Advanced Techniques

Advanced techniques are really just different methods for varying your workouts in order to keep your body guessing, and as such keep your body adapting. The thinking is that in order to keep building muscle, you need to change the type of stimulus that you apply to your body or it will get used to what you are doing and quit adapting. There are quite a few so-called "Advanced Techniques". Some are very effective, and some are, (in my opinion), little more than gimmicks. PowerliftingI will list and describe some of the most popular. Keep in mind that I still believe in the basics when it comes to weight training. Basic exercises, and basic principles that apply to everyone. Sometimes people use the terms "advanced" and "beginner", as a way to set themselves above others. When someone seriously considers themselves advanced, they could possibly be in need of some "back to basics".


A very good technique. Super setting is basically doing two exercises, one immediately after the other. The exercises are done for different body parts, and they are usually antagonistic muscles, such as Chest/Back, Triceps/Biceps, etc..., although they can also be done for unrelated body parts. I once read that doing a set for one body part, and then working the antagonist muscle creates a stronger contraction. I don't know about that, but Super setting definitely saves time, and helps maintain a balance between muscle groups. When I say that super sets save time, I mean the fact that there is no rest period between the exercises expedites things along. By necessity doing two sets together like that will have an effect on how much weight you can lift, but keep in mind that the amount of weight lifted is not the single most important thing.

Here are some thoughts on Super Sets as submitted to me


Compound sets are much like Super sets in that you do two exercises one after another, but in compound sets, you work the same muscle twice. For example, you could do a set of bench presses, then immediately grab a pair of dumbbells and do a set of inclined flyes. I would recommend doing the heavy compound movement first when your strength is still at peak, and then doing the isolation movement second. This is also a very effective technique for working a muscle to the limit and creating a good "pump".


This is basically a super set with a third exercise thrown in. Thus you might do a Biceps/Triceps/Biceps set for example. You could also do a tri-set for the same muscle group, or for totally unrelated muscles. Myself, I think that tri-sets are going a little too far. The whole idea of resistance training is to stimulate your muscles to a certain extent, then rest. Doing super sets is one thing, but if you are have enough fuel left in the tank to do a third immediate set, then in my opinion, you haven't done enough in the first sets. Now you might make the argument that Circuit Training is doing a whole bunch of sets one right after another, and of course you would be right. But Tri-sets are used as a muscle building technique, whereas Circuit Training is not.


Circuit training is a method of weight training that combines the benefits of weight training and aerobic/endurance exercise. In circuit training you complete one set of an exercise for each body part continuously, one after another, with little or no rest in between, (max. 30 seconds between sets, and 1 1/2 -2 minutes between circuits). Continue this three times through the entire circuit. You will find that you can not use quite as much weight as in conventional weight training, but it will work your cardiovascular system and help burn body fat very effectively.


This is probably the best advanced technique. The idea is to start out with lower weight and higher reps, complete a set, increase the weight, complete Lift it!another set, increase the weight again, and complete a third set. You could keep going, but I only recommend three sets. This is kind of like doing your warm up sets and work sets all together, and is very effective. Some people go back down the other side of the pyramid, decreasing the weight, and doing more sets, but I believe that this could constitute too many sets to be beneficial.


Drop sets are when you complete a set, reduce the weight, complete another set, reduce the weight again, and so-on. I used to not be very fond of drop sets, but my thinking has changed. I now believe that completing a heavy set of an exercise, then reducing the weight and doing higher reps can be beneficial to create a pump and get the blood flowing to that particular muscle. The rationale is similar to doing a heavy compound movement followed by a lighter weight isolation movement.


Pre-exhaustion is based on the premise that exercises utilize assisting muscles as well as the target muscles, and that the assisting muscles can fatigue before the target muscle does, which means the target muscle does not get sufficient stimulation. For example, when you bench press, the triceps are very much involved in the straightening of the arm as the chest muscles bring the arms upwards. Obviously the triceps are smaller and weaker, and the thinking is that they will tire and give out before the chest muscles do. So in theory if you pre-exhaust the chest with, say, a set of flyes before bench pressing, the chest will reach the point of failure during the bench press. The same concept goes for back/biceps, etc... I'm not real convinced on pre-exhaustion, I'd just as soon work the heavy compound movements first.


PressesAnother tactic that has dubious benefits, negatives are when you only complete the negative or eccentric portion of an exercise (basically that's lowering the weight). Some "experts" say that the eccentric portion of an exercise actually causes more micro trauma than the positive, thus making it more beneficial. Fine, I agree that you should lower the weight under control and take advantage of that half of an exercise, but don't ignore the positive aspect just for the negatives' sake!

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September 11, 2001