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6 New ways to activate muscle growth

6 Neue Wege das Muskelwachstum zu aktivieren

Exercises vs. methods

Beginners only think about exercises. Advanced trainers think more about methods, techniques and principles. A repetition is not the same as a repetition. A set is not just a set. How is the repetition performed? How are the sets arranged? How is the weight manipulated? What is the speed of the movement and what contraction method is used?

The answers to these questions can make the difference between continuous gains and stagnant gains. Look beyond the exercises and ignite new progress. Try these training methods.

1 - The 40 repetition method

To continually make further progress, you need to challenge your body in a way that forces it to adapt and become more muscular or stronger. To achieve this, the average exerciser in the gym will change up the exercises or simply try to put more weight on the bar. Both methods have their place, but there are other tools available, including the following method.

When most people think of sets and reps, they think "3 sets of 10 reps or something similar. Try this instead: Pick a specific number of reps as the total number of reps for an exercise, such as 40. That's not 40 reps per set, but 40 reps for a given exercise - no matter how many sets you need to do it. In fact, you should forget about counting sets altogether.

The first thing you need to do is choose a weight for an exercise. To do this, you need to find out your maximum weight for 8 repetitions (8RM weight). This is the weight you will use for all repetitions of this exercise. If you can do more than 8 reps on the first set, then the weight is too light. If you can do less than 8 reps on the first set, then the weight is too heavy. It's as simple as that.

With the chosen weight, you then try to perform 40 total repetitions of this exercise - no matter how many sets are necessary You use the same weight for all sets and only count the repetitions and not the sets. As your muscles fatigue, you won't be able to do the same number of reps per set, but that's okay because it's all about the total number of reps per exercise.

Here is an example:

Exercise: Tricep press on cable

  • Repetitions: 40 total
  • Weight: 8RM for the first set
  • Sets: the number does not matter
  • Rest: about 45 seconds between sets


  • Set 1: 8 repetitions
  • Set 2: 8 repetitions
  • Set 3: 6 repetitions
  • Set 4: 5 repetitions
  • Set 5: 4 repetitions
  • Set 6: 4 repetitions
  • Set 7: 3 repetitions
  • Set 8: 2 repetitions
  • Total repetitions: 40

Compare this to 3 x 10. You have performed MORE repetitions using a HEAVIER weight.

Remember that the above is just an example. You might also be able to do all 40 reps within 6 or 7 sets. Or it could be 10 sets, with you ending up with single reps. All of this will work as long as you follow the rules regarding weight and rest between sets.

You only rest 45 seconds between sets and you start with your 8RM weight, performing each set to muscle failure. If you can perform 8 reps on each set, then you have either started with too light a weight or you have paused longer than 45 seconds between sets. Make sure you use a real 8RM weight on the first set and follow the guidelines regarding rest intervals.

2 - 100 repetitions of leg presses each training day

Start each training session with 100 repetitions on the leg press. And not just on leg day, but on every single training day and even on chest day.

Use a very light weight. You may even have to start with an empty weight sled. Try to do all 100 repetitions in one go. Use a moderate tempo. Don't perform the movements too slowly, but don't do them super fast either. Rhythmic repetitions are what we want in this exercise. You can take short breaks, but ideally this should be done without engaging the weight sled. Simply pause at the highest point of the movement with your legs straight.

Basically, this set serves as a warm-up for each individual training session you perform. You can gradually increase the weight, but performing 100 heavy repetitions is not the goal. The goal is simply to get the blood flowing and get you pumped up. If you do this, your legs will completely change their appearance within a few weeks - and you only need a few minutes per training session.

How does this method work?

Over time, the number of capillaries running through your legs will increase: Your lower body will achieve increased vascularity and it will become easier to transport nutrients and amino acids to these muscles. This will promote both recovery and muscle growth.

It will also help you recover faster during your lower body training sessions between sets, as more capillaries equates to increased oxygen transport to the muscles and more efficient removal of lactic acid between sets.

For women, this is also good for fat loss. Women tend to have lower capillary density and less efficient blood flow in the lower body. This is one of the reasons why it is harder for women to develop a super lean lower body. Increased vascularization makes it easier to mobilize fat in this region, which is the first step on the road to a leaner lower body.

Performing leg presses with high repetitions will solve this problem. It will take some time to build up these new capillaries, but once these adaptations have taken place, they will make it easier for you to get lean legs.

Bonus benefit: Just the fact that you are using your legs more often will make you better at recruiting these muscles. This will encourage stimulation during heavy workouts.

3 - The principle of first tension

"If you want to build your biceps, you need to improve your ability to recruit and contract these muscles." an experienced weight training coach once said.

And when it comes to the biceps, focusing on making them strong will often make it harder to get them to grow. Training with heavy weights can reduce the tension in the biceps during training. Consciously achieving intense contractions of the target muscle is much harder when you use heavy weights.

So if you're trying to bring lagging biceps up to par with the rest of your body, the first thing you need to work on is generating maximum tension to optimize the mind-muscle connection. The time you spend on this will be an investment for any bicep training you do in the future.

Over the next four weeks, perform each repetition of your bicep workout as follows:

  1. Before you even begin to move the weight, tense your biceps hard as if you were going to perform a bicep pose. This is the "principle of first tension" - the muscle that is contracted hard first is the muscle that will receive the most stimulation during the set
  2. Use a slower tempo when lifting and lowering the weight - about 3 seconds for lifting and lowering. This will allow you to contract your biceps as hard as possible during every inch of each movement. If you perform the movements faster, it will be harder to keep the muscle under maximum tension. During the downward movement, you should continue to tighten your biceps hard and maintain as much tension as possible.

The benefits

This is the best way to get really good at recruiting and contracting your biceps and you will program your nervous system to do this, which will make future heavier bicep training more effective.

This stimulates muscle growth via an accumulation of growth factors and mTOR activation, but at the same time there is very little muscle damage - if any. Therefore, you can - and should - perform this type of bicep workout several times a week - preferably three to four times a week.

Remember that frequency of training is the key to motor learning. Once you have spent some time training your biceps in this way, you will be able to progress to heavier training - but now the tension on the biceps will remain because you have improved your capacity to recruit the muscles and keep them under tension.

4 - The muscle fiber manipulation method

One way to really get your muscles to grow is to recruit those stubborn Type II muscle fibers. The problem? You must first completely exhaust your type I muscle fibers. Only then can you draw on the type II muscle fibers.

The second problem? Most people never manage to recruit these muscle fibers and their muscle growth stagnates.

Here's what you can do: Before you start your regular work sets, perform a super light set to muscle failure. How light? About 20% of your 1RM weight. This will exhaust the Type I muscle fibers enough to open the door to activating the Type II muscle fibers. The result? Greater gains in strength and muscle mass.

Example: Bicep curls

Let's say, to keep the math simple, that your 1RM weight for bicep curls is 50 kilos. 20% of that would be 10 kilos.

  1. Before you start your regular sets of bicep curls, you perform a set of 10 kilos to muscle failure. This is not a warm-up set, but a hard set with a high number of repetitions that you perform to the point where you can't do a single more repetition.
  2. Pause for 30 seconds.
  3. Then take your regular weight for bicep curls, which should probably be around 35 to 40 kilos (as your 1RM weight is 50 kilos) and perform your regularly scheduled sets, pausing for 60 seconds between sets.

Based on some studies conducted with this method, you will achieve greater gains in strength and muscle mass.

5 - The regressive range of motion technique

Here's how it works:

  1. Start an exercise by performing repetitions through the entire range of motion. Perform as many repetitions until you are close to reaching the point of muscle failure.
  2. Then reduce the range of motion by half and perform partial repetitions until you feel that you are close to reaching the point of muscle failure in this partial repetition range.
  3. Now reduce the range of motion by half again and perform quarter repetitions until you reach the point of muscle failure. Depending on the exercise used, the partial repetitions are performed either in the upper or lower part of the range of motion.

For gains in muscle mass

Use a weight with which you can perform 8 to 10 repetitions before moving on to half repetitions and then quarter repetitions.

For gains in strength and muscle mass

Use a weight with which you can perform 4 to 6 complete repetitions before moving on to partial repetitions. This method will allow you to use a decent amount of weight.


  • Squats: Full reps, then half reps over the top half of the range of motion, then quarter reps
  • Leg curls: Full repetitions, then half repetitions over the lower half of the range of motion, then quarter repetitions
  • Barbell curls: Full reps, then half reps across the lower half of the range of motion, then quarter reps
  • Leg press: Full reps, then half reps across the top half of the range of motion, then quarter reps
  • Side raises: Full reps, then half reps across the lower half of the range of motion, then quarter reps
  • Bench press: Full reps, then half reps across the top half of the range of motion if you want to focus on shoulder muscles and triceps. Perform partial reps across the lower range of motion if you want to focus on the pecs.

6 - The Mr. Olympia program

Okay, this program isn't really new, but it might be new to you. Old school bodybuilding coach Vince Gironda referred to this program as the "Mr. Olympia Program" because it was the program he used to train Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia.

The basic idea is to do a lot of work in very little time, what we now call "High Density Training". Here's how it works:

  • Choose an exercise
  • Load the bar with a weight that you can move ten times
  • Perform only 6 repetitions with this weight instead of 10
  • Pause for 30 seconds and repeat five times

In other words: 6 x 6 with 70% of your 1RM with only 30 seconds rest between sets. Gironda even had his advanced bodybuilders rest only 15 seconds between sets, but start with 30 seconds. Remember that the key is training density, not weight. If you can't perform all 6 sets with a strict 30-second rest length, then reduce the weight until you adapt to the short rest intervals.


  1. Aguiar AF, Buzzachera CF, Pereira RM, Sanches VC, Januário RB, da Silva RA, Rabelo LM, de Oliveira Gil AW, "A single set of exhaustive exercise before resistance training improves muscular performance in young men." Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015 Jul;115(7):1589-99.


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