Following the conventional, repetitive repetition tempo (e.g., 1 second up, 2 seconds to lower) for every set in the weight room week after week gets stale.
Start 2016’s workouts with a bang by performing an innovative and intense isometric holding rep and negative rep combination. It will have your muscles shaking, promoting strength and size gains. You’ll only be doing 1 to 3 reps per set for each exercise, but they’ll be among the hardest reps you’ll ever do, because your muscles will be under continuous tension for 30 seconds or longer (employing the muscle-building “time under tension” principle.) Attempting 2 to 3 reps will be a struggle in successive sets.
RELATED: Get Stronger with Isometric Training
Below are two full-body workouts using these unconventional and challenging growth-stimulating reps. Workout 1 involves free weight or cable exercises, and Workout 2 calls for bodyweight movements.
Hold the positive (concentric) phase of each rep for 15 seconds, then take 15 seconds to slowly do the negative (eccentric) phase of the rep during the return to starting position.
- Sets/Reps: 3×1-3
- Rest between sets: 45 seconds
- Rest between exercises: 45 seconds (hydrate if necessary)
- Hydrate before, during and after workouts.
- Use a spotter for barbell exercises such as Barbell Squats and Bench Presses (or set the safety pins if performing these exercises in a power rack).
- Perform an upper- and lower-body dynamic warm-up (e.g., Arm Circles and Lunges).
- Finish with cooldown of upper- and lower-body static stretches for greater flexibility and range of motion.
- Do the workouts on non-consecutive days for adequate recovery.
- 2 dumbbells (80% 1RM) and/or cables (80% 1RM) (if using a cable machine), and 1 barbell (80% 1RM).
- Portable bench or chair and power rack (optional).
- Pull-Up bar (or substitute Inverted Rows in a power rack with the barbell placed on waist-high safety pins).
- Dip bar (or bench or chair if substituting Parallel Dips with feet- elevated Push-Ups or Reverse Dips).
- Timer (optional).
- Water bottle.
- Exercise mat (optional).
- Follow the isometric hold/negative rep method (described above under “Guidelines”) using DB Squats as an example.
RELATED: Dumbbell Squat 101: A How-To Guide
Single-Leg DB or Cable Bent-Over Rows
- With your left foot off the ground, both knees slightly bent and DBs or cable handles held with arms extended, explosively pull to waist level (1 second).
- Do the isometric hold.
- Do the negative lowering to starting position and repeat with your right foot off the ground.
- Attempt a third rep with your left foot off the ground.
- This is a great upper-body, core-building and balance-enhancing movement.
- Use a spotter (or bring a portable bench in a power rack and set the barbell on the safety pins about 6 inches above your chest).
- If using a power rack, explosively press the bar up, hold, then slowly lower until the bar touches the safety pins.
- Immediately repeat.
Bulgarian Split Squats
- With your rear left foot atop a bench and your right knee slightly bent, grip both DBs with your arms extended at your sides.
- Do the isometric hold followed by the negative lowering until both DBs and your left knee touch the ground.
- Immediately drive up to the starting stance and repeat with your rear right foot atop the bench.
- Attempt a third rep with your rear left foot on the bench.
- An excellent lower-body size-builder, core and balance-boosting exercise.
- Hold DBs or cable handles with a shoulder-width prone grip with your arms extended at or below waist level and your knees slightly bent.
- Explosively pull up to just above your chest, hold, slowly lower and repeat.
- Perhaps the most difficult reps will occur with this exercise—1 rep or at best 2 reps will probably suffice, since it is the last exercise of the workout and fatigue may be an issue.
- Use a barbell or the DBs.
- With the barbell or DBs at shoulder-level and your knees slightly bent, quickly press overhead, hold, lower slowly to shoulder-level and repeat.
- Use your legs as leverage to help drive the barbell or DBs overhead.
- With your back flat against a wall, arms extended at shoulder level and knees slightly bent, do the isometric hold, then slowly lower into the full squat position.
- Immediately ascend to starting stance and repeat twice more.
Parallel Dips (or substitute Feet-Elevated Push-Ups)
- For Parallel Dips, explosively press up for the isometric hold.
- Leaning slightly forward, slowly lower into a full dip position.
- Quickly press up and repeat 2-3 more times.
- For feet-elevated Push-Ups, assume a push-up position with your toes atop a bench or chair.
- Hold in the top position with your back straight and abdomen tight, then slowly lower (don’t let your back sag) until your chest touches the ground.
- Explosively press up and repeat.
- With your arms extended overhead, your left foot off the ground and your knees slightly bent, hold and then lower into a full squat position.
- Drive back up and repeat with your right foot off the ground, then try a third rep with your left foot off the ground.
- This all-in-one exercise simultaneously builds upper-body muscle endurance (when continuously holding arms overhead), lower-body and core strength, and improves balance.
RELATED: Elite Performance with Mike Boyle: How to Fix Your Single-Leg Squat
Bench or Chair Reverse Dips
- With your back facing away from a bench or chair, place your hands close to your sides (fingers facing toward you) atop the bench or chair.
- Bend your arms slightly and extend your legs.
- After the isometric hold, do the negative lowering phase until your upper arms are nearly horizontal and your hips almost touch the ground.
- Press up and repeat.
Pull-Ups (or substitute Inverted Rows)
- Follow the Pull-Ups rep instructions under “Guidelines.”
- For Inverted Rows, position yourself under the barbell with a shoulder-width supine grip and your legs extended.
- Pull up for the holding phase (contract your biceps and squeeze your shoulder blades together).
- Lower slowly to starting position and attempt 2 more reps.