5. USE DYNAMIC RESISTANCE
Using a form of resistance that changes throughout the movement can make a big difference in the activity. Two examples of this would be using heavy chains or bands when performing free weight movements.
With chains, as you lower the weight, more chain collects on the floor and less weight is applied to the bar. As you lift up, the chain comes off the floor and adds to the weight being lifted. For example, a bench press with 225 and 50 pounds of chain would provide a total weight of 275 at the top of the movement, but only about 230 at the bottom. Bands work on a similar premise – added resistance at the top of the lift, reduced resistance at the bottom.
Another form of dynamic resistance would be to use something with an unstable load, such as sand bags or slosh pipes. The weight shifts while moving and creates an unstable load that requires more work to simply stay vertical and not get crushed while trying to move from point A to point B.
6. USE REST-PAUSE BREAKS DURING SETS
Let’s say you’re in the middle of a tough set of squats and you’re getting close to your work capacity. Instead of racking the weight when you get to the last rep, just stand there with the weight on your shoulders and take a few deep breaths. It won’t be fun, but you’ll survive. After you catch your wind, knock out another rep or two. Repeat the process until you see your late Aunt Bertha waving at you from the light at the end of the tunnel.
Don’t go to the light, just rack the bar and grab some water.
By using a short mid-set break, where you still bear weight but aren’t actively going through a range of motion, you reduce the systemic stress on the body for a short time and allow for more oxygen into the working muscles. This can help power you through a couple of extra reps, which will add up in the long run.
This is another one of those things that most people don’t really spend time thinking about, simply because they either have the pattern ingrained to breathe a certain way or they simply set it up the same way every time.
The mechanics of breathing means we have three distinct regions where we can draw in a breath: the diaphragm, intercostals, and scalene (through the neck). If you’re not using all of these areas properly, you don’t get enough air, period.
This past summer, I was working with an elite marathon runner who had some pretty messed up breathing patterns. She was only shrugging her shoulders to breath (scalene) and getting just a little bit through her intercostals. As a result, she was essentially only using about two-thirds of her lung capacity:
After a few sessions going through some breathing mechanics retraining and postural work, we were able to get her using more of her intercostals and some of her diaphragm, as well:
Coincidentally enough, when we first started training, she complained of cramping around her left shoulder, close to her neck, which is where her scalene were overworking and fighting back.
When people get “side stitches” when working in a really anaerobic state, their diaphragm is often doing the same thing due to the intercostals and scalenes not doing their job. By balancing her breathing out, she managed to shave eight minutes off her personal best marathon time without altering her run mechanics or training program.
8. EXERCISE ORDER
One day I had the great idea of switching around my bench workout order so that I’d finish with bench press after doing six other exercises. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. Getting totally pinned with just one 45 on each side of the bar, and having some old guy in knee-high grey socks and disturbingly short-shorts help me out while telling me, “I shouldn’t lift so much without a spotter,” was definitely a highlight moment in my lifting career.
If you’re used to doing exercises in the same order, switch it around, but maybe not to the extreme of doing the biggest exercises dead last. If your training exercises were usually 1,2,3,4,5,6, something like 3,2,6,1,5,4 would be enough variety to get some benefits without totally sacrificing the weight on any exercises.
By altering the order, when you would previously be tired on certain exercises, you’d now be fresh and conceivably move more weight. Similarly, by moving an exercise later, you’ll be more fatigued which means the same movement will require more work at the same weight.
9. ADD WEIGHT
Yep. Go heavier. Shocker there, huh?
But really, add some weight to the bar and lift it like it’ll squash your dog if you don’t. Keep technique in mind, absolutely, but if you happen to lose a textbook-perfect neutral spine for a split-second because you’re pulling significantly more than you’ve ever pulled, it’s okay.
Top powerlifters will tell you that when it comes to setting a PR, technique will tend to go out the window to pull more. Don’t be afraid of the weight, make the weight afraid of you.
10. CHANGE YOUR SET AND REP SCHEME
If you’ve been using the same 4×10 or 5×5 scheme, it’s time to change it up. Do some higher rep marathon sets or low rep power sets. Choose one exercise and work up to a heavy, confident single, and then bang out 10 sets of fast doubles for others.
Get back to pyramiding (increasing weight and dropping reps every set) or include dropsets, staggered sets, supersets, or any variation of the theme. By switching the set and rep scheme, you change what the end-focus of the workout will be, whether it’s strength, power, hypertrophy, or endurance. Occasionally, it’s good to do different, even if it might seem contrary to your current goals.
If you consider that with each of these 10 methods of altering an exercise, if there were only three variations that would possibly occur, that makes 59,049 possible ways of altering each individual exercise.
If each method had four options, it would mean 1,048,576 possible ways of changing an exercise. This would conceivably mean that you could apply these changes to the same exercise everyday for the next 2,870 years and never repeat the same exact design.
So, you officially have zero excuses to be doing the same workout next week that you did this week. Play around with different variables and try to get some crazy inconsistency for each exercise in your workouts.
You Can Check Out Part 1 Here.