To gain more from your weight-training, sometimes new methods or concepts should be used to "shock" the muscles in to gaining more size and strength. Using these overload techniques will help to get pass any training plateaus that the strength training athlete may have reached. Three of these strengthen methods are featured below.
Some Common Alternative Overload Techniques
Super Slow Contractions: This is a training method where repetitions are performed in a very slow manner in both the concentric and eccentric phases. Times for contractions vary with the most common protocol being 5 seconds for each contraction for approximately 6 repetitions making a total of 60 seconds of muscle tension. The purpose of this training technique is to maintain quality tension on the muscle, throughout the full range of motion, for an extended period of time and reducing the stresses on the joints. Unfortunately, this places the training stimulus in the lactate energy system, activating slow twitch muscle fibers as only light weights can be lifted relative to MVC (maximal voluntary contraction). Research by Keogh and co-authors (1997) showed that force output and EMG (electromyographic) activity was low during super slow contractions when compared to traditional weight training speeds. McEvoy and Newton (1997) also showed that it was ineffective in stimulating increases in muscle size and strength when compared to traditional training in experienced lifters. It maybe an effective training technique for beginners, rehabilitation or a down loading in a training cycle due to the safety and decrease in muscle tension 'and joint stress.
Supersets: This is where exercises are performed consecutively for the same muscle group without a rest interval in between. The suggested reasoning behind this training method is to keep the tension placed on the muscle from a new angle to enforce further muscle fatigue. However, the physiological response from this training will depend on the number repetitions performed. The higher the repetitions the more muscle endurance is promoted, thus decreasing force output and muscle tension, placing the stimulus in the lactate energy system whilst activating slow twitch muscle fibers. Pre-exhaustive super-sets are when an isolated exercise is followed by a compound exercise. The assistant movers in the compound exercise are supposed to keep the prime mover working even though it has already been pre-fatigued during the isolated exercise, theoretically adding more stress to the target muscle. Again, this training technique promotes muscular endurance past normal fatigue levels.
Drop Sets: This is a training technique where more than one set of an exercise is performed in a row without a rest interval between sets. Consequently, training loads are decreased between each set so as to allow the completion of the required repetitions. The weight can be lowered as many times as required depending on the training goal. The most common protocol is to reduce the weight twice so you would perform three consecutive sets. The suggested purpose of this training technique is to keep the muscle working even though it is already fatigued creating an incredible "burn" and "pump". The energy systems and muscle fibers recruited are dependant upon the number of repetitions performed. The more repetitions performed in each set, the more the training stimulus falls away from the phosphate energy system-or strength gain. Higher repetitions will also recruit slow twitch muscle fibers rather than fast twitch muscle fibers which are associated with low repetitions and high load. This would reduce overall force output and muscle tension and activity.
Partial Reps: A training technique that utilizes the combination of partial movements in a sequence to form the set. It usually comprises of a combination of 3 or 4 parts of the range of movement, using light loads, for 5-7 repetitions each part. You would eventually complete approximately twenty repetitions. It is a training technique that is suggested will activate muscles during ranges of motion not normally targeted, adding more stress to the muscle at these ranges of movement. Considering light loads are used for high repetitions, this form of training would also reduce force output and muscle activity. It places the training stimulus in the lactate energy system, activating slow twitch muscle fibers promoting muscle endurance rather than strength and hypertrophy. Heavy partials could be used to concentrate on a particular part of the movement such as the sticking, starting, or end range of movement of the exercise. If heavy loads and low repetitions were used, there would be an end result of increased strength and muscle size.
Eccentrics: This training protocol comes in various forms-negatives to super-eccentrics. Negatives take the set to concentric failure then, with assistance, through the concentric phase, extra eccentric contractions are performed to fatigue. Eccentric failure is never achieved with traditional weight training as concentric failure always occurs first, reducing the relative intensity during the eccentric phase of the movement. These negatives place more tension and relative intensity on the muscles thus providing a further stimulus for strength and hypertrophy. However, if repetitions are high prior to concentric failure, then the training stimulus is structured for muscle endurance once again rather than strength and hypertrophy.
Super-eccentrics are when the load is adjusted to above your MVC ( 1 RM) so that no concentric contractions can be performed, only super-loaded eccentric contractions. This training requires spotters to assist the lifter during the concentric phase of the movement. This training technique will place high levels of eccentric tension, force output and activity on the muscle. Theoretically, it is physiologically beneficial for strength and hypertrophy due to the nature and absolute intensity of the training stimulus.
Further eccentric loads can be placed on the eccentric phase of an exercise via manual application from a training partner. The partner will manually apply extra downward load on the bar or weight stack to overload the eccentric phase of the lift. How much extra force is applied is dependant upon the amount of control that the lifter has over the exercise. When the lifter loses control or falters in technique during the execution, the exercise should be ceased. The training adaptation will be specific to the number of repetitions chosen during the lift and how much eccentric load is applied, with each repetition before failure is reached. This form of training allows the eccentric load to be adjusted at various joint angles according the resistance and control shown by the lifter.
Benefits of Strength
Strength and Size with Speed Reps
vs. Strength Training