The start of spring signifies change and renewal—and it's an excellent time to jumpstart off-season sports conditioning programs to stimulate muscle growth.
The following muscle-building repetition method, using the "time under tension" principle, can be a refreshing change from conventional reps.
Use this intense training method for upper- and lower-body exercises. Alternate with conventional reps to get the best of both worlds.
Below are two workouts incorporating intense reps. Do only two sets per exercise and attempt 10 reps per set. Muscle fatigue will generally set in around reps 6-8, so completing 10 reps of some exercises will be a struggle.
- Two moderately heavy dumbbells or barbell (70-80% RM)
- Two lighter dumbbells (50-60% RM)
- Bench or chair
- Water bottle
- Timer (optional)
- Pull-Up Bar (or Power Rack with safety pins around the loaded barbell for doing Inverted Rows)
- Hydrate before, during and after workouts.
- Do an upper- and lower-body dynamic warm-up (e.g., Frankenstein Walks or Arm Circles and Lunges).
- Finish with cool-down upper- and lower-body static stretches for greater range of motion and flexibility.
- Perform the two workouts on non-consecutive days for adequate recovery.
- Vary the exercise sequence in successive workouts.
- Experiment by alternating certain exercises using the conventional rep method with other exercises using more intense reps (as described below).
- Sets/Reps: 2x10
- Rest between sets: 30 seconds
- Rep technique for both sets (using Push-Ups as an example): Set 1: From the Push-Up position, slowly lower to the bottom position and hold one second, then quickly press up. Lower again and hold for two seconds before pressing up. Continue adding a second of holding time on each successive rep in the lowering (eccentric) phase. The goal is to reach 10 reps with a 10-second hold in the bottom position to complete the set. Set 2: Reverse the process by holding at the top position of the Push-Up (concentric phase) for one second; lower and quickly press up and hold two seconds; next rep three seconds, then four, etc. Attempt 10 reps with the 10-second hold at the top position.
Workout 1 (Dumbbells/Barbell)
- Holding both dumbbells with arms extended at your sides, slowly lower into a parallel squat position and hold for one second.
- Explode up to the start position.
- Squat and hold two seconds, etc.
- Hold reps at the beginning of the movement before descending into the Squat.
- Hold for one second, before slowly lowering.
- Pause one second at the bottom, then return to standing position.
- Next rep, hold two seconds before descending into the one-second squat pause, and return to start.
- Continue for three seconds, four, etc.
- Not only will your lower body fatigue, but your forearms will burn from gripping the dumbbells for such lengthy sets.
Single-Leg Dumbbell Squats. Instead of doing regular dumbbell Squats, perform single-leg Squats using the same rep sequences for Set 1 and Set 2 on each leg to improve balance and core and lower body strength.
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Barbell or Dumbbell Bench Presses
Have a spotter assist for the Bench Press. Use the lighter dumbbells or the moderately heavy barbell (or place a portable bench between a Power Rack and set the safety pins for Barbell Bench Presses).
- Slowly lower the dumbbells or barbell to your chest and hold one second. Explosively press up, lower and hold two seconds, etc.
- Hold with your arms extended one second, slowly lower, pause one second, explosively press up and hold two seconds, etc.
Deadlifts (or Barbell or Dumbbell Bent-Over Rows)
- Pull to the waist and hold one second. Slowly lower, quickly pull and hold two seconds, etc.
- Hold one second at the start of the movement, quickly pull and pause one second.
- Slowly return to start and hold two seconds, etc.
Dumbbell or Barbell Overhead Presses
- Slowly lower the weight to shoulder level and hold one second. Explosively press overhead, pause one second, lower and hold two seconds, etc.
- Perform holding reps during the overhead phase.
Dumbbell or Barbell Upright Rows
- Using the lighter dumbbells, perform reps in the same holding pattern as for Deadlifts or Bent-Over Rows—except bring the weight up to chest level using a shoulder-width prone grip.
- Use the lighter dumbbells.
- Place your right foot atop the bench or chair, lower, hold one second and return to start position. Lower again for two seconds, etc. Repeat with the left foot atop the bench/chair.
- Do the holding reps from the start position before lowering with each foot atop the chair/bench.
- Grasp one light dumbbell with both hands and lie on your back.
- Simultaneously raise your legs and bring the dumbbell up to your feet.
- Hold one second, then slowly lower your lower and upper body to start position.
- For the next rep hold for two seconds, etc.
- Do the holding reps from the start position before simultaneously raising your legs and upper body.
Workout 2 (Bodyweight Exercises)
- Perform Sets 1 and 2 as described in the guidelines, using Push-Ups as an example.
Pull-Ups (or Inverted Rows)
- Pull up and hold one second, lower slowly and pull up again for two seconds, etc.
- Do holding reps from the start position (hold one second before pulling up, lower to start, hold two seconds, etc.).
- Place your right foot atop a bench/chair with your arms extended overhead. Step up using your right foot and hold one second with your left foot airborne, and then lower to start position.
- Step up again for two seconds, etc.
- Repeat with your left foot atop the bench/chair.
- Do the holding reps from the start position before pressing up with the foot atop the bench/chair (hold one second, then press up, lower slowly and hold two seconds, etc.).
- Repeat with the other foot atop the chair/bench.
- With your hands behind you on a bench or chair (fingertips facing toward you), your arms slightly bent and your legs extended with heels on the floor, slowly lower yourself until your upper arms are nearly parallel.
- Hold for one second. Press up and lower for two seconds, etc.
- Do the holding reps from the start position before lowering yourself. Advanced version: Do the Dips with one foot off the floor for boosting balance and core strength.
- With your back against a wall, lower into a parallel squat position and hold for one second. Rise up and lower again for two seconds, etc.
- Hold at the start position for one second before lowering, rise up and hold for two seconds, etc.
- Assume a prone position and simultaneously raise your upper and lower body with arms extended. Hold for one second, slowly lower and repeat for two seconds, etc.
- Hold the reps while in the prone position before simultaneously raising your upper and lower body.
Seated Reverse Crunch
- Seated with your knees slightly bent and arms extended overhead, slowly lower your upper body (don't let your back touch the floor) and hold for one second. Return to the start position and repeat for two seconds, etc.
- Do holding reps from the starting position before lowering your upper body.
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