Intensify Your Isolation Exercises, Grow Like a Weed
Today’s article deals with isolation movements. Now in the grand scheme of things they are not as hard as complex/compound movements, but these small changes will make a major factor in training. Let’s keep this going and see if these can help you obtain a better mind muscle connection (MMC) and with the added time under tension (TUT) bring forth gains.
First up are hamstring curls that we will talk about today. Hamstring curls can be manipulated in many ways to bring out intensity techniques and get your hamstrings popping.
Related: Top 10 Workout Intensifiers
The first thing I want to explain is that when setting up for a hamstring curl point your heels outward and keep your toes toward yourself (inward). The reasoning behind this as that as you bring your heels up towards the motion you are focusing on taking tension off your other parts in your leg and focusing on the drive of the heels like you would on a squat or any other leg movement to keep the glutes/hamstrings engaged during the motion.
As dumb as it sounds, it’s a small adjustment that has helped many and myself obtain better MMC on my hamstrings during the motion. The focus on just thrusting your heels up to your glutes/butt will really help drive as you squeeze your hamstrings through the motion.
Time Under Tension
As much as you are probably sick of hearing me say it, but its true the second tip is the slower eccentrics and pauses in the motion. I have tried two variations of a hamstring curl with a different rep tempo and found it to be superior in keeping the tension on my hamstrings.
The first thing I did was the slower negative (5 seconds) try to count in your head (which will be hard as your glutes will start cramping towards your longer rep counts) to five seconds. As you get a feel for the movement and how much slower it takes you to control the weight all the way down to the bottom of the motion you will get a good feel for how long it truly takes.
As the weight descends try to slowly lower the weight but keep that tight tension on your hamstrings, you should get a great mind muscle feel and get the muscle truly fatigued by keeping it stimulated throughout the motion.
The other twist I would give off the slow eccentric is a pause at the bottom, the second you stop the motion and keep squeezing your hamstrings you will feel them tighten and the pump will also get intensified. Try to combine a 5 second negative, and a 2 second pause at the bottom and aim for 8-10 reps.
You may not be pushing tons of weight, but I can guarantee your hamstrings will feel this the next day and perhaps two more days after this session. The amount of tension placed on the muscle for extended periods of time will surpass a quick tempo with longer weights and for some individuals produce successful gains over the long haul.
If this is not enough to get you sick to your stomach on hamstring curls this would be the “finisher” if I were to announce one for a movement. A great addition is half reps to help keep tension and pump the muscle full of blood after its already exhausted and fatigued from the slower reps, pauses, and negatives.
Do a set of 8 reps with the slow eccentric, pause at the bottom, and then after the completion do 10 half reps where you quickly fire the weight back up and back down and just feel the blood being pushed right into the hamstrings, as the pump will intensify.
Machine Flys – Midchest Connection
Next exercise I will touch upon is the machine cable fly or Hammer Strength fly. Chest is very stubborn and a weak point for me growing up, my bench numbers are very strong (which I attribute to dominant triceps) but I could never get great mind muscle connection on my chest preventing it from looking strong/thick in the mirror.
After doing a lot of research on videos and asking a lot of contest prep coach’s for their advice I found some neat videos and tried various things to see how my body would respond. Low and behold I have found a few techniques that have aided me in adding good size even if the weight was not a factor.
Doing so and adding size and not focusing on weight I never really realized it but my barbell flat bench skyrocketed after focusing on different aspects of training chest and not on pushing massive amounts of weight (amazing how that works right?).
First up is from a video I saw with Charles Glass. If I remember correctly he was training with Kai Green as he was getting ready for his Arnold Prep a few years ago and they were starting off on a chest isolation movement to get blood into their chest before moving into a complex barbell lift.
The thing he noted on that helped him get better mind muscle connection was sitting on the edge of the seat and getting a 30/45 degree angle of his back into the back pad. As crazy as it sounds it worked pretty damn well for me. You put your butt right on the edge of the seat and lean back into the back pad and focus on rolling your shoulders back, and puffing your chest up.
Doing so places less stress on your shoulders (medial delts that could take over) and keep your elbows slightly flared (not tucked or else this puts more on your triceps) and focus on nothing but the squeezing of your pecs and pushing through your lats. Give this setup a try on an isolation movement like a hammer strength chest press, fly, or cable machine and see how it suits you when you are set up against a seat.
Again I keep trying to hammer these two points away but pauses and slower negatives work so well. I have always negated these when training and always focused on trying to move more weight and never paid attention to my rep cadence or my tempo and doing so I am kicking myself in the butt now.
As I would set up for my hammer strength chest press when I would bring the weight back and then pause right at the bottom of the motion when my lats would be pushed right against the seat from the angle I am sitting at I would feel nothing but the outside of my pecs on fire. Right then and there when I started to do this I could instantly feel my chest being engaged like never before which was a huge success in aiding me to get my chest activated.
Whenever I would start my workout sessions with heavy movements I would never feel my chest involved or more delts/triceps from them overpowering my lack luster chest in strength and in appearance. I have a good feeling that this has aided me over the last few months where my chest has grown the most.
Push Ups In Between Meals
One other major tip I got my trainer (Jason Theobald) aka ScoobySnacks when he does post on various boards was to implement 50 push-ups between meals. As crazy as it sounds the increased frequency has worked wonders for himself and many of his clients.
Myself being a client of his I have tried this, and yes it leaves you sore as hell from doing up to sometimes 300 push-ups a day (if you do 6 meals) or around 150-200 for most (who eat around 3-4 meals a day) depending on your overall frequency.
When people have lagging body parts what do they mostly do with their training? They increase the frequency on that bodypart weather its giving it another day (to focus on hypertrophy and one on power) or utilizing different techniques on that second day to try and get as much blood into the muscle as possible to help promote growth.
Jason insisted instead of giving another day to chest just simply smash it every single day and with that just doing regular push-ups and focusing on driving blood into the chest and repping out 25-35-50 push-ups depending on how many you can do on your own to start. As you continue to add them up you will easily be pushing 50 in no time, and you will start to see your chest develop.
For some higher volume is the key to growth, some dwell off low volume and high intensity this is where you will have to read your body and see how you respond to these changes.
There Is still plenty more to come on other smaller body parts and what you could utilize to help them grow. I will keep putting in ideas and work on these articles to help you fine tune your training or try different alternatives to see how they respond on your training.