Plateaus can be frustrating for bodybuilders, strength athletes, traditional athletes, and the fitness enthusiast. That sudden halt in progress that seems like a roadblock can deter even the most committed athlete. The sad part is, most plateaus are products of poor planning. Regular program adjustments with intensity, duration, and time changes can keep most plateaus from attacking your progress.
There are many possible adjustments that can be made to increase overall intensity or boost the number of repetitions being used. These different programs can be great for blasting through plateaus and soaring to new heights. It is important to note that increased intensity does not mean throwing the weights around or sacrificing form. These intensity boosters can be added to a program or become a short duration program of their own.
100 Repetition Sets
These, at first sight, might look like something designed for marathon runners, not someone looking to build muscle. After the first searing, blinding set of these you will know they are designed to shock muscles out of their usual comfort zone into mind blowing, seam tearing pumps. These sets are done with very low (ridiculously low) weights. Strict form is important (although the last 10 reps may be just survival reps.) Begin the set and complete as many repetitions as possible (should be in the 25-40 repetition range.) Then when you reach failure, rest 1 second for every repetition you have remaining (example: reach 45 repetitions, leaving 55, so you rest for 55 seconds.) Then begin again. Again you go until failure and rest for the remaining number of repetitions. The rest time gets shorter as you go, increasing the intensity and reducing the number of repetitions you can do in each “set.” Continue until you complete 100 repetitions. Then move on to a different exercise. You should not use anymore than three exercises per body part. Allow three to five minutes between exercises for recovery.
Drop sets are another great intensity booster. They get deep into the muscle fibers and tear them up. One drop set per body part is usually enough to fry the muscles and induce some quality growth. Drop sets are performed by starting with the normal weight you would use for 8 or 10 repetitions. Complete a set to failure, then drop the weight 5 or 10 pounds and do another set immediately, followed by another drop in weight and another set. Normally three to four drops is enough to completely blast the muscle. However, there are times when you might want to “Run the rack.” This entails starting at the highest dumbbell possible for 8 to 10 repetitions of an exercise and then completing sets to failure with each dumbbell down the rack until the last weight available. These can be used for all exercises in a session, but should be limited to one drop set per exercise.
If you are struggling to increase you weight in a particular lift, or add some size to a body part, partial reps might be the answer. These reps are pure strength and size builders. They allow you to handle larger amounts of weight. A partial rep is one done through only one quarter to one half of the range of motion. These are done in the strongest portion of the lift. For example, instead of going down to a 90 degree angle in the squat you only go to 45 degrees. You can usually handle at least one and a half times the normal weight while doing partial reps. Do the set as you would a regular set, just not going the full range. You can do all of the sets of an exercise as partials or just one or two of them. The added weight will be an intensity boost that will lead to more muscle fibers being activated, meaning more strength and size as a result.
The next time that plateau creeps up on you, give one or more of these intensity boosters a try. Don’t let a stall in progress keep you from your goals, these changes can shock your muscles into new growth and development. You don’t have to wait until a plateau sets in to try these either, use them now as a boost to your intensity and a change up from the normal routine. Don’t let complacency in your program halt your progress.