The following are advanced weight training techniques. Most
techniques should only be used by trainees with years of weight
training experience. Many techniques can only be effectively
executed when orchestrated with larger, strategically-planned
regimens. Several techniques should only be used on occasion,
if at all, during brief periods of planned overreaching,
whereas, other techniques, such as periodization, are implemented
year-round. A few of these techniques are relics from the past
with questionable efficacy. Many advanced weight training techniques
may actually stagnate progress, increase risk of overtraining
or injury, or decrease exercise
adherence when used by beginners and some intermediate trainees.
Beginner and intermediate weight trainees are referred to Weight Training Guidelines.
Maximal Effort Method
training technique that uses near maximal resistance with very
few repetitions, typically 1-3 reps. This technique is used by
athletes such as powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters, and strength
and other athletes to develop maximal strength and force by improving
intramuscular and intramuscular coordination at heavy loads.
Maximal Effort training has limited ability to induce muscular
hypertrophy. (Zatsiorsky & Kraemer 1995)
Maximum Effort Training is typically reserved for the most
basic exercises, including Clean
& Jerk, Snatch,
Press. It is rarely used for auxiliary
exercises, particularly isolated
movements, or abdominal training.
It can be part of a periodized program for peaking for maximal
strength or it may be paired with complementary training stimulus
such as Dynamic Effort Method on alternating
training days (See Westside
Its primary limitation is its high risk of injury compared
to the repetition method. Acquiring proper exercise technique
and adequate muscular conditioning is paramount before this method
is employed. For this reason, Maximal Effort Training is not
appropriate for beginners.
Contrary to what its name implies, maximum effort training
is usually not performed to failure. In fact, the efforts exerted
at competition (eg: Powerlifiting,
are typically greater than Maximum Effort training. However,
Maximal Effort should only be intermittently to avoid accommodation
and overtraining. (Zatsiorsky
& Kraemer 1995)
Dynamic Effort Method
A technique used to increase the rate of force development,
by moving light to moderate loads as quickly as possible. Forms
of training traditionally include plyometrics,
however, Dynamic Effort training has also been applied to weight
training ideally implemented with the use of elastic bands and/or
heavy chains attached barbells or other weight training equipment.
See Westside Barbell Program
and Louie Simmons Video
Plyometrics is used to develop explosiveness in sports conditioning
programs. It should only used after a solid strength base has
been developed, particularly in squat strength. High intensity
plyometrics should not be performed year round (NSCA, 2000).
Also see Power Training
Performing an exercise set immediately after a different exercise
set. Nearly no rest is taken between exercises (sets), only that
which is taken to get in position for the second exercise.
Antagonist Super Set
Performing antagonist muscle group in super set (eg: Leg
Extension / Leg
Curl). Challenges general muscular endurance.
Performing an isolated exercise immediately before a compound
exercise for the same muscle group (eg: Chest
Fly / Chest
Press). Challenges local muscular endurance.
Performing three (Tri-set) or more exercise sets in succession
with nearly no rest. Also see somewhat related circuit
Performing as many reps as possible, resting for several seconds,
then performing additional repetition(s).
Utilizing short, inter-set rest periods (eg: 1030 seconds),
which permit use of heavier resistances. Cluster training does
not appear to offer any advantage for increasing maximal strength
but it may be effective for in power training (Fleck & Kraemer
A rest pause technique using progressively decreasing resistance
after no further repetitions can be performed. The exerciser
only rests long enough to permit the resistance to be decreased
safely so more reps can be performed. For example, the exerciser
performs a few to several reps on a selectorized weight machine
with a heavy weight until they can no longer perform another
rep in good form. They continually decrease the resistance, allowing
them to perform a few more reps on each drop in weight. One or
more drops in weight may be performed.
A form of drop sets with a loaded barbell. After performing
as many reps as possible, typically two spotters remove the weight
simultaneously from each side. The exerciser is then able to
perform additional reps.
Another drop set technique using fixed dumbbells or barbells.
The exerciser performs as many repetitions as possible in good
form, immediately places the weight back on the rack and grasps
a lighter weight, allowing them to perform additional reps after
each drop in resistance.
range of motion is recommended. Partials involve performing
less than full range of motion on a particular exercise for a
specific objective. Similar to Isometric
Training, strength is increased throughout the specific range
of motion exercised with up to 15-20% overflow surrounding joint
angles. The rational for partials vary.
- An older adult performs a particular exercise through a limited
range of motion to avoid a known pain or discomfort in a specific
joint. See Recommendations
for Resistance Training Exercise (ACSM, 1995)
- A personal trainer has their client begin by performing the
easier range of motion of a challenging calisthenic (push-up,
single leg split squat, pull-up), and later increase the range
of motion as strength increases.
- A physician suggests to their patient to avoid a specific
range of motion due to an orthopedic concern.
- Physical therapist prescribes partial range of motion for
rehabilitation, strengthening only a specific range of motion.
- A powerlifter performs a specific portion of a lift in which
they have a known sticking point.
- Powerlifter has difficulty locking out, so he performs the
upper portion of bench press through lock out on a power rack,
emphasizing triceps strength
- A bodybuilder performs a limited range of motion to target
a 'weak' muscle.
- Half squats may emphasize quad over glute development
- Quarter squats may emphasize Vastus
- A gymnast executes iron cross partials, several degrees in
and out of form
- An advanced weight trainee performs a few partials at the
end of a set, incorporating an exercise with an ascending
tension curve after full range of motion can no longer be
continued (see The Burn).
Typically performed for arm curls. 7 repetitions are performed
in the lower range of motion (arms straight to 90 degrees) immediately
followed by 7 repetitions in the upper range of motion (arms
90 degrees to flexed), and finally 7 repetitions through the
full range of motion. The high number of repetitions performed
primarily challenge muscular endurance.
repetitions are assisted movement by a training partner, or spotter.
They are typically performed with heavy weight or near the end
of a set at the onset of failure.
Like other similar advanced-training methods, forced repetitions
may lead to overtraining
if overused or implemented for an extended period of time. Forced
repetitions may bring about short-term progress, but more sustained
progress can be achieved with small, systematic increases of
repetitions and resistance (see Systematic
Progress Methods and periodic exercise
changes. Our bodies generally adapt well to small progressive
increases of intensity and duration. The intensity put forth
on forced reps is difficult to regulate in a progressive fashion
and, consequently, may hamper long-term progress. Long-term progress
comes from coaxing progress with subtle intervals of varied incremental
overload rather than attempting to force progress. More experienced
trainees often utilize more advanced techniques such as periodization
with varying workouts to avoid
stagnation. See adaptation
criteria and Variations.
Drinkwater (2007) found no benefits in performing forced reps
for strength or power development. You will not see top level
powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters performing forced reps.
In fact, high level strength and power athletes attempt to avoid
training to failure. Instead, they systematically vary their
workloads and typically know exactly how many reps they will
be performing on each set. However, many people in the gyms still
continue to use this technique despite more effective protocols
for long term progress.
Even for bodybuilding-style training, more sustainable and
productive techniques exist that allow more manageable long-term
progressions. In the 80's, Dr. Franco Columbo wrote an article
condemning the use of forced reps. Franco Columbo, former Mr.
Olympia, was once considered the world's strongest bodybuilder.
In the article, he suggested overuse of forced repetitions with
very heavy weight may essentially teach the muscles to prematurely
fail. Strength training involves a neurological adaptation (motor
development, contraction efficiency), as well as a morphological
adaptation (muscle growth). Repeated use of forced repetitions
with very heavy weight had been thought to prematurely activate
the Golgi tendon
organ. It was proposed that activation of the Golgi tendon
organ inhibits muscular contraction to protect the muscle from
perceived injury. See Tony Shield's
Prolonged abstinence from forced repetitions appears to increase
the potential for the exerciser to complete the very difficult
last repetition, possibly in effect, reteaching the body to succeed
rather than fail during the final challenging rep. If forced
reps are to be performed, it is suggested to reserve their use
to only once a month, immediately before tapering, changing
exercises, or at the end of a meso-cycle.
Also see Asking for
a Spot and Cheating.
Drinkwater EJ, Lawton TW, McKenna MJ, Lindsell RP, Hunt
PH, Pyne DB (2007). Increased Number of Forced Repetitions Does
Not Enhance Strength Development With Resistance Training, Journal
of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2007, 21(3), 841847.
The exerciser slowly lowers a very heavy resistance through
phase of an exercise. Although, not considered a negative,
a training partner assists the exerciser through the concentric
phase of an exercise (See Forced Reps
above) so the exerciser can complete additional negatives. The
exerciser can lower (requiring eccentric contraction) approximately
20% greater load than they would be able to lift (requiring concentric
contraction). Negatives are commonly used with submaximal repetitions
near the end of a set after exhaustion and immediately following
attention to strict biomechanical form is highly recommended
when performing exercises. This is particularly true when a trainee,
not familiar with a new movement, is learning proper technique
(see Skill Acquisition and
Proficiency). Cheating involves compromised form, implementing
unintended momentum, altered alignment,
or angle of pull
in effort at specific points of the exercise in effort to complete
Cheating may increase the risk of injury, since it exposes
the bodily structures to forces to which they are not accustomed.
Interestingly, someone who consistently performs an exercise
in a manner that would be considered cheating (yet abiding by
the 4 Adaptation
Criteria), theoretically, would have less risk of injury
compared to someone who cheated in the same manner, but inconsistently.
So it is the inconsistent nature of cheating, or lack of adaptation,
that presents a much greater risk than the actual movement and
resulting bodily forces. Also see Specific
Adaptation and Dangerous
Trainees may choose to employ slight cheating techniques for
the last repetition or two of a set. It has been suggested that
very advanced trainees use cheating to increase training intensity,
whereas most other trainees use cheating as a means to decrease
training intensity. Cheating should be considered an advanced
training technique with inherent risks. Other safer and possibly
more effective training techniques should be considered.
Isometric exercise involves contraction against an immovable
resistance. Strength is increased at the specific angle of exertion
with up to 20% overflow surrounding joint angles. At other joint
angles, there is no corresponding increase in strength. The use
of isometric exercises is widely practiced in injury rehabilitation
or reconditioning. Isometric training is typically implemented
when full range of motion exercises may otherwise exacerbate
a condition or ailment if introduced too early in the rehab process.
Isometrics are also used by powerlifters to break sticking points,
a specific angle in the range of motion at which smooth movement
is difficult because of insufficient strength. They may use an
isometric contraction against an immovable resistance to increase
strength at this sticking point, so that a smooth, coordinated
lift can ultimately be performed through a full range of motion.
Also see Isometric
Super slow training involves performing repetitions in a very
slow, controlled manner. This longer tension times enhance continuous tension
muscular endurance. Studies that demonstrated enhanced muscle
mass gains have been criticized for faulty methodology (Fleck
and Kramer, 2004). Like other training techniques, altering training
speed may re-stimulate progress by introducing variation,
if training goals are closed to this type of sustained muscular
endurance in those particular muscle group exercises by this
means (See Variation
Deviation). Performing exercises slowly can impair
power development. This technique may be useful for individuals
susceptible to an injury (i.e.: osteoporosis, past injury) and
cleared to exercise by a physician.
involves emphasizing the development, strength, power, or other
specific fitness component
of a particular muscle group or movement. Prioritizing may be
implemented in effort to overcome a weakness or just to emphasize
a particular movement/motor skill to reach a specific goal. Prioritization
techniques may include:
- Programming exercise(s) that emphasize the desired muscle
group or movement/motor skill closer to the beginning of the
- Greater intensity can be expended on exercises in the beginning
of workout when the body is not as fatigued
- Programming exercise(s) that emphasize the desired muscle
group or movement/motor skill on first workout after rest day.
- Greater intensity can be expended on a workout that follows
a rest day.
- Performing additional exercise(s) for the target muscle group
or movement/motor skill.
- Implementing other advanced techniques to the exercise(s)
that involve the specific muscle group or movement/motor skill
Intermediate to advanced trainees may implement prioritization
techniques. Beginners should wait until they have developed a
base level of fitness and have learned which muscle groups or
movement/motor skills have not responded as favorably to a balanced
The Conjugate System involves frequent cycling of a large
variety of exercises and/or exercise variations. It is suited
for advanced athletes whose sport require general preparedness
(eg: Martial Arts, Wrestling, Strong Man Competitions, etc).
The Westside Barbell Program
is probably the most popular conjugate strength training system.
The program calls for changing exercises or variations every
3 weeks. In contrast, elite powerlifters are urged to change
exercises or variations every week. Variation can be as simple
as varying an exercise's range of motion, grip, or stance. However,
switching to a different exercise is generally more effective
than switching to a variation of the same exercise.
The Conjugate System allows the advanced athlete to avoid
boredom. Altering exercises circumvents exercise staleness at
any level (See Restimulating Progress
by Changing Exercises). However, altering them frequently
can elicit other benefits for the advanced trainee.
Choosing from a large number of exercises and switching them
frequently allows the body to be taxed in a variety of ways within
a shorter period of time. This includes varying muscles emphasized,
fluctuating loads, and altering resistance curves. Cycling exercises
allow movement patterns to be varied that may otherwise be over
or undertrained on program involving a limited pool of exercises.
It also allows adaptation to occur more uniformly and synergistically.
The progress brought about from a newly added movement can carry
over to related exercises performed in subsequent workouts, each
cascading benefit to the following set of exercises. Dropping
an exercise for another can assist in restoration and make training
Keep in mind that changing exercises too often may not allow
for adequate adaptation to transpire, particularly for someone
with less than several years of training experience. Also, keeping
track exercise progress and looking up the resistance and number
of reps performed for every exercise and variation can be quite
daunting with so many exercises to monitor. Performing exercises
so infrequently also make it difficult to make instill systematic
increases or variations in resistance (eg: increase weight 2.5-5%
if upper rep range has been achieved). The last known load for
a particular exercise is more likely to be inaccurate, the more
time that has passed since it was last performed. By the time
a new load has been re-identified, another exercise takes its
place! See Shorthand Weight Training
Log Implementing Varying Workloads.
Periodization is the practice of varying training stimuli
to enhance long-term fitness and performance gains. For advanced
trainees, periodization is more effective than training at a
fixed intensity and duration (Bompa 1990). See Periodization
Examples. In contrast, beginners appear to achieve greater
progress in a program with a simple linear, progressive resistance
program (Hoffman 2003). Also see Variation.
Traditional periodization programs varied intensity and volumes
between mesocycles. More modern periodization programs implement
variations between microcycles (daily undulating periodized programs)
as well, and appear to be more effective (Rhea 2002).
Light Heavy Training
Light/heavy training incorporates variation of alternating
workout intensities, or workloads. See Light/Heavy
Weight Training and Low
Volume Light Heavy Workout Template. Intermediate to advanced
trainees appear to make greater progress on light/heavy workouts
as compared to workouts with a single repetition range. One study
found older adults who performed light/heavy workouts experienced
less discomfort between workouts and achieved similar training
result than those older adults who did not perform light/heavy
workouts (Hunter 2001).
Overreaching and Tapering
Overtraining and Fitness