As someone that has been in the gym regularly for the past 20 years as a bodybuilder, trainer, club owner and also an “observer”, it truly surprises me how few trainees take advantage of the many varied angles, grips and planes of motion we have at our disposal to target our muscles. One of the fastest routes to stagnation, when it comes to hypertrophy (muscle growth), is to continually to do the same things over and over again. This may not occur in the very beginning, but after you have been toiling away in the gym for a few years, believe me when I tell you that your muscles and nervous system will become quite resilient at not responding to the exercises you expose them to. So, does this mean you have to constantly switch movements at every workout in order to continue to make progress? Not necessarily. By simply changing your grip, torso angle, and/or plane of motion you can use the same basic exercises while actually altering motor unit recruitment patterns entirely. So, in a sense, to both your muscles and central nervous system, it will seem like you are doing a totally different movement, and thus the stimulus they receive will then be unique (and more productive). Here are some simple examples of how you can make just one exercise seem like three to your body:
Change of Grips:
-On the standing barbell curl, do set one with a shoulder width grip, set two with a grip just inside shoulder width, and set three with a grip a couple of inches closer.
-On the leg press machine, do set one with your feet high and wide on the platform, set to with the feet low and narrow, and set three with the feet at mid-height and shoulder width.
Change of Angles:
-On incline dumbbell presses, do set one at a 60 degree angle, set two at a 45 degree angle and set three at a 30 degree angle.
-On incline dumbbell curls, do set one at an 80 degree angle, set two at a 60 degree angle and set three at a 40 degree angle.
Varied Plane of Motion:
-On wide grip pull-ups or pull-downs, do one pulling straight to your clavicles, set two pulling to your mid-chest and set three pulling to your lower pec line.
-On barbell or Smith Bench press, do set one bring the bar down to the lower pecs, sets two to the mid-pecs and set three top the clavicles.
Try these or similar examples at your next workout and I bet you will experience a more intense pump, enhanced muscular stimulation and increased soreness that will lead to more efficient and significant muscle growth over time -- which after all is what we all strive for!
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