Advanced Post Failure Methods
In this article I have outlined a few techniques I use in order to maximise muscle growth with my personal training clients. The techniques serve to extend the time under tension of a given muscle once Maximum Voluntary Contraction (MVC) has taken place.
MVC or going to failure, as it is more commonly known, is when your muscles can not perform any more full concentric contractions in good form. It is important that this point is reached before attempting any of the advanced techniques outlined below.
These techniques help to induce further damage to the muscle at a cellular level, recruit a higher number of high threshold motor units and increase the bodies production of lactic acid, which leads to an increase in growth hormone, fat loss and muscle mass.
It is important that you are in the right mind set for these technique, as they are tough. Do not allow your mind to fail before your muscles do if you want the best results possible. Where possible, get a good training partner.
Forced Reps (FR)
Once you have reached MVC your training partner will help you through a number of forced reps, where he/she will assist with an amount of force on the concentric range before allowing you to control the weight back through the eccentric range.
Using the bench press as an example, the spotter should stand over you ready to assist. When you reach the point of failure your spotter will gently ease the bar up through the sticking point whilst you are still maintaining maximum force against the bar. Once through the sticking point you will complete the rep and begin the next eccentric phase. Repeat the process for as many reps as possible (normally 1-3) before it is evident that your spotter is lifting more of the weight than you.
Rest Pause Method (RP)
After you reach MVC you rack the bar/dbs/cable and rest for 10s. Once 10s have been completed you aim to carry on the set with the same tempo prescription as before. It is muscle and person dependant, but you should be able to crank out another 1-3 reps if done correctly. I particularly like to prescribe this method to clients who train alone, as it is the safest option.
Negative Training Method (NT)
For this method you need a training partner or someone to help you. Once you reach MVC, your training partner helps you to lift the bar/db/cable into position so that you can perform an eccentric rep. As the body is stronger with eccentric contractions than concentric you will be able to resist the weight (albeit with a grimace on your face).
There are several options in terms of tempo prescription. You can choose to perform as many eccentric only reps as possible for a 5s count (as an example) or you could try to perform one long eccentric rep of 15-30s.
An even more advanced technique, and one I would only use with personal training clients who have a training age of 2 years plus, is to do 1 eccentric rep with 100% plus of your 1RM. Again using the bench press as an example, start with 105% of 1RM on the bar, with the aid of a spotter unrack the bar and perform an eccentric only rep, your spotter will then help to re-rack the bar safely. This method is particularly effective for well trained individuals looking to break through plateaus.
Drop Set Method (DS)
The most common of our extended sets principles is the drop sets method. Once you reach MVC, lower the weight used by 10-30% and carry on with the same tempo prescription for as many reps as possible. Upon reaching MVC for the second time, you can repeat the process again, dropping the weight by a further 10-30% and carrying on until failure.
From a safety perspective this is a great method for those that train alone, although in a busy chain gym at 6pm on a Monday, this may be slightly frowned upon!
Partial Reps Method (PR)
Partial reps are exactly as they sound. Once you reach MVC you will continue the exercise with as many partial reps as possible. You will probably only be able to move the weight 20-30 degrees of full range, aim to reach failure again. Normally this will be anywhere from 10-30 partials dependant upon muscle fibre type, exercise and muscle group trained.
The methods outlined are just a few of many you can implement to break through plateaus or bring up stubborn body parts when other methods have failed. Give them a go and let us know how you get on.