No really…these work…it’s really not a secret.
Most of these are simple tricks or methods that you can implement universally into most programs or exercises. I will do my best to elaborate on each one but I assure you all these techniques are research proven to enhance muscular recruitment, increase strength, and / or improve muscular development overtime. We are all students so please feel free to do more research on each and continue to learn since this article only scratches the surface.
As a trainer at …destination Dallas in Plano, TX, I have been fortunate to learn from some of the top bodybuilding and strength coaches and competitors in the world. No exaggeration. All from different backgrounds, differing opinions, and various approaches and theories to training but all with the same passion and love for strength development and the continuous pursuit of helping others better themselves. After years of watching them work and training with many of them directly, I noticed certain patterns, traits, and techniques that were used in nearly all the different approaches. That is what I would like to share with you now;
What if I told you there are 3 things you can do RIGHT NOW…TODAY…to not only ensure you have a more efficient and stronger workout but you also progress quicker with muscular development and potentially break through those plateaus you’ve been battling for weeks, months, maybe even years?
Most of these are simple tricks or methods that you can implement universally into most exercises FOR FREE. I will do my best to elaborate on each one but I assure you all these techniques are research proven to enhance muscular recruitment, increase strength, and / or improve muscular development overtime.
NUMBER 1: Make like Ludacris and ROLL OUT!!!
Why is everyone rolling around on those things before they work out?
Foam Rolling is not a completely new concept. It’s simply gained an accelerated amount of popularity recently putting it in the spot light. Anytime a method, training technique, or product all the sudden is the ‘new thing’ everyone is implementing into their program, it should rightfully so be questioned! Foam Rolling is a technique that utilizes foam rollers or massage rollers to help to increase myofascial mobility, allowing a joint to have greater range of motion. Research has also shown rolling out to have a positive impact on post exercise muscle recovery and reduce delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS).
Would it benefit me?
YES. Absolutely. Anyone who has muscle tissue (which is everyone) should be rolling out. Now here’s the kicker; there are different densities of foam you can use to roll out with. Some are extremely firm and painful, others soft and more forgiving. You’ll need to do some personal trial and error to find which works best for you and how far you can push your pain threshold. Learn exactly how to roll out each area (the angle, the tempo, the duration of time per muscle). Research suggests rolling out for less than 60 seconds on a spot is rather useless but that doesn’t totally negate it’s benefits. My best advice is to get a great trainer or coach that’s had some experience and education on this and learn from them.
How do I do it exactly? How often?
Studies have shown that rolling out a particular area before training it will increase the muscles total range of motion and allow for more mobility. This is huge…many of us have stiff areas especially if we sit at a desk for most the day. They have also discovered that rolling out immediately after a heavy, weight bounded resistance training session decreased overall Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Again, this is very important; recovery from training is everything and the quicker we can do so the sooner we can hit the muscle group again.
Number 2: Isometrics before Dynamics
Why on earth would I do this? What are the benefits?
“Isometric contractions quickly recruit the largest motor units because it’s a maximum voluntary contraction.” Why is that important? I’ve used this following analogy with clients before so hopefully this help explains the reasoning behind this technique;
Imagine you’re in a fast car. You’re at a stop light and a buddy pulls up next to you. The green light flashes and he pounds the gas pedal to the ground and takes off in a flash! But, you only pushed that pedal of yours half way. So guess what? You’re not using all the power you potentially have. Isometrics increase the neural drive between the motor cortex in your brain and the trained muscle. It’s as if you are training the ‘transmission’ of your body…the piece that ties the brain and the muscles together. ***THE LOUDER OF A MESSAGE WE CAN SEND TO THE MUSCLES, THE MORE OVERALL RECRUITMENT WE WILL HAVE***. Whether you’re bodybuilding or in sports, this is absolutely critical. We must also train our nervous system!
When and How often can I perform isometrics?
Quick pointers for the quick readers:
- immediately before your first movement which should be a heavy, multi – joint free weight exercise.
- You can perform often, but especially when you need to focus on strength development of particular movements.
Again, you’ll need to hire a professional to learn ALL the ins and outs of this but here’s a quick summary from what I’ve learned through my personal experience (please note; this is MY suggestion and I’m sure there are thousands more out there. So feel free to try others).
Delegate a compound exercise as your first movement in the workout. Let’s take deadlifts as an example; You’re going to perform these in a rack with safety bars and you’ll set these at about 50% of your ROM (somewhere right below the knees…but this is totally adjustable). Now, we’re going to put the barbell UNDERNEATH the safety bars. For practice, we’re going to keep the bar empty. Now, set up as if you’re going to perform a conventional deadlift and pull QUICKLY into the safety bars…locking you in at 50% of your ROM and PULL AS HARD AS YOUR BODY AND BRAIN WILL ALLOW YOU TO. You might end up shaking violently…but you better keep pulling damn it. Hold this for 10 seconds. Take a 60 – 90 second rest period, and repeat 4 more times for a total of 5 isometric contractions.
- ***Another technique I have been taught from my dear friend Josh Bryant, Founder of Jailhouse Strong (you should give him a follow on is to perform the exact same movement for 5 – 10 seconds, then IMMEDIATELY perform a 1 rep deadlift at 90 – 100+ percent of my 1RM. Give this a try, it’s pretty incredible how it acutely affects your strength!!
Number 3: “Pro” Antagonists (Yes…you can stretch before you exercise)
It’s chest day…so why do you have me stretching my back?
***Readying your primary muscles with dynamic stretches (i.e. moving light weight at various tempos and intensities) IN COMBINATION WITH STATIC STRETCHING OF YOUR ANTAGONISTS results in “more post activation potentiation on agonist muscles and less muscle stiffness in antagonist muscles”. ← DID YOU READ THAT?!?
This took me a while to comprehend as a bodybuilder. For years, I was taught ‘if it’s chest day, do chest and f*ck the rest’. Go in, fuck shit up, and get out. I was literally taught those words. We have now learned maybe…just maybe…we, atleast I, should not take it as literal and first prime our body for maximum activation and range of motion before just jumping in and ‘fucking shit up’.
Is this something I can do with any muscle and how do I know what stretches?
All muscles have an antagnosit so yes you can perform this method for all muscles. You’ll need to do some studying to know exactly which muscles in which movements they are, but a little studying never hurt anyone. This simple concept I’m about to teach you took me the better half of my college degree to comprehend. The sad part is, it’s NOT that difficult, I was just overthinking the concept greatly. FIRSTLY, you need to have a damn good understanding of your muscular anatomy. You need to know the names of the muscles and understand the mechanics of them. Just study it…it’s really not that hard. Get off Instagram for one freaking weekend and spend some time studying and I promise you’ll have a much better understanding.
HERE’S HOW TO DO IT (figure out what antagonist muscle to static stretch that is)
We’re going to use the Flat Barbell Bench Press as an example. Now, suspend yourself in space…not literally…unless you have that kind of technology and if that’s the case hit me up because I want in…jokes aside…close your eyes and imagine doing a bench press in space. There’s no gravity, no weight bounded resistance from any direction, there’s nothing…just you performing a pressing movement in space. Now, flip the coin and think of a back row at that exact angle using the exact same grip and EXACT same motion. Now we are using our back correct? THOSE ARE YOUR ANTAGNOISTS, i.e. the muscles you need to static stretch before bench pressing! (See…it’s really not that difficult of a concept…why it took me 2+ years to get that I will never know).
With this being said, spend a good 5 minutes holding 30 second static stretches for the antagonists before working the agonists and you’ll not only feel more in control and stable but you should also see better performance with the movement (possibly more volume and / or more load).
- Foam Rolling
- Static Stretching Antagonists