Advanced Training for That Extra Edge

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Well folks, at this point in time many of us are back in the gym and getting our grind on again. If you’ve been back for at least a few weeks like I have, then you’ve probably started to make some gains again while also building your base strength back up. So, this article was written to give you some ideas on how to take your current routine to a new and more demanding level- if you are indeed back at the gym. The tools discussed in this article can be extremely beneficial in bringing about new fitness gains; however, care must be taken to use them at the appropriate times and in the appropriate manner. Otherwise, overtraining symptoms, and/or injury can occur. And that’s never a good thing. So please read carefully. Below, I discuss some advanced training techniques in detail that will surely help to boost your workouts to that next intense level.

Heavy Lifting

OK, this really isn’t an advanced training technique as much as it is something that many people shy away from. I’ve talked before about the number game and how many people believe that more is always better in regards to the amount of reps performed. That is not necessarily true. While it is true that beginning exercisers should not embark on a heavy lifting routine, once a baseline of strength and endurance has been achieved, and permitting that the person has no limitations in regards to their health, there is no reason to hold back on heavy lifting as long as it is done properly. It is always wise to hire a trainer for at least a few sessions to look at your form before you start heavy lifting. As long as each exercise is being performed properly, heavy lifting can be routinely cycled into your workouts on a recurring basis. However, the key word there is “cycled”. Just as with other training patterns, care should be taken to not perform heavy lifting on an ongoing basis with no rest or recovery. That is sure to result in injury or overtraining. It needs to be cycled with lighter and more moderate intensity levels to insure that the body is not being overworked. Again, risk factors in health may be a contraindication for heavy lifting, so it is also wise to talk to your doctor first before embarking on a heavy lifting program.

Super Slow Training

This advanced training technique is exactly what it sounds like. It involves using a much lighter weight than is normally used and performing each exercise about twice as slow as one normally would. For example, if someone is doing a set of dumbbell bicep curls, they would curl their arms to a count of four and lower their arms to a count of eight. Talk about difficult! This technique is certainly not for unmotivated individuals! Using this technique can break down more muscle tissue than normal lifting can and it can actually recruit more muscle fibers from the muscles involved. What’s the result? Greater gains! Of course this technique as well as all the other techniques mentioned in this article will not work unless if the exerciser is practicing proper nutrition and getting adequate rest and recovery. I have seen a couple of other trainers in my day that swear by this technique and it is the only form of training that they use. I do not agree with that. Performing super slow training on an ongoing basis with no cycling of normal lifting and little rest and recovery can damage connective tissue and can lead to other serious problems such as tendonitis. That’s never fun!

Drop Sets

Drop sets are one of my favorite advanced training techniques. It involves performing one set of a given exercise and progressively lowering the weight of that exercise once muscle failure has been achieved. For example, let’s say someone is doing a drop set of the Cable Triceps Press- down exercise. They achieve muscle failure around ten reps. This means that they have completely exhausted their muscles and they cannot do any more reps. The weight is then immediately dropped about 20% and the person continues to lift at the lighter weight until they reach muscle failure a second time. Then the weight is dropped again and the exerciser continues to lift to muscle failure a third time. I usually stop my clients there. I don’t want to make them too mad at me! This is a very intense advanced training technique that should be done on an occasional basis- not all of the time! Too much of any advanced technique will cause more harm than good. Again, it can help recruit more muscle fibers in the muscles being used which can add more symmetry and strength to the body. Give this one a try. You’ll love the burn!

Pyramid Training

Pyramid training is the exact opposite of breakdown training. Instead of waiting to muscle failure to lower the weight, weight is actually added to the exercise throughout the set! For example, let’s say someone is doing the Lat- Pull-down exercise. They start lifting at a relatively light weight. After about five or six reps, the weight is then increased by about 20%. After a few more reps, the weight is increased again. They’re really sweating by this point! This pattern continues until the person reaches muscle failure. It usually doesn’t take more than three weight increases before the person maxes out. This technique throws an added challenge at the body thereby stimulating new muscle fibers to be activated and adding strength and size to the muscle. The one challenge that both pyramid training and drop sets provide is that they both require the assistance of a trainer or a workout partner.

Forced Negatives

This is one technique that I would suggest only be done under the close supervision of a skilled personal trainer. People who are not experienced with this technique should not even try it, because injury can easily occur. It involves the trainer adding more resistance by using his or her own body during the negative phase of an exercise. For example, let’s use the Seated Bench Press. Let’s say the client has performed ten good reps and is starting to fatigue. The trainer then starts giving the client more resistance on the return (negative) phase of the exercise while the client is resisting that extra weight at the same time with about 30% of his effort. Please keep in mind that the trainer is not using all his strength to provide the extra resistance. In fact he barely has to work at all because the client was already starting to fatigue. Again, as the client returns the weight back toward his chest, the trainer is giving him extra manual resistance at the same time which the client is resisting. It’s a great technique, and when done properly, can have great benefits!

Assisted Reps

Again, this technique requires the assistance of a trainer or workout partner. This time, as the client starts to reach muscle failure on a particular exercise, the trainer steps in and helps him complete a few more reps. For example, let’s say the client is on the Leg Press machine. He manages to do about 12 reps before he really starts to fatigue. He’s just about at muscle failure when the trainer or workout partner steps in and helps him achieve about three more reps. This simple act of kindness can allow the client to “shock” his muscles into achieving added strength gains and muscle hypertrophy.

Again, the one thing that I cannot enforce enough is that these techniques should not be performed on a continual basis. They are advanced techniques only to be used once in a while to stimulate new muscle fibers and to boost someone’s current workout program. Too much of any of these techniques can lead to overtraining and/or injury. Just be careful. Give them a try but be cautious. They just might be able to help you improve your physique this summer. I’ll be watching!


By Michael Elder. Created on Aug. 7, 2020. Updated Oct. 26, 2020. From Health & Fitness.

About the Author

Michael Elder is a former competitive gymnast and has been working in the fitness industry since 1998. He is certified as a personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise (ACE). He can be contacted by email, through his Facebook business page, or through his website, all listed below. He is currently available for one on one training sessions.

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