A Pump: The rush of blood into your muscles making them enlarged and tight as a result of lifting weights.
There’s no feeling quite as fantastic as getting a pump. Not just in your biceps, but in all muscles groups. It’s like your body telling you that your muscles are getting stronger, like your levelling up in your physique. For a while I thought that my last rep was sufficient enough. I’d put the weights down and rest before doing another set. But after lifting like this for a while I began to plateau. I didn’t feel like I was making gains and I knew something needed to change. It wasn’t until I watched how Arnold Schwarzenegger trained when he was Mr. Universe where I was inspired to change. He talked about how getting a pump is the best feeling in the world (I’ll leave out the expletive details he went into) and how it was the key to getting your desired physique. So after hearing this I decided to take the same approach to my own workouts by focusing on getting a better pump and thus increasing the effectiveness of my workouts. After all if I’m spending all this time spent trying to look like him why not adjust my mentality to the same as his as well. I began to use these 3 tricks to help make my workouts more effective and my pump tighter than ever.
NOTE: FORM SHOULD NEVER BE COMPROMISED FOR REPS. If you feel your form beginning to falter it’s best to end the set or use a lighter weight. Listen to your body!
A drop set is performed as such: once you’ve hit muscle failure drop to a lower weight and crank out more reps for a hellish burn. I usually only do these after my last set for that exercise although I’ve heard of people doing them after the first set. Doing drop sets more than once per exercise will tire you out significantly leaving you unable to do your desired amount of reps. This is why I keep it to once per exercise. The amount of weight that should be reduced is not finite but should challenge you. I usually like to pump out an extra 5 reps on my drop set. It is important that you are not dropping the weight by too much as this does not pose the necessary challenge and you will not be getting the burn you want. Drop sets are an effective muscle building technique as dropping the weight and doing more reps after failure forces the body to use muscle fibers that were not used in the straight sets. This extra stress put on the muscle amplifies its growth.
Personal Favorite: Seated dumbbell shoulder press drop set. Dropping the weight by about 30% for 5 reps and then again by about 20% for another 5 reps after failure is reached in the last set.
After the completion of your last full rep you will feel a “point of no return” (PNR) whereby if the weight reaches that level you will not be able to get it back up. A partial works around that PNR in an effort to exhaust the other muscles used in that exercise by shortening your range of motion beginning at the top or bottom of the repetition. For example: If you are doing this for bench press, after the last complete rep of your set do not rack the weight. Instead do a few more reps only allowing the bar to reach just before your PNR. Partials done with the bottom half of the bench press repetition are also effective just be sure to have a spotter to help you. Not all muscles used in an exercise are equally fatigued at the end. By only using those unexhausted muscles in a partial you are taking the muscle further making the exercise more effective.
Personal Favorite: Barbell squat partials. After a full rep can no longer be performed do about one third of a full rep (or however far you are able to go down) 3 times.
Negatives are resistance reps where you are trying to prevent gravity from taking the weight down. These reps must be controlled as letting it down too fast won’t achieve the desired results and may result in injury. For example when I am doing chin-ups and I have reached failure on my last set I do negative reps by using a stool to boost me up so that my eyes are in line with the bar. I step off the stool and hold this position slowly letting myself down. The letting down portion takes about three seconds. I’ll usually do two negatives after my final rep. A spotter will likely be necessary for most exercises as you should not be able to lift the weight back up on your own. Exercises that involve one arm or one leg are the easiest to perform negatives on as you can simply spot and lift yourself back up with your other arm. Negatives do help in muscle growth as the burn from letting the weight down is your cells tearing allowing for a greater growth factor in the muscle.
Personal Favorite: One-armed concentration curls. Once a full rep cannot be performed use the other arm to help lift the weight up and slowly allow it to fall back down. Do this 3 times for each arm.
These are my personal favorites as I feel adding them to my workout plan has helped my workouts to be as effective as possible. After all I’m not a professional bodybuilder I haven’t got all day to spend in the gym (but I do wish I could). I like to do one of a drop set, partial, or negative after I have reached failure on my last set of an exercise. It is important not to use any of these techniques too much as doing so may lead to overtraining or injury. Listen to your body if something doesn’t feel right when you are doing an exercise then you should stop. Have fun and challenge yourself with these in your next workout!