When first starting out in the gym, results come in like crazy. Weights increasing every workout, reps getting easier, and soreness is a scarcity. However after three to six months of consistent lifting, most lifters (if exercising properly) will be exiting their "noobie" phase and will be entering a more intermediate phase of their lifting career — meaning the dreaded lifter's plateau is soon approaching.
The harder you train, the more you gain, but that progression can quickly hit a cap if your body starts getting used to the mechanical tension it's enduring at the gym. In this article, we will go through 3 of the best methods to make your workouts more challenging, in order to blast through plateaus as if they were never there.
One of the best ways to make your workouts more challenging is to add a pause at the bottom of each repetition during your set. Doing so forces your body to remain in a “straining position” for longer and also removes any momentum you may be relying on to complete the movement. Your muscles have to fire in order for you to generate the force needed to complete a movement. Doing a few reps with pauses will make a set more challenging than if you are to use the same weight without pauses. Not only does this allow your muscles to spend more time being challenged, meaning more time-under-tension — it also minimizes the chances for you to use a bad posture to complete a workout.
If you are combining your workouts with anabolic steroid supplements, incorporating pauses between your movements allows the steroids to trigger with your muscular cells, accelerating healing and providing you with enhanced strength.
On the opposite hand of lengthening the straining phases of a movement, you can also consider squeezing your muscle when its contracted. In most exercises, a rep will include one or more positions where your muscles will feel contracted. By maximizing the force exerted to these squeezes, it helps strengthen those muscles and affirms that your posture and movement is correct.
For example, try performing a barbell curl and squeeze the biceps at the top of the curl hard before lowering the weight. The first few reps may feel just fine, but then muscular fatigue will take over and you’ll have to work harder to control that flexing. If you incorporate pauses into this movement, it will feel even more tiring, accelerating your muscle growth.
Alongside extending the time your muscles are kept in a strained position and squeezing them tight, you will also want to focus on efficiency as well as effectiveness. To achieve this, simply decrease your normal resting periods to a minimum. If you would usually rest for a minute between sets, consider reducing that to 45 or 30 seconds.
When entering that intermediate phase of your fitness journey, packing on muscle mass can quickly become an even more challenging task than it already is. By incorporating the above techniques, while also prioritizing nutrition, recovery, and supplementation, you can ensure that your muscle growth will continue to develop at optimal rates. If you're ever unsure of what exercises to complete or what supplements you can take to boost muscle growth, check out our blog for more fitness tips or reach out to our support team for fitness advice.