If you have your plan established and it is producing results, stick with it. There is no reason to change exercises or repetitions only for the sake of change; however, if you are not progressing, this is precisely the time for a change of some sort. How do you know what to change? Let me help you!
The first thing I will change is the number of reps I’m shooting for. If I have been going for six reps on an exercise, I might bump that to 15 or 20 reps. What matters most is progressing. I trained for many years, hitting a personal record in every workout I did. For example, I was trying to bench press 405 lbs for six reps. I’d come in week after week and hit that weight for 4 or 5 reps, but I just couldn’t progress to 6 reps. Because I couldn’t progress by adding one rep, I had to progress differently. So, after my set of 405 for five reps, I’d drop the weight to 225 lbs and do as many reps as I could or 275 lbs or 315 lbs. Other times I’d add bands or chains or throw a slingshot on completely changing the exercise, or I would switch to inclines or declines. You can also switch to dumbbells or machines for a while. The time to do this is when you hit a sticking point, not just at any random time. This simple method can keep you progressing indefinitely.
Secondly, you should have a personal record for reps with every weight. For example, on the bench press, you should have a personal record for reps with 135 lbs, 140 lbs, 145 lbs, 150 lbs, 155 lbs, 160 lbs, and every other increment up to your one-rep max. Here are some other techniques you can use to blast through a sticking point:
- Forced Reps -Training partner assists you at the end of your set so you can keep getting some extra reps.
- Heavy Negative Reps – Overload the weight on the bar and lower a heavier weight than the lift or even partial reps where you lift the weight for more reps by decreasing the range of motion or adding additional weight like in a heavy lockout.
- Focus on Neurological Ability – Perform explosive reps or speed reps to break through a barrier or even increase volume by increasing sets for the specific purpose of mastering the technique of an exercise and expanding the mind to muscle connection.
Last but certainly not least, you can change your training split schedule splitting up the body parts you train in a workout and mixing up the frequency of your workouts. Let me give you an example of how I have auto-regulated my training split and frequency. I believe in full-body training and fully recovering between workouts; however, I enjoy training and typically can’t wait to get back after it. When I was training full-body workouts, I found I wanted to get back in the gym every other day. Instead, I had terrible leg workouts where I’d have to skip legs in my training. I realized that every other day was too high of a frequency for my legs to recover from. I switched to an upper-body/lower body split training my upper body in one workout and my lower body in the next and recovered from the workouts. How often you train and what you train isn’t the essential aspect of training. What is critical is that you can recover from your workouts and are seeing progress.
Progression is your gauge. If you are progressing, you are on the right track. If you are not, you need to auto-regulate! Arnold Schwarzenegger trained six days per week, 8 hours per day, training each body part 3 times per week. Mike Mentzer produced results training once every ten days. Both methods work, but the key is recovery. If you can train for 8 hours per day each week and recover, this can be an excellent training method. It produced Arnold Schwarzenegger, arguably the greatest bodybuilder in all of history. However, If you can’t recover from this training method, you need to experiment with your schedule and sets and reps to see where you progress.
Many people believe you shouldn’t max out in your workouts, but the guys at Westside Barbell max out every workout and achieve great results. Westside Barbell developed a lot of its methods from Olympic weightlifting. Olympic lifting is something else you can experiment with to create your neurological ability and skills in weightlifting. As much as training is a science, it is also an art, and there are endless variables we aren’t even aware of. You must experiment to discover what methods will produce the best results for you as an individual.