There comes a point in your strength training where adding more weight just isn’t the answer.
Whether you have hit a plateau, are starting to get a few aches & niggles or there just isn’t any more room left on the barbell.
Finding ways to increase the intensity of your training stimulus without necessarily adding extra load is a great way to solidify your strength or maintain progress while focusing on other movements or components of fitness.
Here are a few ways to progress without altering load, sets or reps.
Adjust time under tension
You may have heard of this before, but it refers to the length of time each rep/set takes to complete, the longer the time under tension the more fatigue we can accumulate, and there are a few ways we like to implement this.
- Slow Eccentrics – Taking extra time to control the weight, when the load is working with gravity. Generally speaking this will be during the easiest part of the movement, and adding a 3-5 second eccentric can be highly challenging.
- Pause Reps / Isometrics – Stopping movement in 1 or multiple positions where the target muscle group is under tension. It could be with the bar at chest height during a bench press or at knee height during a deadlift. Pausing for anywhere between 1-4 seconds each rep will add some significant time under tension throughout the set. Pause reps are also a great teaching tool to help you to understand where and how to maintain tension throughout the range of motion.
- Iso-Dynamic – Similar to the pause reps, but you will only pause on the first or last rep of the set for 8-15 seconds, then complete the rest of the set as normal with no pausing.
Adjust the position / range of motion
- Alternative Equipment – Changing the equipment used is a great way to add variety and stimulate slightly different muscle groups to have to contribute to the movement. Things like thick bars, and swiss bars can change how upper body movements feel on the muscles around your shoulder joints, just as a squatting with safety squat bar will place slightly more emphasis on quadricep strength than a barbell will.
- Alter the range of motion – Adding more / different ranges of motion through the use of inclines & deficits will also change how a movement can feel. Just be sure you are able to access the extra range comfortably before adding load to it. There is little benefit to adding a deficit to a deadlift if you already struggle to get into position to lift from the floor.