If you mistakenly lock your training mindset into a system of sets and reps, your program will become stagnant. To build muscle fast, you need to focus on other aspects of your training.
Varying your sets and reps is important, but you must also consider other factors. Changing your rest periods, training density and tension should all be factored into your training.
Rest Periods: Mixed Circuit Training
Traditional circuit training calls for a series of resistance exercises performed in succession with a minimum amount of rest, in an effort to build muscular endurance. Mixed circuit training calls for a variety of modalities—including barbell, dumbbell, bodyweight, plyometric and cardio exercises—to increase the challenge on your muscles and improve other espects of your fitness.
Mixed Circuit Training Guidelines
- Exercises that require a high degree of technical proficiency should not be heavily loaded. For example, barbell exercises should be loaded with less than 25% of your max
- Exercises should never be performed to failure, and the number of repetitions should be kept low to ensure proper form
- Rest time may be reduced between individual exercises and circuits to intensify the workout; however, work-to-rest intervals should be kept at 1:2 or greater. For every 30 seconds of work, rest for 60 seconds
Mixed Circuit Training Workouts
Repeat three or four times and rest for up to 60 seconds between exercises.
Density: Timed Workouts
Varying your training density involves altering the amount of work performed in a prescribed block of time. Simply set a time and begin your workout. Try to increase the number of reps compared to your last session by reducing your rest time. Doing so stimulates muscle growth and keeps your heart rate up, which will build endurance and burn calories.
Timed Workout Guidelines
- Do not rush through a workout.
- Maintain a steady pace throughout the workout, but allow adequate rest time between sets.
Sample Timed Exercises
- Hex Bar Deadlift x 20 reps @ 75-85% max within 20 minutes
- Hex Bar Deadlift x 21 reps @ 75-85% max within 20 minutes
Tension: Timed Sets
Renowned powerlifting coach Louie Simmons popularized timed sets, because they force the muscles to remain under tension for longer periods of time, which is one of the keys to muscle growth. They also improve muscular endurance and joint health.
Timed Set Guidelines
- To ensure maximum tension, perform movements just shy of the lockout and above the starting point of the lift.
- Exercises that are technically difficult should not be heavily loaded. For example, barbell exercises should be loaded with less than 70% of your max; and dumbbell exercises should be performed at 75% of your standard workload.
Sample Timed Set Exercise
- Flat Dumbbell Bench Press x 30 seconds (movement should be continuous with no pause on chest or at lockout)
Nearly any exercise can be performed in a timed fashion.
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