Bodybuilders and hard core weightlifters are constantly trying to find better ways to overload the muscle during workouts. There are several definitions for muscle overload, but the best way to sum it up is the principle for muscle overload is pushing your muscles beyond their limit, reaching complete exhaustion of the muscle. This means not stopping at a certain determined rep count, but doing as many as you can with heavy weight and going beyond. You definitely need a trusted spotter for this type of workout.
There are many ways to achieve muscle overload. A few techniques that are commonly used are negatives, drop sets, and forced reps. Negatives are when you focus on the descent taking several seconds on the negative portion of the movement. For example, if you were doing barbell bench press, the negative would start at the top of the position where your arms are stretched out then you would slowly lower the weight towards your chest. Negatives are normally performed on your last set or two, and the last rep or two. Drop sets are best described as one giant set, usually two to three sets in one. You’ll do one set for as many reps as you can do, decrease the weight about 20 percent and do another set with no rest in between, then possibly repeat, decreasing the weight each time. Forced reps are having a spotter assist you with a few more reps once you have reached failure and can do no more on your own.
The techniques described above are all great tools for helping you reach muscle overload. However, I’ve discovered a unique technique that has worked quite well for me. When I say discovered, keep in mind that almost every method advertised as a new technique has been said and done by someone, in some form. Therefore I’m not claiming that this is some new magic technique that will instantly put 10 pounds of muscle on you in two weeks or anything like that. However, I have gotten much stronger and have noticed my muscles being much fuller when using this technique.
I call it the mega muscle overload technique. This method involves performing a set with heavy weight and rep range from about four to six reps until muscle failure, then resting for 20 twenty seconds and doing another set with the same weight. Like negatives, this is only done on either your final set, or last two sets. The 20 second rest period is only done once, unlike typical drop sets where you may repeat more than once. Basically by using this technique you will be able to perform eight to 10 reps overall with a weight that you are normally only able to do four to six reps with. This principle allows you not only to reach muscle overload, but to get used to handling heavier weights. Now there are a few who believe heavy weights aren’t necessary, but for most people who want to build mass, training heavy is going to be the ticket (and this is vital if you’re wanting to get stronger, obviously).
Here’s a sample bench press workout utilizing the mega muscle overload technique:
Set 1: 135 lbs x 15
Set 2: 185 lbs x 12
Set 3: 225 lbs X 8
Set 4: 250 lbs x 6
Set 4 – Mega Muscle Overload Set:
250 lbs x 6, rest 20 seconds, 250 lbs x 3
Try the mega muscle overload technique on your first heavy compound exercise, implementing the technique on the last set as listed above. Your straight sets will require normal rest time in between, such as one to two minutes. This often varies from person to person; just remember you’re not performing an endurance event so may sure you rest long enough to push heavy weight for the following set. You can do this for any body part and most any exercise, but I recommend keeping this to heavy free weight exercises or Hammer Strength machines if you don’t have a spotter. Train heavy and grow!