Have you hit a plateau with your training? Perhaps finding that you are not able to progress any further with your lifts?
One of the most popular ways to increase strength and muscle mass is by adding more weight to the bar, but this is not always possible. Especially if you work out at home, where you may not have access to as much of a selection as a commercial gym.
So what can you do to build muscle without adding more weight? Here are some suggestions that you may want to try:
Tip #1: Add More Reps to Your Workout
If you think about your normal rep count, it is probably a number between 3 and 10. This is typically what most lifters will perform.
What if after the 10th repetition you are still not tired? And have some energy remaining.
Well, if this is the case then perhaps you could consider adding more reps to your normal workout routine.
While the weight on the bar has not increased, as you have now increased the number of reps performed you have still increased the overall load.
This progressive overload will most likely increase your strength and will help build muscle too.
Personally, I would not add more repetitions to every set performed. Doing so will move your body out of the muscle building range and more into the muscle endurance range.
You should aim to do it for a few sets, and for a few select exercises to see the most benefit.
Tip #2: Add More Sets to Your Workout
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Adding more sets to your workout is another method you could potentially use to increase progressive overload.
There are plenty of workout routines that claim that 3 sets per exercise is the perfect amount, however, there are plenty of other programs that advocate additional sets.
As with the first tip, as long as you are not overdoing the number of sets performed then you will surely see some benefit to the additional sets.
Tip #3: Reduce Rest Periods Between Reps and Sets
If you are resting for longer than 90 seconds between reps and sets perhaps it is time to consider reducing this rest period down to 60 seconds or less
This reduction in recovery time will leave your body less prepared and the next time you lift you will be forced to make small incremental adaptions to your technique. These small changes can lead to strength and muscle gains.
Tip #4: Increase Your Range of Motion
Are you one of those guys who only squat half way? If you are then perhaps it is time you consider squatting to parallel, or if you are able, as far as the floor.
This increase in your range of motion will be made each exercise harder to perform and will ultimately result in an increase in strength and muscle mass
The only issue with increasing your range of motion is that you may see a small reduction in the number of reps you perform. This is normal and just shows how much harder you are working to complete each exercise.
Tip #5: Swap to a More Difficult Exercise
Have you been performing the same workout routine for months now, with the same non-challenging exercises?
If this sounds like you then perhaps it is time to mix your regime up a little.
One suggestion I would make would be to look at your exercises as movement patterns, for example, rather than thinking of a push up as a push up you could try thinking of it as a horizontal push.
When choosing alternative exercises you would then look for exercises that would use a similar movement pattern. That would be more difficult to perform.
You can also think about performing exercises differently. For example, to make a push up more difficult to perform you could perform your reps on an elevated surface.
Tip #6: Slow Down Those Reps
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Rushing your reps and using your momentum while lifting is not the best way to build muscle and strength, yet you no doubt see it every day at the gym.
There is always at least one guy stood in front of the gym mirrors performing endless bicep curls with poor form.
Make sure you are not one of these guys, even if it means reducing the weight you lift.
Each rep should be performed slowly with proper form. With no swinging or momentum used.
This does not mean that each rep should be performed super slowly, but to get maximum resistance out of each rep you should use a full range of motion, with each rep performed in a controlled manner with the proper form used.
Using this controlled method of lifting will help develop control, and will certainly help build strength too.
Tip #7: Take Steps to Improve Your Technique
This tip is a follow on from above. If you practice your technique, not only will you be able to avoid injury, but you will also be able to make each movement performed more difficult without having to increase the weight used.
Tip #8: Add a Pause During Your Lifts
A simple trick you can use to make any exercise more difficult is to add a pause to the movement.
Using the squat as an example, you could use a pause while you are at the bottom of the movement, rather than bouncing straight back to the start position.
For some exercises, you may be able to add a few pauses. This can help you to develop control and will go a long way to increase your overall strength.
Tip #9: Strengthen Those Supporting Muscles
I am a big fan of compound exercises like the squat and bench press as they work for multiple muscle groups, so are ideal for those looking for an intense workout without spending excessive time at the gym.
However, while they do work lots of muscles they don’t work them all, which is why you may want to add some isolation exercises to your routine too.
By strengthening your triceps, anterior delta and mid traps you will be able to improve your bench press.
Working your glutes, hamstrings, low back, mid/upper traps, and your grip strength will aid your deadlift.
By working the supporting muscles you will be able to improve and be able to perform those big compound lifts with better form and with greater ease. Leading to greater gains being achieved.
Tip #10: Add Some Instability to Your Training
Adding some instability to your training will challenge your balance, making the workout much harder to perform.
Use a Bosu or instability ball to add instability, just try and use some common sense. You most certainly do not want to injure yourself in the process of trying to build muscle and strength.
All of the above tips will help build strength without having to use additional weight. Perhaps this will help you to kick start your muscle gains.