Some of the best exercises and intensity techniques you can do are ones you may never use or maybe never even heard of. Yet these are exercises and techniques that can give you a huge boost in your efforts to build mass. We all know that variety in your training is one of the keys to continued progress, so all of the following examples will allow you to mix up your routines a bit and spark some new growth.
So, do something different and give these exercises and techniques a try. You'll be glad you did!
The power clean is an exercise that's been getting some press lately, and for good reason: it's a power movement that is right up there with the squat and deadlift in terms of how it affects the whole body, and it should be right up there in terms of how often it's used. Exercises like this and the squat and deadlift, that are said to promote overall growth, do so because they cause the body to release greater amounts of anabolic hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone, and because they effectively work so many muscles.
Like squats and deads, it's a very taxing exercise when done correctly. For that reason, many people do not want to use it. It's such a great exercise, don't neglect it! The hard work on this movement will pay off! Proper form is essential with this exercise. Take the time to study the technique, work it with an empty bar to get the feel, add weight slowly. If you are unsure about it, go to the “exercises” page on this site and check out the videos – they are excellent learning tools!
Power Clean and Press
The power clean and press is performed just like a power clean but now you're working the delts directly. Once you've cleaned the bar, you press it over head for one rep, with every clean, you press the bar once. Good for the shoulders, but you have to use less weight which detracts from this exercise being as great a whole body movement as standard power cleans. Still, a great exercise.
Triceps EZ Bar Lying Ext/Pullover/Close Grip Press - Triset
This one is absolutely a killer! You do three exercises back to back, no rest at all. Using an EZ bar, start by doing lying extensions on a flat bench, being sure to bring the bar behind your head then bring it up 3/4 of the way. Do 8-10 reps, go right into pullovers, keeping your elbows close to your head. Do 8-10 reps. Now, finish with as many reps as you can get of close grip bench presses. Try this one for 4 weeks and see what it does!
This is a Vince Gironda exercise. In this movement, you pull or drag the bar up along your body (raising your elbows straight up as you go), using a underhand grip, as high as you can and lower the same way. Doing it in this manner keeps constant tension on your arms and really “cramps” the muscle. This differs from the standard barbell (or EZ bar) curl in that, with the standard version, the resistance drops off in the last part of the exercise. The drag curl was Gironda's attempt to improve on the barbell curl – he did not like many of the standard exercises such as bench presses, curls and squats and was always coming up with what he thought were superior variations. He was quirky but he got results!
Behind the back shrug movement made popular by 8-time Mr O Lee Haney. This variation lets you get a little more range of motion and gives a different feel than the standard shrug. Not all that popular since Big Lee's time but a great movement none the less.
Reverse Grip Bent Rows As A Biceps Exercise
Popularized by Dorian Yates as a back exercise, reverse grip bent rows hits the biceps hard because of the underhand grip and makes more sense to use as a biceps exercise. Using this as a biceps exercise lets use a little more weight than you can use in curls, thereby putting more stress on the muscle. Yates used 405 lbs. on this as a back exercise and tore his biceps because of how directly it hits that muscle. If you use a weight that's within the ability of the biceps to handle, you have a great biceps movement. Keep your elbows close to your body as you do this and pull with your biceps, not your lats.
Flat Bench Cable Curl
Sit on the floor, put your arms across a flat bench so your elbows just hang off. You should have a nice stretch in the biceps, then perform a regular curl. Hold at the top for a two count. Don't try to use too much weight on this. You should really feel this in the belly of the muscle. The flat bench cable curl is similar to the spider curl, another Vince Gironda variation of a regular exercise, in this case the preacher curl. With that exercise, you're basically straightening the angle of the pad by hanging over the front of it. This movement does the same thing but the body angle is different.
Seated Curls To Standing Curls To Reverse Grip Bent Rows
This does for biceps what the triceps triset does for tris. Seated barbell curls are really a partial movement but are difficult to do when you use a heavy enough weight. Shoot for 8 reps. Go right to standing EZ bar curls with the same bar, again shooting for 8. It's ok to cheat on only the last 1-2 reps, if needed. Put the bar down and begin doing reverse grip bent rows, again going for 8.
One Day Full Body Blitz
This is similar to one of Peary Rader's techniques advertised in early issues of Iron Man, and we've all seen the one day arm blitz articles. There has always been a lot of controversy about these types of routines but they are interesting to look at from a historical perspective. Those that know me know how much I like the history behind the concept, so I thought I would include this unusual theory.
The idea is to set it up the same as the one day arm blitz except you do exercises like squats, deads, bench presses and the power clean and press, and you shoot for 8 hours instead of 9 or 12 as with the arm blitz. Despite all the current hype over these type of blitz routines - I've seen 2 or 3 arm blitz articles lately plus arm blitz ads and a weird one day bench press blitz - this concept is not at all new. In fact, I first heard about the arm blitz in the late 80's. This whole body approach was something I first heard of in 1991 but the Iron Man articles I mentioned come from the 50's.
So, how would you set this up? First, the routine:
- 2 sets of squats and deads done every hour for 8 hours
- 2 sets of bench presses and power clean and presses done every 1/2 hour for 8 hours.
That's 2 working sets after 1-2 warmups, and that's using a heavy enough weight to just allow 8-10 reps. This is tough and you tire quickly, which may mean dropping poundage as the day goes on. You may find you have to drop to 1 working set of each exercise about halfway through the day.
For supplements - I'd suggest nitric oxide, a pre-workout energy drink, creatine, an intra-workout drink (this should have fast absorbing carbs, protein with extra BCAAs and glutamine, nitric oxide and creatine) and lots of protein. If you are in a cycle of nitric oxide/creatine already, I would take at least one extra dose of each during the day. I would take in small servings of protein powder with a simple carb every 1 1/2 hours and sip the intra-workout drink while you train.
Cell volumizing supplements make a lot of sense with this idea as does plenty of quality calories. I would definitely eat well the day before, and I would allow several days off after you're done with this and think nothing but recovery: lots of protein and carbs, supplements and rest. Does something like this really work? You'll have to try it for yourself and see. You have to admit, though, if nothing else it's an interesting idea!
Rest Pause Variations
Rest pause style training really came into it's own as a Mike Mentzer-popularized intensity technique back in the late 70's - early 80's. My understanding and use of this has always been to simply complete a set. When you hit failure, rack the bar, count to 8, unrack the bar and do as many reps as you can, re-rack the bar, doing this 3-4 times for one unreal, super intense set. The main way to use this technique the way Mentzer did, as I understand it, is to warm up, take your 1RM and do 1 rep, rack the bar, instead of counting to 8 you count to 10, and proceed to do 1 more rep, re-rack the bar, count to 10 and so on until you hit 8-10 reps. Following are several other variations on this technique (warm up before using these techniques) :
Variation #1 - Use 75% of your current max poundage for the number of reps you plan to do in a normal set of your chosen exercise. Example - if you bench press 225 for 10, use 170 lbs. Do 10 reps, rest 10 seconds, do 9 reps, rest 10 seconds, do 8 reps and so on down
to 1 rep.
Variation #2 - Determine a poundage you can do 10 reps of your chosen exercise with. Add 10% more weight to the bar - not 10 lbs, 10% more weight. Do 6 sets of 10 reps. After the first set, rest 15 seconds. After each remaining set, add 15 seconds rest. Add more weight when the 6 sets of 10 seems easy.
Variation #3 - Using a weight that allows 3 reps of your chosen exercise, do 1 rep, rack the bar for a 10 count, do a second rep, rack the bar for a 10 count and so on, until you hit 10 reps.
Along with drop sets, rest pause is one of my favorite techniques, allowing you to easily and safely extend a set.
Everyone knows about pre-exhaust training - where you "pre-fatigue" a muscle by doing an isolation exercise first than follow with a compound exercise. While I like, and have used this effective technique, I've always felt you lose something with it. Let's face it, if you pre-fatigue your chest, as an example, with flyes or the pec dec, you can't use as much weight on your bread and butter mass builder - the bench press. The post-exhaust is the reverse - do the heavy, compound exercise first when you are strongest, follow it with a isolation exercise. This allows you to continue training the muscle by falling back to a lighter, easier exercise. It allows to extend the set for more intensity and it lets you do your mass builder first, thereby letting you use more weight.
Post-Exhaust Super Drops
A variation on the above where, along with the superset, you do 3-4 drop sets. This is all one set! Super–intense! Drops require the help of at least one partner, but they are unsurpassed as an intensity technique. You can do so much with them: regular drops, superset drops like I described above, drop set tri-sets – where you pick three exercises as in a normal tri-set but then do 4-5 drops on each exercise before moving on to the next exercise – and this is all one set! Wild!
These are just a few examples of intensity techniques and exercises -some unusual- that you can benefit from. At one time, it was common to find info on this type of thing, many of the books that some of these ideas came from are now out of print. The magazines don't quite cover this kind of thing much anymore either. Yet, these are techniques you can benefit from - increased intensity equal increased results. New and different exercises gives your body something it's not used to, this means new results. Give these a try and see how they work for you.
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