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Muscle Mechanics Episode One: 4 Growth Igniters

Muscle Mechanics is a new video series from Pauline Nordin and Jim Stoppani, Ph.D. Get ready for advanced training techniques and cutting-edge fitness advice!

Even the most lone-wolf lifter knows that sometimes a spotter is a practical and necessary addition to a workout. Aside from making sure your 315 bench press doesn't crush your sternum, a spotter can also help you get bigger and stronger by increasing the time you spend under tension.

With a partner, you don't have to drop the weight when you reach muscle failure, or refrain from doing a lift because you don't have the strength to do it. An extra set of hands might seem like cheating, but those hands help you improve.

Here are some ways a spotter can help you get bigger, stronger, and more powerful.

Muscle Mechanics Episode 1
Watch The Video - 04:41

Spotting Techniques

Biceps Curls

Heavy, high-volume curls can be rough. You want to make the set efficient for your partner. When he starts to get tired, that's your cue to get ready to help. As your partner pulls the weight toward his body, aid him by putting your hands under the bar. Don't help too much—just enough for him to complete the rep. It's also a good idea to stop him before he gets to the bottom of the rep to ensure he can't cheat. As his body begins to lean backward, cue him to stay forward so all the tension remains on his biceps. Each set should end at complete failure.

Strip Set Weighted Bench Dips

A great technique you can do with a partner is a strip set. It's difficult because the person doing the work literally gets no rest. Have your partner take the set all the way to failure. Once she gets there, remove some weight and tell her to keep going. This technique allows your partner to take the set way beyond failure. This fatigue will cause her body to recruit new motor units, which will increase muscle growth and strength. When she hits failure again, strip more weight. When she gets down to body weight, she'll do as many reps as she can. Basically, you've helped your partner do three sets in one.

Glute-ham Raise "Finn"

The glute-ham raise is a great way to build the hamstrings, but it's difficult. There are few people who can do it. But this difficulty shouldn't be a reason to take the movement out of your regimen. Hold your partner's hands to take some of his bodyweight. That way, he can lean forward and pull upward with his hamstrings without failing. You'll be moving with him, so walk forward and backward as he does the movement. Use cues like "hips forward" and "hips up" to help him complete the reps correctly. It might look a little silly, but he's getting a great hamstring workout and your biceps get trained at the same time!

Negative Pull-ups

Another great thing to use with a partner is negative rep training. Pull-ups lend themselves well to negative training. Your partner might be good at pull-ups, but a lot of people have trouble. When your partner has done enough reps to reach failure, help her by holding her feet or pushing her up to the top of the rep. Then, let her go so she can resist gravity on the negative. Negative reps can help increase your strength and size. When your partner hits the bottom of the rep, assist her to the top of the positive.

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