4. Don’t Stop At Failure
If you want to optimize muscle growth, you can’t fear muscle failure. If you just drop a weight after you reach 10 reps, but you could’ve done 1-5 more reps, then you’re not doing a true set of 10.
Pushing past your limits—which, by the way, should be cycled with periods of lower-intensity training—will break down additional muscle fibers and stimulate more growth as long as you take only a few sets past muscle failure. (Taking every set past muscle failure could lead to acute overtraining.) The best advice is to take 1-2 sets of a given exercise beyond muscle failure, typically on your last or your heaviest set.
Pushing past your limits will break down additional muscle fibers and stimulate more growth as long as you take only a few sets past muscle failure.
There are plenty of good advanced-training techniques available when it comes to chest day. If you’ve got a workout partner, consider:
- Forced Reps: You do as many reps as you can on your own, and then your partner helps you with just enough assistance to keep the weight moving upward for a few additional reps.
- Negatives: As you reach muscle failure, your partner provides you with a lot of assistance lifting a weight, but then you take a full five seconds to lower it, focusing on the negative contraction. Do as many reps as you can until you can no longer control the negative. This technique works better on barbell and most machine movements than with dumbbells.
If you don’t have a training partner, here are two to try:
- Rest-Pause Clusters: Choose a weight you can lift for 7-8 reps, but do just 3-4 reps and then rack the weight. Rest 20 seconds and do 3-4 more reps. String together 4-5 work segments, interspersed with 20 seconds of rest, and you’ll end up with about 15 reps using a weight you’d normally only be able to lift for 7-8 reps. This is best done with machines that allow you to easily get into and out of the start position.
- Dropsets: When you reach muscle failure, rather than just dropping the weight, instead reduce the poundage by about 25 percent and continue the set to a second point of muscle failure. This is best done with pin-loaded machines, cables, and dumbbells. Be sure to have all the right weights in place before starting your set.