1. Lose The Shoes

Lift barefoot, if possible, or in minimalist footwear like Vibram FiveFingers shoes, wrestling shoes, or converse chucks. having your feet flat on the floor lessens the distance you have to pull the bar on a deadlift, increasing your leverage and helping you lift heavier weights. Training barefoot also strengthens your feet, which in turn adds stability and traction to all your lifts.

2. Be A Tight-Ass

Squeeze your glutes at all times during a set, especially on lifts like the bench press and overhead press. It stabilizes your entire torso.

3. Use The 25-Rep Method

If the total number of reps you perform for an exercise adds up to 25, you're more likely to maximize muscle and strength gains. Just keep the reps relatively low and the sets moderate. Configurations like 5x5, 6x4, and 8x3 work well.

4. Go Heavy, Then Light

Train with heavy loads one month, using sets of four to six reps. The next month, go lighter and stay in the 10-12 rep range. The heavy training allows your body to make even faster gains during the lighter weeks.

5. Throw A Medicine Ball

Hold an 8- to 10-pounder and throw it hard into a wall a few feet in front of you, as if you were passing a basketball down the court. You can also reach overhead with the ball and then slam it hard into the floor. Do three sets of five reps. Explosive exercises fire up the central nervous system, helping you recruit more muscle fibers on lifts.

6. Train Delts Shrink Your Waist

Want to look leaner without dieting? Develop the taper from your shoulders to your waist with this shoulder shocker: Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Now perform a lateral raise with your left arm. Keep your arm held up while you do a lateral raise with the right arm. Lower the right arm a quarter of the way down, raise it back up, then lower it all the way. Perform 10 reps like this. Rest three minutes, then switch arms. Perform one set first thing during your workout twice a week for four weeks.

7. Use A Neutral Grip

If your sticking point on the bench press is at the bottom of the lift when the bar is on your chest, work on dumbbell bench presses with your palms facing each other. This positioning also forces you to tuck your elbows close to your sides when you lower the weights, which will become a habit when you press with a barbell. Benching with elbows tucked makes for a safer, stronger lift.

8. Make Your Warm-Up Set Heavier

Here's a great bait-and-switch trick for the nervous system. Work up in weight as normal on a lift to warm up, but make your last warmup set a few pounds heavier than the load you plan to use for your first work set. Just make sure you perform fewer reps in the warmup set than in the work set. So, if you want to squat 315 for five, you might work up to 320 or 325 in your last warmup set for two reps—it shouldn't be very difficult or tiring. Rest, then back off to 315 and go for five reps as planned. The set should feel easier than it would've otherwise, and you might try to go heavier next week.

9. Use Grip Tools

Wrap a towel around the bar or dumbbell handle to make the grip thicker—products like Grip4orce (grip4orce.com) and Fat Gripz work even better. Increasing the challenge to your grip with any exercise recruits more muscles in your hands and forearms. As a result, you can bring up these areas fast without any extra isolation work.

10. Do Pull-Ups Twice A Day

Do one set of as many as you can in the morning. Do another all-out set at night. Repeat this every other day. After 30 days, test your max number of reps. You can expect to see up to a 10-rep increase. This system works for dips as well.

11. Take Digestive Enzymes

If you're bulking up, taking in loads of extra food can be stressful to your gut and lead to poor absorption of nutrients. Digestive enzymes help break down that food. Make sure the ones you take contain protease, amylase, and lipase, which break down protein, starch, and fat, respectively.

12. Train On Empty

The European Journal of Applied Physiology found that working out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach doubled the magnitude of muscle growth signals.

13. Don't Let Your Elbows Move When Curling

If you let them drift, you won't fully extend them, and you'll be cheating yourself out of a full range of motion.

14. Go Heavy

To build muscle, most of your sets need to be performed with weights that are at least 70% of your max weight for that exercise. This generally necessitates keeping reps to 12 and under.

15. Do "Iso Hold" Dropsets

Hold a weight in the contracted position (usually the top of the lift) and have a partner take off plates or reduce the load. It forces your muscles to keep working through the weight change. Unlike with regular dropsets in which the lifter will usually get a few seconds to recover, you get no rest doing this. This technique works well for machine exercises like Hammer Strength or Smith machine chest or shoulder presses. It's also great for barbell curls.

16. Try Post-Exhaustion

You're familiar with "preexhaustion," in which you do an isolation exercise followed by a compound movement. This will tire out the bigger muscle groups you're training, forcing you to use less weight on the compound lift. However, the compound movement is the one that helps you make the quickest gains. Instead, try flipping it around, performing the compound move first, then repping out with the isolation. For example, do a set of bench presses and then pick up dumbbells for flyes.

17. Drive Your Toes Into The Front Of Your Shoes

Coordinate this action with the upward phase of a bench press, right as you push the bar off your chest. The drive of your legs will actually allow you to handle more weight.

18. Use Pull-Up Aids

If you can't do a pull-up, lessening your body weight with the assistance of elastic bands makes the movement easier. loop a thick exercise band around a pullup bar and place your feet in it. the band will act as a slingshot to propel you over the bar. the pullup revolution pro (available at lifelineusa.com) offers various levels of assistance depending on your strength.

19. Use The Total-Rep Method

Forget three sets of 10. Choose a weight you can get about 10 reps with, and aim for 30 total for that exercise. Perform each rep explosively and take as many sets as you need to get up to 30. The quality of your reps will likely be better, and you'll let your body determine the optimal number of sets.

20. Try Curls On Lower-Body Days

You'll be fresher than if you had just done back exercises and able to train the biceps more frequently. Now you'll be hitting them not just with legs, but indirectly on back day as well.

21. Follow Linear Periodization

Work up to a final set of eight reps on all your main barbell lifts for three weeks. Then go for a heavy five the next three weeks. Then three reps. Do just one hard work set per lift, then back it off by 10% and do another set of the same reps. Each wave builds on the gains of the previous one, and you should be setting personal records by the end of nine weeks.

22. Put Your Ball To The Wall

Before any big pressing workout, take a light medicine ball and press it into a wall with your arm extended. Roll the ball around and make the shape of all 26 letters. Keep pressure on the ball so it doesn't slip. This fires up the rotator cuff so you can stabilize heavy loads better.

23. Stand Your Ground

Two-thirds of all your muscle fibers are responsible for balance and coordination. The remaining third are designed for movement. Therefore, you get more out of exercises that are done standing than you do ones where you're seated, lying down, or strapped into a machine.

24. Use Hydrosylates In Your Post-Workout Shake

Proteins that have been "hydrolyzed" digest superfast, so your muscles soak them up quickly. The fast absorption also spikes levels of insulin. Try adding hydrolysates to your whey and carb post-workout shake to boost its efficacy.

25. Roll The Bar Up To Your Shins To Deadlift

Stand behind the bar, bend down to grab it, and then roll it back toward you. Just as it touches your shins, drop your butt and begin the lift. Time it right and you'll generate momentum that aids in the lift.

About the Author

Muscle & Fitness

Muscle & Fitness

Muscle & Fitness magazine was founded by Joe Weider in 1935, and its content focuses on fitness and bodybuilding.

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