5 Growth Strategies for Training Solo
To gain muscle, you’ve got to consistently push past muscle failure, but without a training partner you could be out of luck. Here are 5 techniques that can actually take the place of — or work better than — a workout partner.
Solo Tactic #3: Drop Sets
What is it: A Godsend for those who train alone, drop sets are a way to increase the intensity of a session by immediately reducing the weight of an exercise and continuing to do reps after initial failure. For example, if you can complete eight reps on the dumbbell preacher curl, you immediately grab another set of dumbbells (roughly 20% lighter) after the eighth rep and continue curling, doing as many reps as possible with that weight before reaching muscle failure yet again and quickly trading for another lighter set. This can be done numerous times, but regardless of how many drops you perform per set, it’s considered only one set. To add to the already intense nature of drops sets, it’s critical to keep your rest periods short.
How to use it: Basically, rest as long as it takes you to grab a lighter set of dumbbells and get set up on the bench. Or, if you’re on a machine, you basically rest only as long as it takes you to adjust the weight and get into position again. Using this immediate drop-set mentality forces your target muscles to continue contracting against a lighter resistance, causing an elevated response of growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1, both instrumental for gains in mass.
Dumbbells and pin-loaded machines are excellent choices for drop sets, simply because it’s easier to get to the next set of weights or adjust the load with that equipment than it is to strip the plates off both sides of a barbell, for example, which dilutes the muscle-building effect by lengthening the rest period. If you wait too long between sets, the benefits of the tactic are diminished, and because you’re training alone and achieving muscular failure frequently, you can do so without worrying about the weight crashing down on you.
In terms of rest between workouts, you should allow as few as four days and as many as a full seven days between workouts that employ drop sets because of the intense nature of the technique. You should also incorporate drop sets for a few weeks and then take a rest from the technique for a few weeks to avoid overtraining.
What’s a sample program look like: Here’s what a standing dumbbell curl would look like when using the drop-set tactic.
|Standing Dumbbell Curl||1||50||10||None|
* It’s important that you select a weight that corresponds exactly with your desired failure on your first set. If you stop the set at a rep in which you could have continued the set, the weight was too light.
Best bodyparts: All
Best used with: Pin-loaded machines and dumbbells
Avoid using with: Barbell exercises, plate-loaded machines