Breakdowns

Breakdown training is another high-intensity technique that we highly endorse. Breakdowns require reducing the amount of resistance at the point when you reach muscular failure. Usually, a 20 percent decrease in resistance will allow you to eke out three to four additional repetitions.

For example, let's say you are bench pressing 75 pounds 10 times. When you try another rep, your muscles resist and the spotter has to help you with the lift. At that point, the spotter strips the bar down to 60 pounds, and you then try to squeeze out another three or four reps. If you're really ambitious, you can strip the bar down to 50 pounds and try for two or three more reps. Try not to exceed 15 or 16 reps for the total set.

While breakdowns using a bar require a spotter, when doing dumbbell exercises all you have to do is have an extra pair waiting for you when you reach failure with the original weight. It's an even smoother transition when using a machine; all you have to do is move the pin to a lighter weight and get back to work.

The following are advantages of breakdown training:

> It's a great wake-up call to stalled muscle/ strength gains.

> When using machines, you can work extra hard without the need of a spotter.

> Your workout will become more aerobic since your heart rate will be doing the Conga.

> It builds concentration and mental tenacity.

The following is a disadvantage of breakdown training:

> Spotters are needed for most freeweight exercises.

Help Me

Assisted training—a fancy name for having a spotter help you eke out a few more reps—is similar to breakdown training in the sense that it allows you to do a few extra repetitions after you have reached failure. In assisted training, rather than decreasing the resistance by stripping the bar, switching dumbbells or moving the pin, your spotter helps you to do two to four extra reps.

The key to successful assisted training is a good spotter. To get the most effective bang for your buck, you need a spotter who helps you along just enough but not so much as to make the extra repetitions useless. As the lifter, your job is to do your best to keep the weight moving. This requires maximum effort as well as good concentration. In addition to allowing you to do a few extra positive reps, assisted training gives you a great workout in the negative phase. This means you control the weight on the way down to the count of four. On the negative phase the spotter merely is there so that you don't drop the bar on your head.

Don't overdo assisted reps. If you try for more than four postfatigue reps, you're likely to give your spotter a great workout because it's doubtful that you'll have anything left in the tank. Again, the key thing to keep in mind when you're lifting is to push to momentary failure without compromising technique. Remember: form, form, form.

The following are advantages of assisted training:

>- It's a great way to work harder than usual.

> It stresses negative phase.

> You don't need to switch equipment or change weights.

> It's a good way to offer and receive encouragement from your fellow lifters.

The following is one disadvantage of assisted training:

> It requires a good spotter.

Any of the methods we've described are well suited to jump-starting your training if you've found yourself in a bit of a rut. Regardless of which of these techniques you employ, pay careful attention to form, and remember that you'll need extra recovery time after any of these workouts. That's why we keep stressing that you don't try to use them too often. However, when you find yourself in a rut, any of these techniques are a great way to break through.

The Least You Need to Know

V When you find yourself stuck on a physical or mental plateau, it's time to vary your routine.

SuperSlow is a protocol that, as the name suggests, involves extremely slow movement—10 seconds for the positive phase and 5 seconds for the negative.

Plyometrics is a method of strength training that involves bounding and jumping exercises.

Supersets are an advanced strength-training method that involves doing two exercises with no rest between.

Negatives are an advanced technique in which you stress the negative or eccentric phase of an exercise.

V Advanced training techniques are excellent, but beware—they're difficult and shouldn't be overused. _}

Chapter 23

High Tech

In This Chapter

V Training like a caveman Pushing versus pulling Working your upper and lower body Performing supersets and circuit training

In the August 1999 issue of Men's Health magazine, Chris Ballard wrote an amusing article about how your average caveman was as fit as today's Olympic athlete. Goofy, yes, but quirky enough to consider. In order to survive, your handy primitive had to have the endurance of a marathon runner to track game and a sprinter's speed to close in on a tiring elk. In the normal course of a day, a caveman lifted stones and tree trunks the way your typical NFL lineman pumps iron. Okay, their posture and table manners left something to be desired, but the point remains that their lofty feats of strength and endurance stemmed from the endless variety of ever-changing physical demands required of them.

Despite our fast-paced, sophisticated lives, we are physical beings genetically programmed to do vigorous exercise. Lifting weights is a modern means of filling this need. But as we said, if you stick to the same old routine week after week you are likely to get bored.

The willingness to change your routine regularly will not only keep you mentally challenged, but will ensure that your body adapts to the new stress as well. Meeting these constantly changing demands will help push you to higher level of fitness. In this chapter, we'll give you a variety of examples of how to use some of the techniques we described in the last chapter.

Each is more physically challenging than the basic training we've described up until now, and each will have added benefits. They're not techniques that you need to try early on in your lifting life, but they may come in handy if you want to give your workouts some extra oomph or if you ever have to flee from a woolly mammoth.

Lessons You Can Learn From Fitness Classes

Lessons You Can Learn From Fitness Classes

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