Being a gym rat for the last 35 years, I’m always looking for ways to improve my weightlifting program and my performance. Like many people I’ve tried anything that would help me build quality muscle within reason. My goal is to build and retain muscle, not strength, so most of the information here is based on bodybuilding not power lifting.

A few years ago the only advice a young person could get regarding weightlifting came from the big guy at the gym or out of magazines. Now, thanks to the internet, anyone can research all kinds of workouts from professional bodybuilders, athletes, physical therapists, doctors, or yoga instructors. No matter what you learn, the most important thing to remember is that your body reacts differently than any other person on the planet so you must continue to experiment.

Every week I lookup new workouts or exercises to vary my routine, therefore, getting the best workout for my time spent. It’s amazing to see how many different variations there can be of one exercise.  Body angle, how you hold the weights, type of bar used, or type of machine can play a big role in how your muscles respond. There are also variations to any exercise that can be used to work the muscle differently. Doing 8 to 12 sets of one exercise at a time with 90 seconds week after week will limit your progress. Remember every person will respond to exercises differently, so you have to constantly try new things to keep the gains coming.

Getting a good contraction and filling the muscle with blood is what will cause the muscle to grow. Many people don’t understand this, so they lift too much weight and swing them around like a circus act.

10 Methods to Jump Start Your Weightlifting Program

Gym Equipment

Use a combination of free weights and machines. Some machines will give you a better contraction than free weights.

Leave Your Ego at Home

If you cannot squeeze the muscle hard and hold it for it for a couple of seconds the weight is too heavy. It’s the combination of stretch, hard squeeze, and pause that’s going to get the blood and nutrients into the muscle.

Save the Best for Last  

Save your compound movements for last. You should bench press, squat, or deadlift last. The reason is you should be pre-exhausting the muscles before the big movements for safety reasons. Snap city is a real place, and you don’t want to go there.

Rest Times

Once again, everyone is different so the 60 to 90 second rest period between sets might not be right for you. For example, I only rest 15 to 20 seconds on certain body parts.

Reps

You will have to experiment with this, but 8, 12, 16 and 20 is a good place to start.

Angles

Your muscles work differently based on the angle of your body and limbs. For instance, any muscle that’s in a stretched position will be worked harder. Try touching the back of your neck, and you will feel your triceps stretch. If you curl dumbbells laying on an incline bench, that puts your bicep in a stretched position.

Drop Sets

After doing a set drop the weight and do another set without rest. Doing an 8, 10, 12 rep drop set will move a lot of blood.

Compound Sets

Do two or three exercises one after the other with no rest. You can do this with opposite body parts like doing biceps followed by a triceps exercise.

Getting the Best Contraction

Choose exercises that contract the muscle fully. The famous barbell bench press doesn’t fully contract the chest muscles. Instead, try using dumb bells or a fly machine to contract the chest muscles hard.

Taking Flight

Avoid flinging those dumbbells around like you’re flying to China. Remember to stretch, squeeze, pause, and then slowly get back to the starting position. The eccentric part of the movement is just as important as the concentric.

Do Your Research

Find a few bodybuilders or athletes that post a lot of content and learn all you can. Just remember these people do this for a living so don’t measure your progress with theirs. Two of my favorites are Seth Feroce and James Grage. They both offer in-depth information on how your muscles work and the best way to target them.

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