Advanced Lifting Techniques

For Lean Muscle Growth

We all know that straight sets are pretty self-explanatory. They are performed by doing a prescribed number of sets, for a prescribed number of reps, using the same weight for each set, until completion, then moving on to the next exercise. But what if we want to push it harder and force lean muscle growth and strength? Are straight sets enough? They are when you first begin a training program but after time, your body will adapt to the straight sets and you need to mix it up and introduce new techniques into your plan.

Advanced Lifting Techniques

Reverse Pyramid Sets

These are awesome for building muscle, because you get to lift your heaviest weight first, before fatigue sets in. This concept is in line with traditional weightlifting because it uses the compound, multi-joint exercises at the start of your workouts (instead of at the end) when you are fresh and have the most energy (before fatigue sets in). While practicing reverse pyramid sets, you’ll start with the heaviest weight for the first set, lower the weight and move on to the next set with the lower weight. You’ll continue that for all prescribed sets, using a lighter weight for each set as you move through the sets. This training style forces your muscles to hit failure over and over again— breaking down muscle and muscle fibers to GROW!

You should always make sure to warm up before you start, since you are starting with the heaviest weight. Choose a light weight and perform two warm-up sets of 10-12 reps before you start your working sets.

Triple Drop Sets

Drop sets allow you to extend your set beyond its normal “failure” point. Usually, when performing any exercise, you have to stop because your muscles are tired, or “at failure.” However, they are really only too exhausted to give you the energy you need to lift the weight you are using. When performing triple drop sets, once you reach failure with the first reps within a set, you immediately reduce, or “drop,” the weight (without any rest!) and continue your set using the lighter weight. You will do that twice within each set, making it a triple drop set. At the end of each triple drop set, you will rest a prescribed time before the next set.

Tempo Training

Training following a tempo means you will count a prescribed number of seconds during each portion of a rep. Tempo training can follow many different tempos, but the 2-2-4-0 tempo is one of my favorites.

Here is a guide on what these tempo numbers mean and how to apply them to your reps:

In exercises where you begin by LOWERING the weight (example: squats, leg press, lat pull downs, triceps pushdowns, bench press, etc.):
• The first number is how many seconds you will take to lower the weight.
• The second number is how long you will pause after lowering the weight.
• The third number is how long you will take to raise the weight.
• The fourth number is how long you will pause while the weight is in the raised position.

In exercises where you begin by RAISING the weight (shoulder press, biceps curls, lateral flyes, front raises, pull-ups, etc.):
• The first number is how many seconds you will take to raise the weight.
• The second number is how long you will pause after raising the weight.
• The third number is how long you will take to lower the weight.
• The fourth number is how long you will pause while the weight is in the lowest/bottom position.

If you can’t maintain perfect form while performing an exercise using tempo training, lower the weight. Never sacrifice perfect form for a heavier weight.

Give this arm workout with tempo training a try!

Close-grip Bench Press
4 sets x 12 reps
TEMPO: 2-2-4-0

Incline Dumbbell Press
4 sets x 12 reps
TEMPO: 2-2-4-0

Machine Preacher Curl
4 sets x 12 reps
TEMPO: 2-2-4-0

Alternating Bicep Curls
4 sets x 12 reps
TEMPO: 2-2-4-0

Lying Barbell Skull-crushers
4 sets x 12 reps
TEMPO: 2-2-4-0

Lateral Flyes
4 sets x 12 reps
TEMPO: 2-2-4-0

Jessie Hilgenberg

Jessie is an IFBB Figure Pro, Team NLA for Her & Bodybuilding.com Athlete, registered yoga instructor, health & fitness coach, bootcamp director and fitness model. Her goal is to inspire others and illustrate that a healthy lifestyle of training with intensity, staying consistent and eating clean can truly change your life!

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