Short on time? Looking to kick your workout up a notch? Tired of doing the same thing over and over again?
Whatever the reason, sometimes you just need a change. But there’s not always a need to change everything you’re doing; sometimes, simply changing how you're doing it can be enough to end the monotony and even break through a training plateau.
So what can you do?
There are several ways to change up your workouts. This week, let’s discuss one of my favorites:
Adding Some Intensifiers
Intensifiers are modifications that affect how you assemble your workout rather than how you perform an exercise. Here are some intensifiers you could add to your next workout:
After you perform a set of an exercise, you immediately drop the weight by a regular increment (number of pounds, percentage of 1RM, etc.) and perform another set. The sets can be done to failure or to a predetermined number of reps.
Repeat this until you’ve either A: hit a certain number of Drop Sets, or B: gone through all the resistance options available (re: you've run out of weights).
Quick Tip: Drop Sets are most easily performed with selectorized machines or dumbbells. They are possible with barbells, too, but it might take some more time (or a partner).
A Superset consists of two exercises performed back-to-back with little to no rest between sets. An example of a Superset would be 10 barbell back squats followed immediately by 10 pull-ups. Rest, repeat.
Note: some purists would argue that to be a true Superset, the exercises have to work the same muscle group, and that the set described above is technically a “Staggered Set.” But...I really don’t care all that much.
Performing Supersets not only helps get your heart rate up, it helps save on time, too!
Trisets and Giant Sets
These are the same in theory as Supersets, except that Trisets are three exercises performed back-to-back, and Giant Sets are four or more exercises performed back-to-back (also sometimes called a Circuit).
A Forced Rep is basically an assisted rep: once you’ve completed a set of an exercise to failure, you continue to perform more reps with some assistance.
This assistance can come in different forms. When working with a partner, the assistance can come from them (the traditional lifter/spotter scenario). Pretty simple. It’s a little trickier if you are on your own.
If you are performing single-leg or -arm exercises (aka unilateral exercises), the assistance can sometimes come from the non-active side. Imagine doing a dumbbell bicep curl with your left arm and then using your right arm to gently assist the last few reps once you’ve reached failure.
There aren’t as many options for exercises that involve both sides (or bilateral exercises), but you can get (safely) creative. For example, you could do a set of pull-ups to failure, and then place your feet on a nearby chair or step and knock out a few more reps while pushing gently with your legs.
These can also be referred to as 1 ½ Rep or 1 ¼ Rep, depending on the extent to which you modify it.
And to best explain, I’ll just give an example: elevator squats.
Lower yourself to the bottom of squat. From there, rise up about a quarter of the way and go back down. Then rise up about halfway and drop back down. Finally, rise all the way to the top. That’s 1 rep.
Note: To make it a 1 ½ Rep, you would only include the “halfway up” part (ditto the 1 ¼ Rep version).
If Time Under Tension is what you’re looking for, Oxidative Reps are the way to get it. Oxidative Reps are performed by moving slowly and deliberately through both the eccentric and concentric portions of the movement, without pausing in-between. The entire set is just one smooth motion with no stops.
There are, of course, many other exercise intensifiers out there. Give ‘em a try and let us know!
Next week, we’ll discuss even more ways to change up your workout without revamping your whole program. Stay tuned!