In the world of fitness, athletics, and physicaltraining there are several different resistance training strategies and techniquesthat an individual can use to achieve their fitness goals.
These goals can beaesthetically driven to improve the way that the person looks, related toimprovements in strength, or endurance performance. These strategies areusually made up of one of the following parts; increasing the load or weight ofthe exercises, increasing the volume of repetitions being performed, increasingthe amount of time that the muscles are under tension, or making changes towork through the body’s ability to adapt to changes over a relatively shortperiod of time. The strategies that will be covered in this essay will be supersets, forced repetitions, pyramid system, and periodization methods. Thesestrategies all have the ability to help the body make progress towards strengthand muscle growth goals, and can often be used in tandem to lead to helpachieve these goals. But, which of these strategies is the best for making thefastest and most sustainable progress? It is important to evaluate, and assesswhat type of the training strategies listed are the most effective in helping aperson achieve their fitness and training goals. Supersetsinvolve utilizing two exercises and working from one to the next with little orzero rest in between exercises.
This training method can be very effectivebecause minimal rest increases the production of lactate and lowers pH levelsin the blood. This activates the anterior pituitary to release human growthhormone. The increase in lactate also results in testosterone release in thebody. The resulting anabolic hormone production can lead to muscle growth whilehelping to keep body fat lower in the process. Supersets also raise the intensityof exercise, which is a factor that can substantially enhance musclehypertrophy and improve the body aesthetically. Supersets may even lead toincreased strength, improvements in joint health, and promote left-rightsymmetry due to the working of opposing muscles (Catanzaro, 2012). Antagonistsuper sets are used to train a muscle, or muscle group, and then directlyworking the opposite muscle or muscle group.
A classic example of this isworking the biceps along with the triceps, since it seems to come prettynatural to most of those training, but chest and back, and quad and hamstringsupersets are also effective. This strategy helps to save time in the gym, andthere are more benefits that are due to reciprocal innervation. In reciprocalinnervation, as one muscle group is trained, the opposite muscles relax, whichaids in muscle recovery. There has also been some proof that the flow of bloodto the trained muscles is increased, which means more will be able to be liftedand resulting in greater improvements in each move (Snape, 2017).
Another typeof super set is the agonistic super set. This type of super set trains a singlemuscle group, which can lead to muscle growth by exhausting them. Traditionalexamples of this include the dumbbell bench press and dumbbell fly super setsfor the chest, and the hamstring curls along with Romanian deadlift for legs.
Anotherway to complete this type of training is by performing mechanical drop-sets,which changes the grip or mechanical orientation of the working muscle. Anexample of this would be working supinated dumbbell curls and hammer curls.This can help improve the mass gains made by exhausting the muscles.
This isdone by lessening the amount of rest between exercises, which does not allowthe muscles to fully recover. It could be most effective to use agonist super settraining for large muscle groups such as the quadriceps or chest. It has beenfound that smaller muscle groups typically do not progress as well to agonisticsuper set training (Snape, 2017). There are other ways to employ the same typeof training with other slight tweaks to this set up, such as using threeexercises for tri-sets. Forcedrepetitions are another strategy used to help improve muscle growth.
A rep is forcedwhen the person lifting the weight achieves muscle failure during a set and hassomeone to spot them, assisting in pushing through the regular point of failurewhich helps to recruit the work of more muscle fibers. This is in addition tothe fibers that are typically used. The recruitment of the additional musclefibers helps to simulate more overall muscle growth and muscle mass. Additionally,it is important to understand that forced repetitions are used to force themuscles to grow. The muscle is being shocked by the additional stress, whichmeans that forced repetitions are a training technique that should not beimplemented into every exercise performed within a particular workout regimen.
Instead,this strategy should be used sporadically, and not for every set performed(Heyer, 2006). When free weights are used for forced sets, it is important thatthe workout partner spotting the person working out has an understanding of thephilosophy of forced repetitions and what is trying to be achieved. The spottershould force the muscles to accommodate additional weight, without doing thelifting for the person who is training (Yates, 2005). So, what does this trainingstrategy do? In positive failure it forces the muscles being trained to pressthrough a plateau, even to a small extent, which then necessitates therecruitment of additional muscle fibers, which would have otherwise beendormant. This same idea is true when talkingabout negative failure, however muscles can work with a larger load during the eccentricportion of a lift, allowing for even better strength gains (Goettsch, 2013). According to the American College of SportsMedicine, “by pushing to the very brink of failure in an exercise, the amountof blood and muscle tension increases, thus promoting muscle growth” (ACSM,n.d.
). This strategy is used to really place the muscles under additionalstress while pushing through muscle failure for the exercises performed. Pyramidsinvolve choosing a number of repetitions and lowering the number of repetitionson each subsequent set. A pyramid workout regimen is a really simple method ofresistance training.
An exercise is chosen, along with the number of repetitionsthat the individual is going to start with, and a weight that can be used forthe entire pyramid, and the pyramid program is started. For example, if thisstrategy were to be used for the bench press, then the person exercising couldstart with ten repetitions, then take a short rest and complete nine repetitionsof the bench press while working their way all the way down to one repetitionor the final predetermined repetition number (King, 2014). Pyramid training isa very versatile method of exercise that can be used for bodybuilding, strengthtraining, fat loss, and athletic training. Some additional benefits of pyramidtraining are that it can be done with any type of training equipment, training sessionsare short and intense, sessions can be managed by the amount of weight lifted, theamount of time trained. This technique can also be used for muscle growth,athletic training, fat loss, or all of these factors. Pyramid training can alsobe completed with another person, multiple people, or alone (King, 2013).Pyramid training is another way to help an athlete, or anyone who is one atraining regimen, push through training plateaus by starting with a weight andcontinuing to perform repetitions that are outside of the traditionalrepetition ranges performed in most training regimens. This regimen iseffective because of its versatility and ability to be completed quickly whilecreating the challenge needed to promote muscle growth and strength gains.
Finally,there is a training method that relies on periodization programming in order toexpedite gains in muscle size, athletic performance, and strength. Utilizing multiplechanges within a training regimen is the key to this technique. Instead of conductingthe same training regimen every month, training is changed at set intervals or timeperiods to allow the body to work harder, while still allowing time for appropriaterest periods. It is important for anyone who is conducting resistance trainingto alter their strength-training program by adjusting the following variables;the number of repetitions per set and number of sets performed, the amount ofresistance or weight used, rest periods between sets, the order and type of exercises,and how fast exercises are completed. This type of program is also used to pushthrough plateaus, or to help individuals see progress at a faster rate by changingvariables within the workout regimen to “keep the body guessing” and avoid therapid adaptations that the human body can make to muscular stress (AmericanCouncil on Exercise, 2009).
While all of the exercise strategiesare used to promote muscle growth and increases in strength, it does take someassessment for an individual to decide which method they think will be the mosteffective for them. All of these strategies are advanced training techniquesand may not be ideal for beginners who may be better served focusing on thebasic training movements to improve their central nervous system function,strengthening stabilizer muscles, as well as strengthening their connectivetissue. Although all of these strategies have the advantages of changing trainingto increase gains in strength and muscle growth, they do come with somedisadvantages as well. Super sets, if not performed properly, have a slightincrease in potential injuries. Forced reps can lead to an overconfidence inthe person training, leading to them attempting higher resistance lifts withouta spotter. With forced repetition training and pyramid training there is thepotential for there to be a missed opportunity for maximal tension on themuscles. In the case of forced repetitions, this is due to the fact that thespotter is lifting too much of the resistance off of the person training (Yates,2005).
In pyramid training it can be caused by the fact that the weight is notenough to get maximal muscle strain throughout all of the sets. Periodizationcan also pose injury risks if the changes are done in a way that can beperformed using proper form.