. In fact, research shows that you will only reach maximal muscle hypertrophy if eccentric actions are performed because these lengthening motions lead to a more rapid stimulation of protein synthesis.
#5: Train Heavy Eccentrics
Your best bet for functional hypertrophy is heavy negative training. Use an above maximal eccentric load, starting with a load that is 20 percent greater than your concentric 1 RM and build up to 50 percent greater than your 1 RM. Not only will heavy eccentrics result in greater muscle damage, you preferentially recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers. Training with heavy eccentrics means you can target previously inactive motor units. It's a great tool for building functional muscle that upgrades your performance on the playing field.
#6: Use Forced Reps
Forced or assisted reps enhance muscle mass by recruiting more motor units. We recommend that you perform forced reps with a load that is heavier than normal for the given number of repetitions rather than doing extra reps: For example, for a program that includes 3 sets of 12 squats, identify the maximal load you can perform for 12 reps. Then increase that load and perform 12 reps, getting assistance when necessary.
#7: Do Drop Sets
Include drop sets in your protocol to produce a large quantity of muscle fatigue. Do a high-intensity set followed immediately by the same exercise at a low-intensity with 50 percent of the 1RM. Such a protocol yields a greater hormone release and larger increase in muscle cross sectional area than a strength protocol alone.
#8: Train Partials
We hammer home the necessity of full range training, but for more advanced trainees, partials are a great training tip that allow you to lift more weight. For example, you can train a much heavier load by performing half squats rather than full ATG squats. To target the sticking point in a lift, break down the exercise into individual parts and use a weight appropriate for that specific portion of the lift. The payoff is that you’ll be stronger when you go back to full range training.
#9: Do Post-Exhaustion Supersets
Post-exhaustion supersets have you first perform a compound exercise followed by an isolation exercise that targets a muscle you want to emphasize. For example, try chin-ups followed immediately by dumbbell curls to target the biceps. Another example: Do dips followed by an overhead rope extension to trash the triceps. For the quads, try barbell squats followed by split squats.
#10: Giant Sets
Giant sets have you train four or more exercises that target one part of the body. The key is that each exercise targets different parts of the strength curve. Simply, the strength curve describes the amount of force a muscle can exert at a specific joint angle. Giant sets allow you to overload all ranges of the strength curve in one quick workout.
Here's an example of a giant set: Do eccentric-enhanced squats, followed by heel-elevated squats to isolate the quads a bit better, followed by lunges, and finished with trap bar deadlifts. This is an excellent way to shock the lower body into getting stronger, while also triggering GH and a high calorie burn to get you leaner.