If you want to get stronger and bigger, you need to work your muscles beyond their comfort zone. That means really pushing the bar (quite literally) when it comes to your strength training. Here are four ways to push past your max.
Feel The ‘Burn’
Partial repetitions or “burns” consist of pressing a weight only halfway up. You do them at the end of your usual set when you’d ordinarily be too tired to do any additional full reps. Burns allow you to go beyond what you would normally do and place a little more overload on the muscles.
Do this: Let’s say you’ve bench-pressed a weight 10 times, and you can’t do it even one more time. Instead of simply letting the weight down and moving on to the next exercise, slowly lower it just a few inches. Then raise it back up to the fully extended position. Often, you can squeeze out two or three additional half-reps before your muscles are completely fatigued.
Lift More Than Your Max
Before you try a maximal lift, load the bar with a weight that’s 20 to 30 percent heavier than what you think you can handle. Then simply lift it off the rack, hold for 1 to 2 seconds, and put it back. Wait 3 to 4 minutes, then try your true max—the weight will feel noticeably lighter. Never attempt this without a spotter though.
Work The Muscles You Neglect
If you want to get really, really big, do the exercises that are most likely to put on muscle where you don’t have it. On most men, this means the muscles on the back of your body. The deadlift builds the hamstrings, gluteals, lower back, and middle trapezius. To do it, squat over the bar with your heels flat on the floor and the bar up against your shins. Your thighs should be parallel with the floor, your torso upright, and your eyes looking straight ahead. Grab the bar with an overhand grip just a little beyond shoulder-width. Squeeze your shoulder blades together in back, and stand with the bar, keeping it as close to your legs as possible. If you keep your shoulder blades pulled back, you’ll build muscle in your middle back.
Unbalanced Is Sometimes Good
To improve your strength in throwing, shooting, serving, or spiking, build your serratus muscles, which extend from the bottom of your shoulder blades through your armpits to the sides of your rib cage. Uneven pushups—where you put one hand on the floor and the other on a sturdy object about 10 centimetres high (such as a briefcase)—are the best way to do it.