Upgrade Your Shoulder Workouts:  Bigger, Stronger, Healthier Shoulders.

Upgrade Your Shoulder Workouts: Bigger, Stronger, Healthier Shoulders.

Many lifters struggle to build big, strong shoulders. Here’s how you can upgrade your shoulder workouts for bigger, stronger and healthier shoulders.

The Struggle Is Real

There are a handful of reasons most people have trouble building big, strong Shoulders. As always, taking a new approach can be game-changing for your shoulder workouts and progress.

For one thing, the Shoulders can be very difficult to connect with, compared to a muscle like the Biceps or Chest.

The 2 main reasons for this are:

  1. We’re unable to get a stretch of the muscle fibers. This is usually accomplished during the eccentric portion of a lift, such as coming down on a Biceps Curl, or the bottom of a bench press. This is the portion of the lift that usually leads to soreness.. and when was the last time you really had sore shoulders from a shoulder workout?
  2. The larger (and stronger) muscle groups surrounding the Shoulders (Traps, Lats) tend to take over when you’re becoming fatigued, which means you’re losing the most important reps for hypertrophy.
  3. Heavy overhead pressing has a tendency to lead to shoulder issues when overused.

When you perform lateral raises, for example, and begin accumulating fatigue, the Traps will often begin to take over at least a portion of the movement. You can verify this by paying attention to where you’re feeling it towards the end of a set.

Solution 1: Slow Down

One way to circumvent some of these issues that I’ve used with a lot of success is to simply slow things down.

Specifically, I’m talking about 4-5 second eccentric Lateral Raises and Eccentric Accentuated DB push presses.

I have a whole article on this topic (slow eccentrics) if you want to check it out after this one.

Eccentric Lateral Raises

If you didn’t have a strong connection with the shoulders before, you’re about to now. These are brutally effective for shoulder hypertrophy, and also just plain brutal.

By slowing down, you’ll dramatically increase the amount of time the target muscle is under tension (TUT), and you’ll establish a strong connection with the shoulders without the other muscle groups getting in the way.

Start with lighter weight than you’d normally use for Lateral Raises, and hit 3 sets of 8-12 reps with a 4-5 second eccentric. You can build up from there.

Eccentric Accentuated DB Push Press

Another way to harness the power of eccentrics for the shoulders is with these bad boys.

Pressing a single dumbbell, use the legs and hips to drive the DB overhead, then slowly control the weight coming back down for 4-5 seconds.

Since you’re “cheating” the weight up, you can overload the movement a bit (carefully). The slow eccentric helps build stability in the shoulders and the extended TUT can be great for hypertrophy.

Sets of 4-5 reps are usually good enough with a 4-5 second eccentric.

Solution 2: Crucifix Holds.

Isometrics can be a very useful additional to your lifting game. For the shoulders, There’s nothing tougher than a Crucifix Hold.

These will build overall shoulder and rotator strength, lending themselves well to stronger, healthier shoulders.

Raise two Dumbbells (or other objects) out laterally, and hold them there.

Start with 10 second holds, and work your way up to 30 seconds.

ISO/DYNAMIC

To perform Iso/Dynamic sets, simply perform a crucifix hold for 10-30 seconds, then immediately perform a set of lateral raises. Brutal, yes.. but also effective.

The Crucifix hold is a great way to build that connection with the shoulders and challenge them in a way they’re not used to. A great addition to shoulder day workouts for sure.

Try JACKED AF: 10 Week Beast Builder Program – All of these methods and more are programmed into a 10-week test of fortitude and serious hypertrophy.

Solution 3: Change Angles

This is a simple concept that is often overlooked. Simply changing the angle of a movement can make a big difference.

I’m not going to list a bunch of variations here, but I want to demonstrate the principle with some inclined dumbbell lateral raises.

I’ve found these to be a great way to keep constant tension on the Medial Delts, especially when controlling the tempo of the movement.

Other examples would include front Delt raises lying on an incline bench, either face up (supine) or face down (prone). Lateral raises leaning away by holding onto the rack, etc.

Find the variations that let you feel the best connection to the shoulders, and ride the lightning.

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Try the Z-Press to Spice up Your Shoulder Workouts

This kind of follows naturally from “change angles.”

I’d bet you’ve never seen anyone performing the Z-Press in a commercial gym.

There are all kinds of fancy BS training methods out there and all over social media. This is not one of those methods.

The Z-Press was invented by Strongman Zadrunas Savickas, who boasts a 500lb overhead press. He credited this movement with developing raw pressing strength.

The reason? You can’t cheat. With no leg drive, less stability, and seated on the floor, any weaknesses in your core/trunk, hip flexors and shoulder strength will be exposed.

To perform these with perfect form, your legs would be flat on the ground. Don’t “sit” flat on your butt, or your low back will take on unnecessary stress. You can see in the video that I am limited by hip flexor mobility, and my legs are bent.

I’ve got a football bar here, but a barbell is just fine.

Putting It All Together for Better Shoulder Workouts

The best approach would be to integrate some of these methods into your shoulder workouts and experiment with what feels good and what doesn’t.

Taking a month or two and subbing out some of the movements and methods you’ve been using (for too long probably), could be a great stimulus for new gains in size and strength.

Get a Solid Program

I highly recommend you check out JACKED AF, my 10-week beast builder program, or my team program, Swole Town, where a lot of these methods are programmed in for you.

If you’re not following a solid, structured training program, it would be a game-changer.

I hope you enjoyed and got something out of this article. If you have any thoughts, leave a comment or follow/tag me on Instagram @Swole_Town

SUPASTRONG:  11 Week Strength Program Guide.  It’s Time to Get Stronger.

SUPASTRONG: 11 Week Strength Program Guide. It’s Time to Get Stronger.

SupaStrong is an 11 week strength program designed to make you stronger in all the big lifts. Since some “advanced” methods are used in this strength program, I’ve made this short guide on how to perform it for optimal results.

We’ll take a quick dive into the methods and rationale behind the program design, and discuss how you can perform the 11 weeks optimally.

If you’re looking to get stronger, you’ve stumbled onto a very solid game-plan.

What is Strength?

Simply stated, strength is your ability to produce force against a load. Or, if you prefer, your ability to overcome resistance.

I’m sure you’ve seen examples, such as Olympic weight lifters, of people who don’t appear to be very strong, but are actually capable of performing incredible feats of strength. How is this possible?

Strength is Neuromuscular

The reason this is possible is simply that those athletes have trained their neuromuscular system to recruit a maximal amount of muscle fibers. An ordinary, untrained person likely cannot even recruit 60-70% of their available potential for strength.

The body is an incredible machine, and it is not stupid.

Allowing you to harness all of your strength potential could be extremely dangerous to the physical structure. And so, organs running alongside your muscle fibers (GTO’s) literally signal the brain to limit force production.

Just like the governor on a vehicle slows the vehicle down when it reaches a certain speed.

For experienced lifters, gym rats, etc.. this may be more like 75-80% or so of actual strength potential.

Highly trained strength athletes can be at 90% or greater.

Enter Cluster Training

bench press get stronger strength program

The question is; How can we systematically train our bodies to be able to produce more force?

Of course, there are many methods that can be used. But probably none are more powerful than Cluster training.

In a cluster set, reps are split up with short rest in-between. For example, a set of 5 can be performed as 5 sets of 1 rep, with 20 seconds between reps. This allows for multiple high intensity efforts to be performed in a relatively short period of time.

Clusters can also be performed with higher reps (3-5), for more of a volume approach, which I implement occasionally in my Swole Town Team Programming.

Execution

The SUPASTRONG strength program will use cluster training as the primary method. As such, it’s important to understand how to perform them optimally from start to finish. Below is a guide to assist you in executing the program for optimal results.

  1. Prep movements are generally oriented around power/explosiveness, aiming to prepare you for the heavy work that lies ahead. We’ll use Sled sprints, plyometric pushups/benching and seated box jumps. While power may not be the focus of the program, it is still crucial in getting stronger.
  2. ALWAYS warm up to your target weight. Take sets of 2-3 reps, slowly building up to your target weight. These warm up sets are NOT to be performed as clusters. Just preparatory sets. Take your time.
  3. Percentages are listed and increase each week. Percentages are recommendations, not absolutes. If you feel particularly strong, you should add a few pounds. If you feel fatigued, drop a few… You may well find you’ve gotten stronger halfway through the program, in which case you may need to increase the weight you’re using. You should aim to feel like about a 9/10 exertion level on cluster reps exceeding 90%.
  4. Rest periods are listed and should be followed. This is not a “beginner” program. Take the time to read instructions. Extended rest between sets is crucial. The energy system we’re targeting (phosphocreatine) requires several minutes to fully recover between very heavy sets.
  5. Deload weeks are programmed in. For those of us who love training, it can be uncomfortable to scale back training. But rest assured, there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We’re moving heavy weight and doing it repeatedly.. the body needs to have some time to fully recover and adapt.
  6. Lastly, don’t use your max from 5 years ago that you tell people is your max. Be honest with yourself. Letting your ego into the picture can be disastrous and counterproductive.

Movement Selection

You have some freedom to choose the movements you want to focus on. For example, you can replace the back squat with front squats, zercher squats, box squats, etc.. Whatever you choose, stick with it for the duration of the program.

Options are listed in week 1. It is recommended to stick with the big basics, but you are free to choose.

Check out JACKED AF if you’re looking for more of a hypertrophy style program. This is a 10-week beast-builder program designed to pack on slabs of muscle. (Note, this one requires some fortitude).

Accessory Movements

The program will start off with moderate volume of accessory work.

As we progress and the clusters get heavier, the accessory work will be reduced, to focus our energy on the meat and potatoes of the program (the heavy work).

In the second 3 week block, we’ll use overload movements like rack pulls and box squats to provide additional stimulus to the nervous system to get stronger.

Accessory work will focus on the Hamstrings, Biceps and back, which get left out a bit with the bigger strength movements.

Always Chase Performance

strength program supastrong

Many of us have a hard time getting away from chasing fatigue and a “good workout.” With strength training, I’d prefer you walk out of the gym feeling good, rather than torn up.

Recovery is everything when it comes to training for strength. Too much volume and emphasis on accessory movements, and we’ll compromise our primary goal.

The point? Don’t go adding in 10 sets of Triceps work at the end, then wonder why your bench is going backwards.

As much as possible, we want to keep the stimulus the same. We want to point the body in a singular direction.. GETTING STRONGER! Adding in hours of cardio, or tons of metabolic work will simply cause interference in the desired adaptations.

FAQ:

Is Cardio/Conditioning included?

Yes, however all conditioning work will be geared towards targeting the same energy systems we’re looking to improve. i.e., short, hard and fast. Sled Push, intervals, etc.. for 15 minutes or so. Active recovery is also scheduled, walking, etc..

Will I build muscle on this program?

While this is not a hypertrophy oriented program, you can still put on some size as we’re hitting hitting high quality reps at 90% plus of your max. Any mass added would be high quality, dense muscle. That will depend a lot on your diet and current training status.

Are there demo videos and instructions?

Yes. All programming is delivered through TrainHeroic, the best training app in the world. Every segment is complete with demo videos, instructions, and all of your lifts are tracked.

Conclusion

The SupaStrong strength program can dramatically increase your strength.

This has been a short guide to get you familiar with the methods and execution of the program. It isn’t complicated, but it does have to be performed with the right mindset and execution.

If you’re looking to take your strength to the next level, you’ve stumbled onto a solid path.. What will you do?

Upgrade Your Shoulder Workouts:  Bigger, Stronger, Healthier Shoulders.

Slow Down Your Reps, Speed up Your Gains: Build Muscle with Slow Eccentrics

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression: It’s not what you do, but how you do it, that matters. Nowhere is this more true than in the gym. There are endless ways you can manipulate a single exercise to build muscle.. Isometric holds, cluster sets, partial reps, sets to failure and beyond.. slow eccentrics, etc etc ad infinitum.

However, if there’s one variable you can control that will have the biggest impact on building slabs of muscle, it would have to be Tempo. In particular, the tempo of the eccentric part of the lift (the “way down” in a bench press or curl, or the “way up” in a Lat Pulldown.)

Let’s take a look at how slow eccentrics can speed up muscle growth (hypertrophy), and give some specific examples you can implement into your training to harness their power.

Check out JACKED AF: 10 Week Max Hypertrophy Program. These methods and many others are included in 10 weeks of blood, sweat, and tears. (This is only for those who are serious and ready to train hard).

jacked af hypertrophy build muscle

Longer Time Under Tension

Simply stated.. Slowing down the eccentric portion of a lift will result in a much longer set.. often upwards of 60 seconds or longer of suffering.

Time Under Tension is often touted as the primary driver of muscle hypertrophy. This is not necessarily true, and it is simply ONE factor that can influence protein synthesis. I want to be clear that slow eccentrics are a tool, not some supreme method of training..

If you’re performing 3 sets of 15 Biceps curls at the end of your training session, performing them with a slow, 4-5 second eccentric will feel a LOT different and will have a stronger training effect in regards to hypertrophy.

All science aside, it’s simply a more challenging set. The muscle fibers are under stress/tension for much longer and having to work much harder. Given the soreness people often have after performing reps this way, there’s clearly an added stimulus being presented to the body.

One study by Pope Et al (2015) observed that 4 weeks of using nothing but eccentric reps resulted in significant gains in muscle cross sectional area.

I can also personally attest that adding this element into my (and my clients’) training for a 6 week training cycle gave me noticeable hypertrophy in the Shoulders and Triceps, where I used slow eccentric reps.

jacked hypertrophy eccentric reps

The Law of Accomodation

The Law of Accomodation is an important training principle. It states that: “Constantly repeating the same type of training will eventually lead to diminishing returns.”

With this in mind, you can see that adding in a new method like slow eccentric reps can be a way to avoid the law of accomodation and keep your body in a state of adaptation and growth.

Sometimes things don’t have to be complicated. At the end of the day, it can actually be pretty simple.

If you currently perform all of your reps with no regard to tempo at all, and simply blast through your sets.. introducing slowed down eccentric reps will be a new stimulus to the body.

Thus, you will likely get a strong response from the training method, until your body becomes well adapted and “used to” the eccentric reps. You will probably be very sore from performing reps this way, which is another indication that something different and “new” is being presented to the body.

Examples

Below are some example of how you can implement slow eccentrics into your training routine. I’ll give some of my favorite movements that have worked for me and my athletes/clients.

Eccentric Lateral Raises:

These are tough. Perform DB lateral raises, with a 4-5 second eccentric on every rep. Keep a slight bend in the arms. To get in additional reps, you can “cheat” the weight up a bit in order to get a few extra eccentric reps.

Start with 3 sets of 8-12 reps and aim lighter than you’d normally go. From there you can work on hitting more sets/reps and bumping the weight up.

Fat Bar Reverse Curl w/Slow Eccentric

Using a fat bar or Fat-Gripz makes these especially challenging. With a reverse grip, curl the bar up, then slowly lower back down, looking for a 4-5 second eccentric. An empty barbell will probably be plenty here to start out with. Shoot for sets of 10-12 reps paired with another Biceps movement like hammer curls or incline curls done at regular tempo.

DB Triceps Extensions With Slow Eccentric

Keeping the upper arms vertical or angled slightly back, lower the DB’s down towards your head, looking to feel a stretch in the Triceps at the bottom. Looking for about a 4-5 second eccentric on every rep. Shoot for 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps and go from there.

Single Arm Barbell Curl With Slow Eccentric

The added challenge of having to balance the barbell in one hand makes these even more challenging. Looking for a long, slow eccentric of 6-8 seconds. I like these as a finisher or as a way to sneak in some volume for the Biceps on a different training day during the week.

You may like: Build Muscle Faster with Tempo Training

Final Thoughts

jacked af hypertrophy build muscle

As with all training methods, this is a tool you can carry to maximize your time spent training.

It’s important to note that this method is likely not very good for strength purposes (although it can have some positive impacts on strength, such as increased tendon strength and better movement efficiency and mind-muscle connection).

You’re primarily stimulating Type 1 Fibers with the longer, slower sets and increased TUT. To maximize results, this should be combined with some heavier, more explosive work.

If you want to have this and more programmed in for you and have a roadmap to big results, check out my 10 week JACKED AF Program available through the TrainHeroic app. It’s a badass program that will get you, well… jacked af.

Thanks for being here. I hope this helps you on your journey towards your best self.

How to Get Jacked With Swole Town

How to Get Jacked With Swole Town

“Everyone wants to be a beast… Until it’s time to do what beasts do.

Swole Town is what beasts do. It’s blood, sweat and tears with plenty of Gains to show for it. Specifically, it’s a hypertrophy program designed to pack on slabs of muscle and have you training like a beast.

For those who have entered the Lion’s Den, this is a manual and description of the program and how you can get the best results from it. So let’s dive in.

Methods: What causes Hypertrophy?

The first step in designing any program is to define to goal of the training. Here, it is hypertrophy with strength as a secondary goal. The next step (for me, anyways), is to define what methods will be used and how they will be deployed.

Training is simply a stress placed on the body. Our bodies ADAPT to stress that we encounter on a regular basis. In the case of building muscle, we specifically need to focus on two things:

Mechanical Load

Mechanical load is simply resistance placed on the muscle fibers. The heavier the weight, the greater the mechanical load.

Metabolic Fatigue

Think of doing a high rep set of Biceps Curls. The burning, and the subsequent “Pump.” That is the result of metabolic stress. Metabolic fatigue in the muscle is a huge stimulator for hypertrophy.

To maximize hypertrophy, it’s ideal to have a healthy combination of both, which is why bodybuilders typically operate within the 8-12 rep ranges. You can still use relatively heavy weight while inducing metabolic fatigue.

JACKED Methods:

For this training, we will use specific methods to harness the power of mechanical load and metabolic fatigue. Specifically, we will use:

Check out Swole Town now and never look back

Giant Set AMRAPS

AMRAP = As Many Rounds/Reps as possible

Giant Set = 3 (or more) movements for the same muscle group performed one after the other without rest.

On days 1 and 5 of each week, we’ll deploy this method. It will be timed, as many rounds as you can get in. The purpose here obviously being serious metabolic fatigue.

The time will increase as the program progresses, as will the reps for each set. Basically, it will get harder.

Extended Drop Sets

Drop sets = hitting a prescribed number of reps, or going for max reps, then stripping weight off and immediately doing it again.

We’ll deploy these as “extended” drop sets, meaning there is short rest (45-60 seconds) between stripping the weight off and going back at it. This will allow for greater volume/more reps to be accomplished while still inducing heavy metabolic fatigue.

Volume Clusters

Clusters are sets broken up into smaller sets. For example, instead of hitting a set of 8-10, you’d hit smaller sets of 3 reps on 15 seconds rest, looking to achieve more than 8-10 reps. We’re calling them “volume” clusters as the goal is a high number of reps, vs. traditional clusters which are done for strength purposes.

Progressive Overload

The all important principle of progressive overload should be a part of almost all training cycles.

It means simply that each week is a little harder, either moving just a little bit more weight, or doing more total work, or both.

Several movements are set up for the entirety of the 10 weeks with the goal being to add weight and continue hitting the same or greater number of reps. You’ll quickly spot these and it will be noted in the instructions. (Deadlifts, Close grip inclines, Overhead press, bench press singles).

Your Responsibility:

The program is a blueprint.. the one actually doing the work is YOU. You are responsible for reading all instructions for every segment and performing them as described.

This includes listed rest periods between sets, looking to add weight to the bar, and sticking to the protocol. I am available for any questions, and substitute movements are listed should you be unable to perform certain movements.

You’re also responsible for scaling where necessary. If a segment says to perform Dips with 45lbs, and you are not physically capable of that, you should scale to your current ability and aim to add to what you can do the following week.

Lastly, you are responsible for your own effort. Without some fortitude, building muscle is unlikely. It is uncomfortable and you need to push yourself through.

Diet/Nutrition/Supplements

If your goal is to build muscle/size, it will NOT happen if you are not eating at a surplus. Your body needs the resources to build muscle and it needs them consistently.

Building muscle takes considerable energy and resources from the body. It will not be in a hurry to do so. You should be consuming at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. That means if you weigh 180lbs, you should be consuming about 140g of protein or more per day.

As far as calories, it depends on how aggressively you’re trying to put on size. If you’re being aggressive, multiply your body weight x 20 and that will be your general daily calorie target. Less aggressive, multiply by 16-18.

A solid approach is to weigh yourself every week first thing in the am. If you’re gaining 1-2lbs/week, you’re on the right track. If your gaining nothing, eat more. If you’re gaining too much, you may be overdoing it.

Using the mirror is also useful. The scale can be misleading. Do you notice a change? Use both as a guide to tweak your nutrition until you get it right.

Supplements

I’m not a big supplement junkie. I’d highly recommend taking Creatine at 5-10g/day, and having a protein supplement to ensure you’re getting adequate amounts. You should strive to get quality protein through your diet first, and then use the supplement.

Carbs are essential in building mass, and i recommend sticking to quality carbs wherever possible, such as oats, rice, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, sweet potatoes.

Cardio

How much cardio should you do? It depends on your overall goals.

Excessive cardio is going to pull energy away from the goal of hypertrophy. It will cause interference in what you’re telling your body to do.

At the same time, you never want to ignore your aerobic base. Programmed in is basic, steady state cardio. You can also add in walks 3-5 days per week as well. Hiking, light rucking, and other cardio/active recovery is fine as well. Just don’t overdo it. More is not always better, especially here.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I am glad you’re here. This program will work for you if you do the work. Be consistent, have some discipline and fortitude, and may the iron gods bless you.

Build Muscle Faster with Tempo Training:  3 Methods + Full Workout

Build Muscle Faster with Tempo Training: 3 Methods + Full Workout

If you want to build muscle faster and put on some serious size, you have to train smarter. That means choosing the right methods to use in the gym. And when it comes to packing on slabs of muscle quickly, tempo training is at the top of the list.

In the gym, it’s often not what you do, but how you do it that is most important.

What is Tempo Training?

Tempo training refers to the way that you perform repetitions. There are various ways we can manipulate repetitions on almost any exercise to get a different desired effect from it (hypertrophy, strength, power, etc..)

In general, performing tempo reps means slowing down each repetition on the eccentric (way down), concentric, or both parts of the movement at a specific rate (i.e, 3 seconds up and down, 5 seconds down and quickly back up, etc.)

In this article I’m going to:

  • Explain the benefits of Tempo Training
  • Explain how it builds muscle better than other methods
  • Give 3 specific methods you can use to implement tempo training into your workouts
  • Give you a sample workout using tempo training and the methods discussed.

Benefits of Using Tempo Reps

Using Tempo reps in your training can have several benefits leading to increased muscle mass as well as reduced joint stress and nervous system fatigue.

When incorporating Tempo into my training sessions, I would do so for a specific reason, such as:

  • To add volume in without stressing out the nervous system. Too much max effort lifting can be counterproductive, and tempo training can be a solid compliment to heavy work if you’re looking to put on some size. Using tempo is also self-limiting: You will not be able to lift as much weight when you slow down the tempo.
  • To increase time under tension: Slowing down the tempo will dramatically increase the length of each set. A set of tempo reps can easily extend beyond one minute.
  • To get a massive “pump:” Slowing down reps will create an “occlusion” effect in the muscle, delaying blood from exiting the working muscle. This results in a huge pump and increased metabolic fatigue, both solid stimuli for muscle growth.
  • To get in some training without over-stressing the body: Tempo training isn’t as hard on the body as heavy/max effort lifting. I’d throw temp reps in on a lower intensity/recovery type day to get some volume in without crushing myself.

How Does Tempo Training Increase Muscle Mass?

build muscle fast tempo reps

Performing reps with a slower tempo can cause hypertrophy via several different mechanisms. Most importantly:

  • Increased time under tension
  • Increased metabolic fatigue/stress
  • Occlusion effect

Increased Time Under Tension

Time under tension is self explanatory: The length of time the target muscle(s) are under tension from the exercise being performed during a set.

This is a classic way that bodybuilders have trained for decades to maximize hypertrophy… slowing down repetitions and taking sets to failure.

This isn’t to say that tempo training is the only way to maximize hypertrophy. Heavy reps are equally impactful and necessary for most lifters. Tempo training is simply complimentary to an overall approach to building size and strength.

Increased Metabolic Stress

Rather than giving a lengthy explanation of metabolic stress, I’ll just give you an example:

Take a heavy set of 5-6 reps on barbell biceps curls. Now, contrast that with a set of 15 reps, done at a slow tempo.. say, 4 seconds up and down with lighter weight.

The second set will be brutal, and your arms (and whole upper body probably) will be screaming and on fire. This is metabolic fatigue, caused by accumulation of various by-products of energy production and other factors beyond the scope of this article.

The important point is that metabolic stress is a key marker for muscle growth, causing a spike in anabolic hormones and increased protein synthesis.

Occlusion Effect

Slowing down repetitions without giving the working muscle any rest will lead to an “occlusion” effect on the muscle. This means that blood will be delayed from exiting the muscle as it is forced to remain contracted.

Bodybuilders (and others more recently) have worn occlusion bands to create this same effect, restricting blood flow in the working muscle. Research (such as this study) has shown occlusion training to be effective at stimulating additional muscle growth using lighter weight/higher reps.

The result of the occlusion effect is a lack of oxygen in the muscle, which causes the slow twitch muscle fibers to fatigue quickly, forcing the higher threshold fast twitch muscle fibers to take over.

You’re basically tricking the body into sensing a more challenging stimulus, as if you were lifting much heavier weight. This results in a greater endocrine response (release of anabolic hormones) and increased protein synthesis.

You can grab a solid, inexpensive pair of BFR bands here on Amazon (affiliate link, I’ve used these for years)

3 Methods to Build Muscle Faster Using Tempo Training

I want to give you 3 methods you can use to implement tempo training into your workouts to help you build muscle faster. I’ll include a video demo for each one.

1 – Regular Tempo Reps

The first way to implement tempo training is to simply use traditional tempo reps on one of your lifts during your session.

For this method, simply choose a tempo (3 seconds, 4 seconds, etc..) and perform all repetitions at that tempo, moving both up and down at the desired tempo.

Tempo Incline DB Press

3-4 sets of 8-12 reps should be sufficient. If you want to be a little more hardcore, try taking the last set to failure.

Tempo/Contrast Method

The tempo contrast method is one of my favorites to implement. It combines tempo reps with regular reps within the same set, allowing you to reap the benefits of both tempo and more aggressive lifting.

To perform the Tempo/Contrast method, you’ll choose an exercise, then hit 2 reps at tempo followed by 2 normal repetitions. Then repeat, 2 tempo, 2 regular, until all reps are completed.

Below are 2 examples using the Tempo/Contrast method. Back squat and DB press.

Tempo/Contrast Incline DB Press

You can use the same set/rep scheme as for regular tempo reps, potentially taking the last set to failure. I use these all the time and have gotten solid results from including this method in my training.

Extended Contrast

The third and final example is what I call “Extended Contrast.” In this method, we’ll combine multiple methods within a single set, ending with an isometric contraction that will really test your metal.

To perform an extended contrast set:

  • Choose a weight where you’d probably reach failure in 8-12 reps.
  • Perform 4-6 reps with a 5 second eccentric (way down).
  • When you feel like you’ve only got a few reps left in the tank, begin pressing regular, aggressive reps.
  • When you’re close to failure, take one final rep down very slowly (10 seconds or so).
  • Hold the bottom position isometric contraction for 15-30 seconds.
Extended Contrast Set

These are pretty intense, and I wouldn’t recommend performing more than 1-2 of these in a session.

You can hit 2-3 normal sets or regular tempo sets, and hit one of these as a finisher.

I also prefer to use this method with either DB presses, curls or pulldowns. Some movements would be difficult to perform with an extended isometric contraction at the end.

Sample Session (Chest/Biceps)

Below is a workout sample from the SWOLE TOWN program. I frequently like to mix in these methods in my programming, and if you’re looking for solid programming I highly recommend checking it out.

TRY A FREE WEEK OF SWOLE TOWN.

The last 2 movements (deficit push up/hammer curls) are to be performed as a superset, resting 60-90 seconds after completing both. Videos are below if you don’t know how to perform these.

SETSREPSREST
Barbell Bench
Press
462-3 min
DB Tempo
Hex Press
*4 seconds up/down
**Low incline bench
310-8-Max2 min
Barbell Biceps
Curl
48-8-6-62 min
*Deficit Push ups 3Max90 sec
*DB Hammer Curl312-15
Sample Full Workout (Swole Town)

Conclusion

Here’s a full video on this article if you’re interested:

Adding tempo training into your workouts can have a big impact on muscle growth, and can also serve as way to limit joint stress and over reliance on heavy training.

Remember.. it’s not always about what you do, but how you do it that will have the biggest impact on your results.

With tempo training, we’ve seen that we can increase time under tension, increase metabolic stress and create an occlusion effect, all of which are precursors to muscle growth.

Try adding in some of these methods to your current training split. If it’s new for you, you’ll likely find it quite challenging. But remember, the body does not respond to easy.

I hope you found this article useful. Let me know in the comments below.

Come follow Swole Town over on Instagram (@Swole_Town) and definitely check out the Swole Town programming, delivered through the world’s best training app (TrainHeroic).

Until next time, keep training hard.

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