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 #4: Forced Reps
What it is: Though you may think this great technique is meant to be used with a training partner, go back to the definition of forced reps and you’ll find that it can in fact also be employed by a solo trainer. Forced reps involves reaching failure on a set and then “forcing” more reps beyond that initial failure. By forcing your muscles to contract after initial failure, the chances of muscle growth increase dramatically. In fact, studies have shown when weightlifters use forced reps, their growth hormone (GH) levels rise about three times higher than when they train to failure and then stop. That increase in GH not only helps add muscle size and strength but also assists in fat loss.
But even though you train alone doesn’t mean you can’t also enjoy the benefits that forced reps allow. You just have to get creative and be patient when it comes to your routines, since you’ll be working one side at a time with unilateral movements.
How to use it: The key will be to use your non-working limb to assist the working side to blast beyond failure at the end of a set. For example, during overhead triceps extensions, your non-working hand should be resting under your working triceps to help force more reps than you could normally do by using just your working arm. Same thing goes for biceps exercises like dumbbell curls and leg exercises such as the leg press. You can use your hands to assist your quads or you may even allow your non-working leg to provide just enough of a lift on the platform at the end of a set to squeeze out a few more reps.
By applying the forced reps tactic upon certain exercises, it forces you to work each side independently. Doing so allows for other benefits like being able to spot muscular strength imbalances between sides of your body. And because forced reps are so intense, much like drop sets, you need to allow ample time between workouts of the same bodypart to allow for adequate rest and recovery.
What’s a sample program look like: Here’s what a typical set of forced reps would look like when applied to your triceps workout.
|Overhead Triceps Extension||1||6 (+ 2-3 forced reps)||1-2 mins.|
|2||8 (+ 2-3 forced reps)||1-2 mins.|
|3||10 (+ 2-3 forced reps)||1-2 mins.|
* Choose a weight so that you reach muscle failure at the target rep. Additional forced reps are done with the assistance of the non-working hand
Note: After each set, you can either rest and repeat on the same limb, or you can alternate sides.
Best bodyparts: Biceps, triceps, legs
Best used with: Single-limb moves, dumbbells, leg machines, cables
Avoid using with: Barbell moves, most chest, delt or shoulder exercises