In the social media world there is limitless content regarding next level workouts with extraordinary creativity. Although I can’t blame individuals for wanting to spice up routines, this can be overwhelming to someone who is just beginning a workout program in general. I believe that in order to perform creative exercises well, it’s best to master the basics first. If you are someone that may get bored with traditional bodybuilding exercises, I have ways that will shock the potential boredom out of a basic training routine while still providing progressive results. Below are some things I focus on when leveling up while sticking to the basics.
TIP #1: ISOLATION
One of my favorite foundational concepts of bodybuilding is the principle of isolation. Because I want my muscle breakdown, recovery and development to be as effective as possible, I’m a huge fan of isolation days where I put the most into a chosen muscle group versus full body workouts.
I also like to focus on primary over secondary muscles during a training set. For example, in training there will be major muscle groups being worked in an exercise and there will be assistors (the secondary muscle). In a back pull down exercise, the back muscles are primary and the biceps are secondary, playing the role of the assistor. They call these muscles assistors for a reason, they are not meant to be incorporated too much but to simply assist the movement of the primary muscle.
To ensure isolation of the primary muscle, it helps to visualize the contraction while it’s occurring and to pay attention to how much the assistor muscle is being used. For instance, when your back exercise starts to feel like a bicep exercise and the lactic acid burn is occurring more in your arms, this is a sign that your form could use improvement to ensure isolation. This will help you to accomplish the most out of your BACK workout. Your biceps will have its turn going to lactic acid town during arm curls (it’s proper isolation exercise).
TIP #2: STATIC CONTRACTION HOLDS
No matter how much I’ve lifted in the gym, I’ll admit that holding my body in a pose for minutes during yoga class absolutely kills me! This is due to the power of static contractions. If holding my body weight during a namaste lunch stance (aka warrior one) can create this much of a lactic acid build up, it makes complete sense to how practicing static holds in mid set during weight training could intensify a basic exercise such as a leg curl on a hamstring machine also! For example, holding my form at the peak of the contraction (which is when the heels of my feet are close to my buttocks) for 5 to 10 seconds in the middle of or at the end of my leg curl set will surely increase the lactic acid build up in my muscles.
TIP #3 PULSING
Just as holding a contraction increases intensity, so can pulsing. Pulsing is close to the same as static holds but with very short pulsing movements at the peak of the contraction. TRUST ME you will feel the burn by at least 10-20% more!
TIP #4 SLOW NEGATIVES
My final level up suggestion is to focus on the negatives in a repetition. This is when you are releasing your contraction and returning to the starting point of your rep. Remember, tension occurs not only when you exert force, but also is prolonged when releasing the contraction if the pace is slow and controlled. For example, when performing a bicep curl, the tension in the rep will be extended if you choose to release the curl slowly. If you were to release the arm curl quickly, you cheat yourself out of your full potential with tension in that rep. I’m personally an advocate for slow controlled movement where I abide by a count of one during the contraction and a slow count of 3 for the release on all exercises. On days I want even more tension I’ll count to five on the release. Feeling the burn is inevitable when my sets consist of this strategy.
So there you have it. By focusing on isolation, and effective repetition tweaks such as pulsing, static holds and a slow negative release, I get to really take my basic lifting routine to another level. Call me basic Laura version 4.0 and I’ll happily answer because this leveling up the basics strategy has really worked for me and I hope it works for you too!
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.