One of the biggest difficulties facing bodybuilders is how can they be sure that all of the muscle fibers have been recruited and exhausted during a given exercise? It’s only by achieving this that muscle gains can be maximized.
The simple answer is, you have to work beyond failure and experience a higher level of training intensity than before.
But how do you go about intensifying your training? Below are several ways that the best in the world use and at the very bottom of this article is a calf program along with a video that you can use in your own workouts:
1. Increase resistance – increasing the weight in small consistent increments ensures that the muscle is challenged beyond its previous point of failure thus ensuring this part of the muscle building process. Aim to increase the weight when you reach six to eight reps and failure does not occur.
2. Change the exercise – to achieve maximal gains, all muscle fibers in a body part must be trained. Changing the angle (e.g to incline bench press) or introducing a new exercise will stimulate growth.
3. Reduce rest intervals – giving the muscles less time to recover before exposing them to further work has the effect of increasing intensity.
4. Pre-exhaustion – when an exercise involves two or more muscles the weakest will prevent you from working the primary muscle to failure. The answer is to first isolate and tire the primary muscle before immediately moving to another exercise that works the set of muscles to failure.
5. Introduce supersets – this involves performing two exercises without a rest interval. This means you increase intensity, utilize different muscle fibers and shorten rest periods all at the same time which can stimulate greater growth.
6. Use partial reps – at the point of failure you will not be able to complete the full range of movement for a given exercise. Completing a partial rep that uses only a segment of the lift will still work your muscles beyond the point of failure. This technique is especially useful to advanced bodybuilders as it allows them to increase intensity without adding extra routines that could cause overtraining.
7. Use isometric contractions – this involves holding the weight still at the point of failure to stimulate a static contraction in the muscle.
8. Employ forced reps – this involves completing one or more final reps after the point of failure has been reached. You will need the assistance of an experienced helper to attempt this.
9. Use different rep schemes, pauses and holds. This is a killer. In the video below, Ed Brown, Jr. is using a calf routine from DC Training. It’s only one set, but it will wipe you out. Your average gym rat has never heard of DC Training. It’s a system you should definitely explore.Here’s how the calf routine works:
- Warm up your calves first with any exercise.
- Load a medium heavy weight onto the seated calf raise. Use a weight that you can normally get 20 reps with.
- Begin the set by raising your heels to the top of the movement.
- Slowly lower your heels over a count of 5 seconds.
- At the bottom of the movement, hold the stretch for 15 seconds. Raise your heels to the top of the movement. That’s one rep. Do 15 reps just like this. By the 11-12th rep, you should be screaming for “Mommy”. If not, then you haven’t used enough weight. One of my training partners and I would use this exact method during our calf workouts. We would challenge each other to see who could get more reps. It was always the highlight of the workout week.
Once you have added these techniques to your training regimen you’ll know you’ve done your best to maximize muscle growth.