Sometimes routines are made to be broken. You can easily get comfortable doing the same sets of exercises each week, but your muscles will quickly become bored and cost you some amazing results.
If you can imagine, all of the muscle fibers in your body are like components of a fine-tuned machine. When performing your lifts, each of these components is recruited or activated in a sequence. Understanding a few simple principles of activation, engagement and how this sequence works is paramount when your goals revolve around increasing muscle size and strength.
For your program development, this means strategically building your exercises around two simple and direct concepts: pre-exhaustion and Post-Activation Potentiation (the latter is otherwise known as PAP). Here’s a quick rundown on each of these concepts and how to appy them to your training:
This method functions exactly as the name implies: exhausting a certain muscle intentionally, in order to focus on a primary mover or muscle group. Pre-exhausting is achieved by performing an isolation exercise first, followed immediately by a compound movement. When working on your upper body for example, this technique would have you first perform a shoulder movement, such as a dumbbell press. Then, you would perform a compound movement such as the bench press, which involves the shoulder, pectorals and triceps. By completing an isolated shoulder movement first, you pre-exhaust this muscle, thereby increasing the load and work completed on the primary mover, which are the pectorals.
With this technique, you fatigue a muscle first, which means that a higher-threshold of muscle fibers are activated to complete the compound lift, which equals more muscle-motor recruitment and more muscular growth. In a nutshell, you’ve just conditioned your muscle to push its own limit and therefore lift more, for a longer period of time.
How to: When utilizing the pre-exhaustion technique, employ moderate to heavy weights with an 8-10 rep range for your isolation exercise, and 6-8 reps for your compound lifts. Complete 3-4 sets of each.
POST-ACTIVATION POTENTIATION (PAP)
This technique is used when your goal is to increase the overall intensity of your workouts by performing supersets that combine heavy resistance training with explosive movements.
By activating a larger spectrum of your muscle fibers from the initial heavy lift, your body will experience increased muscle fiber and nervous system activation, which improves its response to the subsequent explosive movement. With little to no rest in between each superset, you get a high intensity workout that will keep your system metabolically active and burning calories for up to 48 hours after.
If you’re looking to solicit this kind of a response in your workouts, then for example, you might superset a bench press with a medicine ball chest pass, or a deadlift followed by kettlebell swing. If you have difficulty performing explosive movements due to joint issues or impact, you can still utilize this technique by performing your heavy compound lift first, such as your heavy squat, followed by an isolation move such as a leg extension.
How to: With this technique, utilize the 4-6 rep range for your heavy lift, and 8-10 for your isolation movement, completing 3-4 sets of each superset.