I talk so much about the many common ways to add intensity to your workouts - techniques like drop sets, forced reps, rest-pauses and holding peak contractions - that I sometimes forget the not-so-obvious ones. Recently, I thought back to some of the innovative ways that my fellow bodybuilders and I achieved that extra bit of intensity in a workout, as we always pursued another 5-10 pounds of new muscle growth. Here are three of the more creative measures we took.
This novel technique involves holding a relatively light weight steady at various points along the path of an exercise, which forces the muscle to maintain a constant contraction for extended periods.
Let’s use lateral raises as an example. After reaching failure on a straight set, I lifted the dumbbells out to my sides only 5 inches or so and held them there for 10 seconds. That may not sound like such a big deal, but believe me, it provides a painful end to a set. When I was seeking an even greater burn, I’d do this another time or two after resting for 15 seconds, almost like rest-pausing. Give it a try the next time you feel you’ve hit a plateau. This works similarly with pull-ups. At the end of a set, lift yourself only a few inches above the bottom of the rep and hold this position for as long as you can. What a way to force your lats to grow wider!