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I’m not a patient guy, but I know it takes a lot of time and hard work to add weight to all your exercises. That is, until we find a shortcut to help us lift more weight and save us the extra weeks, if not months, it would normally take to make those gains.
Even with an intelligent workout routine and flawless diet, it still takes time to increase the weight on your bench press by, say, 10lbs. But with four quick hacks, you’ll do that in a single workout.
Make a fist and squeeze as hard as you can. Now, squeeze your glutes and try again. What happened?
You squeezed tighter.
That’s called “irradiation.” When you activate one muscle, you radiate tension and neural activity to nearby areas and unlock more strength; when you activate all your muscles, you’ll unleash your maximum potential.
Think you’re tight enough? Think again. For every exercise, squeeze your glutes as hard as you can, tighten your core, and crush your grip to turn your knuckles white. Grab the ground with your foot on the squat; tear a piece of the ground on the pushup; and even tighten your legs on small, upper-body exercises like the bicep curl.
You’ll never realize all the strength you’re leaving on the table until you try this. The best time to use irradiation is on heavy sets with few reps to lift more weight or near the end of a long set to eke out a few more reps.
Trick your muscles to become stronger naturally with “post-activation potentiation.”
Here’s how it works: Before your main lift, quickly expose your muscles to a heavy, non-fatiguing weight for a single set. Before you back squat 250lbs for 10 reps, for example, try a heavy set of two reps (at around 90% of your one-rep max). Or you can use a set of heavy kettlebell swings to fire your glutes, activate your hip drive from the bottom, and spike your central nervous system.
When you shock your body with a short, intense bout of exercise, you “potentiate” your muscles and make them temporarily stronger. PAP makes the actin and myosin within your muscle fibers more receptive to calcium, which creates faster muscle contractions, and excites the nervous system to generate more force.
That’s how wave loading works.
Most guys waste their energy on the warm-up. Imagine you want to bench press 225lbs for three sets of eight reps; most guys do something like this:
135lbs x 10
155lbs x 8
185lbs x 6
205lbs x 4
Then, they load 225lbs and start their workout.
Yet, when it comes to your warm-up, less is more. For example, instead of adding 20lbs for each warm-up set, use 45-lb to 50-lb jumps. It does the same thing while saving you a lot of reps and unnecessary work.
Also, shorten your sets to three reps at most: low reps are more effective than higher reps. The real benefit of the warm-up is acclimating your body to increasingly higher weights while practicing technique and speed.
Now, if you’re going to bench 225 lbs. for 3 sets of 8 reps, try this warm-up:
45 lbs. x 5 (Yes, just the bar.)
95 lbs. x 3
135 lbs. x 3
175 lbs. x 3
You’ll feel just as prepared, and you’ll lift more weight.
If you want to lift big, add chalk to your arsenal.
Pulling exercises like deadlifts, pullups, or heavy rows will exhaust your grip before your bigger muscles, which limits the weight you lift and slows your strength gains.
Avoid losing your grip by slapping chalk on your hands and rubbing some on the bar. This helps wick moisture for a tighter grip and increase friction by filling all the cracks on your hands and on the bar.
Now, you’ll grip the barbell tighter, lift more weight, and allow your bigger muscles to do the work. If you’re used to deadlifting without chalk, you will be in for a nice, strong surprise.
Some gyms, however, forbid chalk. I recommend sneaking it anyway and cleaning the barbells when you’re finished.
Or finding a new gym.