Almost everyone will reach a point in their training program where it seems they are working their butt off but getting nowhere. This is described as a "plateau". When you plateau, something needs to change. First, you should evaluate your program. Ask yourself: How long have I been consistent? How often do I change up my workout routine? What is my diet like? And how much sleep am I getting.
Here is a list of different ways that you can confuse your muscles and get them past that plateau. It is not possible to use all of these techniques at once. Vary your workouts by incorporating a few of these deviations and you will see greater results from every workout. Just remember that using some of these variations may cause over training if used on consecutive workouts.
Varying Intensity: You can sometimes challenge yourself by putting more exercises into your routine without using more time. Or you can try to get the same routine done in less time. This means less time between sets and it requires a fast recovery rate.
Heavy and Light Days: The best way to shock the muscle and keep it growing is to use heavy and light training days. Here is an example: On heavy days, use as much weight as you can for 6-8 reps and on light days, put on as much weight as you can for 12-15 reps.
Supersets are probably the number one, all-star shock technique. The benefits they offer a bodybuilder are many and include, taxing more muscle fibers than a standard set, elevating growth enhancing hormones in the body, increasing mitochondrial density in the cell for more muscle energy, and perhaps the best of all, hitting the muscle from various angles for the shock of a life time!
Supersets are generally targeted at focusing on one muscle group and bringing it to the limit! They are a combination of two exercises for the same muscle group performed right after each other without pause
Supersets are basically broken down into two types of exercises; mass and isolation exercises. First lets explain the difference between mass and isolation. A compound movement is an exercise that involves two or more joint movements. These tend to build the most mass. An isolated exercise involves one discernible joint movement and is used to target a muscle.
Drop sets are often referred to as "stripping" the weights, or "burnouts." After you reach failure with your working weight, a partner quickly reduces the poundage you're lifting--by stripping off the weight, as it were so that you can complete more reps, taking you beyond your threshold for failure at your initial working weight.
Use a drop set as the last set of a particular exercise. You should not use a drop set for more than one set of any exercise, because this technique places a lot of stress on your target muscle in a very short period of time. Pyramid up in weight for each set, then include a drop set for the last set with your heaviest weight.
Use drop sets to train a lagging body part, or a particular body part you are targeting for growth. Target-train these body parts for six to eight weeks before switching your training strategy. Drop sets should be used for extra stimulation. If you use them all the time, your body will accommodate itself to them, as it does to all training strategies. This may be part of the reason you're not seeing the development you expected to from using this technique.
Also you must remember to decrease weight in increments. The first drop should bring you to about 80 percent of the working weight for that set. If instead you cut the weight in half and pump out 20 reps, you're missing out on the benefits of drop sets. For subsequent drops we recommends going to about 60 percent to 70 percent of the initial weight, then on the next drop to 50 percent.
A forced rep is considered as trying to lift more weight than you can lift by yourself and needing your partner to help you finish the set. This is good on heavy days when you are at your failure point and you just need a little help to get that last rep. Another form of forced reps is to have your spotter force down the bar to your chest (on benchpress) on the eccentric (downward) phase of the lift by applying his bodyweight to the bar. You may need the spotter to help you get the bar back to the top of the movement.
A great way to get your muscles to burn is by using partial reps. When doing partial bench press reps, you should only lift the weight about 4 inches off of your chest. This works great when used as a compound set with dumbbell bench or incline flyes. This goes for any other exercise as well. Only do the first half of the rep. But don't do these for squats; it's a waste of time.