Your body will get use to whatever you throw at it. That is why you have to periodize a program so that it is constantly putting your body in a “shock” mode. Your body should have to guess what is coming next. Your body shouldn’t know that every Monday you do bench press 3 sets of 10 reps, but if every Monday you do the same bench press 3 sets of 10 reps, it will know!
There are several things you can do, in addition to changing your program on a regular basis, that will “shock” your body, and bust through any plateau that may be coming.
A superset is where you combine two exercises back to back with no rest in between. You can either do same muscle group or opposing muscle groups. An example would be DB chest press with push-ups. Another example, opposing muscles, DB chest press with seated low cable row. You would do each set with no rest in between exercises and then rest before your next set is started.
Drop-sets is where you chose the same exercise, but you lower the weight each time. An example would be that same DB chest press. You would do 50lbs for 8 reps, right away “drop” them and do 30lbs for 8reps, “drop” them and do 10lbs for 8reps. Then rest, and repeat.
Chose a tempo that is different than what you normally do. For example a typical exercise tempo is 2-1-2. 2 seconds on the contraction, 1 second on the isometric hold at the top, and 2 seconds down on the eccentric phase. You may change that up to be 1-0-1, to work on speed and explosiveness. You may also slow that down to something like 5-2-5, where you are controlling the weight both concentrically and eccentrically, and getting a slight isometric contraction at the top.
Similar to tempo training, super slow training is just that, super slow. You may take 8 seconds to complete the concentric position, and 8 seconds to complete the eccentric position. This causes a big stress on the muscles, putting them in that “shock” mode you desire.
Negatives are a great way to do a little more weight than what you normally would. These are best done with a spotter. They can be done on every exercise, however you see them more commonly done on exercise like the chin-up, pull-up, and bench press. You take the eccentric phase, or the lowering phase and you lower extremely slow, with heavier weight than you would normally use, then on the concentric phase, you get help from your spotter to finish the rep off. So lets use the chin-up for example. You could use a jump or a spot to get up in the contracted position with your chin over the bar, then you would slowly lower your body all the way down, again getting help from your spotter to get back to that contracted position at the top of the bar.
These are all great ways to stress the body, and put it in that “shock” mode you are looking for. However, these should be used sporadically, or in a periodized program. These styles of training are stressful to the body, and if done to much can cause over training.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
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Doug Spurling, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Spurling Training Systems