When it comes to strength training, it’s commonly thought that you need to gradually increase the amount of weight you’re lifting to see real benefits. However, there are other ways to challenge your body and get strength gains. Follow these five ways to level up your muscles without increasing your weights load.
TIP ONE: INCREASE YOUR REPS
Doing more repetitions in each set is a good way to get stronger when increasing the load is not an option, Maine Fitness Personal Trainer and Head Coach Dale Hansford said.
“By increasing the volume of repetitions slightly from 7 to 8 reps per set for example, you are increasing the time your muscles are under tension. That extra time means your muscle fibres will experience more beneficial damage and be able to handle more trauma in your next workout,” Hansford said.
TIP TWO: INCREASE YOUR SETS
Research shows you can increase your strength by increasing your exercise sets.
In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, men who performed 3 sets of arm strengthening exercises for 12 weeks saw an 11.3 per cent greater increase in arm strength than men who performed only one set.
TIP THREE: DEVELOP GOOD TECHNIQUE
Developing good technique in whatever exercise you are doing is essential for recruiting your optimal muscle strength.
“It can take many years to master and refine, but by developing good technique you can lift up to 50kg more than if you were to perform the same activity with poor or average technique,” Catalyst PHD Personal Trainer Jeff Laurence said.
Take the Olympic lift as an example. “If you can make sure you get power off the floor, shrug your shoulders at the right time, tuck under the bar and then engage your legs and core at the right time, your force output will be much greater,” Laurence said.
TIP FOUR: TRY PULSING OR HOLDING TO STRENGTHEN TARGET MUSCLE PORTIONS
These are both powerful techniques to add more time under tension for certain muscle fibres. You can pulse or hold an exercise to overload a certain portion of a muscle group and strengthen that portion, Hansford said.
“For example, adding partial reps (pulses) or holding at the bottom of a squat will use more of the glutes and the very low part of the quads versus doing pulses or holding in the top part of the squat where tension would be higher up in the quads,” he said.
Try these techniques in the bottom portion of a lunge or split squat and at the bottom or halfway portion of any curls or triceps extension, Hansford advised.
TIP FIVE: VARY GRIPS AND BODY POSITIONING SLIGHTLY
You can recruit a greater distribution of muscle fibres and change the biomechanical difficulty of the exercise by simply changing your body position, according to Hansford.
“As an example, if you switch your hand grip from a close grip chin up with your palms facing you to have your palms facing away from you and your arms very wide, you can work the upper outer portion of the back instead of the centralised portion of the back and the exercise will be more difficult. This increase in difficulty and the fact that you’re using a greater distribution of muscle fibres will mean you will see gains in strength,” he said.
Laurence agreed. “Try performing multiple variations of the same exercise one after the other to work a broad distribution of muscle fibres and increase the difficulty,” he added.