1. Alternate Your Pace
Every strength exercise involves two phases: concentric, when the muscles contract to raise the weight, and eccentric, when the muscles lengthen to lower it. When you slow down the eccentric phase, you challenge and lengthen the muscle, whcih can lead to strength gains, better balance and faster muscle recovery
Try it: Count to 5as you lower the weight. Once you’ve reached the bottom (e.g., touching your chest with the barbell during a bench press or hitting the lowest point of a squat), push the weight back up in 2 counts.
2. Drop Your Sets
You’ll start with the heaviest load you can manage for 8 to 10 reps and then, with no rest in between, “drop” to less weight for each following set. It’s designed to fire up all the fibres in a muscle group and work them beyond exhaustion, which can fast-track muscle strength, endurance, and tone.
Try it: Start with the amount of weight you can lift for only 10 reps. After 1 set, and without resting, reduce the weight by 10 to 20 per cent and do as many reps as you can (shooting for 10, but probably only reaching 8), then reduce by 10 to 20 per cent again and do as many reps as possible (still aiming for 10, but it’s likely you’ll manage around 6).
3. Slow Down Your Training
During a typical rep, you quickly raise the weight and you take about 2 seconds to lower it. But if you decrease your pace, you eliminate momentum and engage the muscles longer, keeping them under tension for more time total – which can make you stronger in fewer sessions.
Try it: Lift a weight for 10 seconds; lower the weight for 10 seconds. Because you’re spending more time contracting and less time resting, you won’t be able to heft as much as you would at a quicker pace. Start with light weights or even a resistance band until you get the hang of it.
*This article first appeared in SHAPE U.S.