The 4 Best Muscle Building Workout Techniques You’ve Never Tried
Let me introduce Josh. He might be a lot like you, or a few other lifters you know.
Josh has low self-esteem. When he looks in the mirror all he see is a scrawny twig with no muscle mass. So Josh decides to get a gym membership.
After a few weeks of consistent attendance, he becomes friends with several other gym rats. Josh finds out they’ve been smashing iron for a little over two years now, and he’s impressed with their gains.
Now Josh wants more!
His new friends introduce him to drop sets and a few other “hardcore” lifting techniques. Josh experiences a slight surge in results, noticing that his physique looks better in the mirror. He next starts incorporating supersets, hoping to kick his gym game up a notch.
…But time passes. And passes. He tries every new advanced technique he can, hoping to advance from zero to hero.
Though Josh experiences some progress, his overall muscle growth is still paltry. He’s confused because he’s tried every trick in the book. Full body workouts, slow negatives, high volume, low volume. You name it.
Now everything he does in the gym seems boring, and pointless. Josh becomes complacent, and just assumes he’s doomed to be a hardgainer.
Now back to real life…
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4 Bodybuilding Tricks for More Muscle Mass
You can walk into any gym, go to any forum, or browse any website, and you will find the same-old techniques being used to build muscle: drop sets, super sets, heavy negatives, and the list goes on.
What if you’ve been there, done that? When training becomes boring you have nothing to look forward to, and most importantly you aren’t seeing results.
If you’ve tried all of the popular muscle building techniques, here are 4 new bodybuilding tools you’ve probably never tried.
Trick #1 – Run the Rack
Running the rack can be a refreshing change from your usual training. This technique can be inserted into nearly any split.
There are a few things you need to know about running the rack:
Rest – Rest between sets is important. You need to be ready for the next set. Running the rack is not a technique for the squeamish. Rest anywhere between 2-4 minutes between sets as needed, once the weight gets heavy.
- Form – Use good form on every set. If you feel your form is breaking down, stop. The rest between sets is important to maintaining your form. Do not train any set to failure.
- Set Progression – The amount of sets you will depend on your starting and ending dumbbell weight. You will be running up and down the rack in 10 pound increments.
Running the rack can be used for many exercises, but for explanation purposes I will choose an example using dumbbell bench presses.
The first step to this technique is deciding where in the rack you are going to start. I recommend picking a weight that will allow you to perform 15-20 reps.
Once you have your starting weight, you are going to “run up the rack” in 10 pound increments, performing as many reps per set until you are only able to perform 5 or fewer reps. The set you can only perform 5 or fewer reps will be the final set in the run up the rack.
An example of running up the rack would look like this:
- 60 pound dumbbells for 20 reps
- 70 pound dumbbells for 12 reps
- 80 pound dumbbells for 8 reps
- 90 pound dumbbells for 5 reps
As you see, progression up the rack is stopped once you hit 5 or fewer reps.
This technique may not be much different than how you regularly train… until this next step.
Once you reach your top set, it’s time to run back down the rack. Start decreasing the weight in 10 pound increments and perform as many reps per set as possible while keeping good form.
Note: Only run the rack down to your starting weight.
An example of running down the rack would look like this:
- 80 pound dumbbells for 6 reps
- 70 pound dumbbells for 8 reps
- 60 pound dumbbells for 10 reps
Run the Rack Technique Tips
- Do not run use this technique for more than 8 weeks.
- This technique is designed to be run only once per week.
- Only add 5 pounds when you can perform more than 20 reps for your first set.
Sample Chest Workout Using Running the Rack Technique
- Dumbbell Bench Press – Running the rack
- Incline Barbell Bench Press – 3 x 12
- Low Cable Crossovers – 3 x 15
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Trick #2 – Reverse Rep Pyramid Technique
The reverse rep pyramid technique is a great way to cut down time spent in the gym while recruiting maximum muscle fibers. This technique is great for building muscle as well as strength.
The reverse rep pyramid technique technique does not require any special calculations or a stopwatch; it is a simple, effective, and straightforward approach to muscle building.
When running the reverse rep pyramid, there are 3 simple things to remember:
- Pick a weight 75-80% of your 1 rep max and use this weight every set
- Rest between sets should be 2-3 minutes max
- On your all-out set, do not go until complete failure; go until your form starts to break down
The rep scheme for this technique goes as follows:
- First Set: 1 Rep
- Second Set: 2 Reps
- Third Set: 3 Reps
- Fourth Set: 4 Reps
- Fifth Set: As many reps as possible
This technique is great because the first 3 sets do not fatigue you and get your nervous system properly warmed up to complete an all-out set.
Reverse Rep Pyramid Progression
Progression for this technique is simple; when you hit 8 reps with your all-out set, add 10 pounds to the bar.
Reverse Rep Pyramid Technique Tips
- Start with 60-70% of your 1 rep max
- To get the most out of this technique, do not go to complete failure
- Run this technique as long as you see results
Trick #3 – Pre AND Post-Exhaustion Technique
Pre-exhaustion is not a new technique. It is commonly used to fatigue primary muscles with an isolation movement before you target them with a heavy compound exercise. For instance, you would pre-exhaust your triceps with a few sets of cable extensions before you perform close grip bench.
The benefit of pre-exhaustion is to push your primary muscles to the ultimate breaking point; this is what builds muscle.
This pre AND post-exhaustion technique ups the ante’. You will fatigue a muscle before training a compound movement, and then hammer it again after you perform this major movement.
A simple way to introduce this technique into your current workout routine is to perform whatever finishing exercise you normally do immediately after your big compound lift. For example, running 3 sets of 12 on the pec deck before you bench, and then performing a finisher of 50 rest-paused reps on incline dumbbell flyes right after you bench press.
Pre and Post-Exhaustion Progression
Progression using this technique is simple; strive to add 5 pounds or a rep to each exercise every time you go to the gym.
Sample Chest Workout Using This Technique
Sample Workout A
- Pec Dec – 3 x 15
- Barbell Bench Press – 3 x 8
- Incline Dumbbell Bench Press – 25 rep finisher
Sample Workout B
- Low Cable Crossovers – 3 x 12
- Barbell Bench Press – 3 x 8
- Chest Dips – 3 sets x AMAP (as many as possible)
Pre and Post-Exhaustion Technique Tips
- Start with 65% of your 1 rep max
- Check your ego; you will not be able to use as much weight as you would if your primary muscles were fresh
- Incorporate rest pause training on your compound lifts to push your muscle growth even further
- Know that exercise exercise grouping is performed as a tri-set, meaning minimal to no rest in between exercises
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Trick #4 – Rest Pause Training
Rest-pause training is not for the faint of heart. It will skyrocket muscle gains when used properly. This technique uses very short breaks in between your sets which create a growth-inducing pump.
Since there are very short breaks between sets, you are able to get in and out of the gym much more quickly and have a substantially higher intensity workout. Rest-pause training works for compound, isolation, and machine exercises which makes this technique easy to implement.
There are a few basics to rest pause training:
- Use the same weight between each set – Once finished with your warmup, you will use the same weight for each of your working sets.
- Do not train until failure – Just like many techniques in this article, there is no need to train until complete failure. Stop your set when you feel you may fail your next rep.
- Use good form – Letting your form break down will cause injury and will set your gains back.
What are Rest Pause Mini Sets?
Rest-pause training works by breaking each exercise into a mini-set. These mini-sets have very short rest periods and this is what keeps the intensity so high.
There is no need to go past 7 mini-sets for any specific lift; it is brutal and will trigger massive muscle soreness.
General Mini-Set Guidelines
- Bodyweight Exercises: 5-7 mini sets per exercise
- Machine Exercises: 3-7 mini sets per exercise
- Compound Exercises: 5-7 mini sets
Mini-Set Resting Guidelines
- Bodyweight exercises: 30-45 seconds
- Machine exercises: 30-45 seconds
- Compound exercises: 45-60 seconds
Applying mini sets to a simple leg routine will add mass quickly and adds an intense variation to your same-old routine.
Here is a sample leg routine:
- Squats – 5 sets, 60 seconds rest between sets
- Leg Press – 6 sets, 45 seconds rest between sets
- Leg Extensions – 3 sets, 30 seconds rest between sets
- Leg Curls – 3 sets, 30 seconds rest between sets
- Seated Calf Raises – 7 sets, 30 seconds rest between sets
Rest-Pause Technique Tips
- Start with 70% of your 1 rep max
- Log your progress; this is how you grow
- Do not allow your form to break down
- Don’t train until failure