When performing the same exercises on a continual basis, you eventually hit a performance plateau where muscle growth ceases despite your commitment to stick with those same exercises. It’s at this point that the muscles need to be stimulated through some sort of shock exercise in order to get them to continue building fiber and accumulating mass.
It should be mentioned that if you are just starting out in a bodybuilding program then performing straight sets is all that is required and is where you should begin. However, once you begin to see little response from your weight training, or you are a seasoned weightlifter who has reached a plateau, then you can change to one of the following methods used to shock your muscles into increased growth.
Performing supersets is one of the most popular ways to stimulate additional muscle growth in bodybuilding circles. A superset consists of completing two different exercises back to back with little to no rest between them.
The most common form of supersets works opposing muscle groups such as triceps and biceps. Compound supersets (hitting two different compound muscle groups) increase muscle mass rapidly, but require additional recovery time due to their intense effect on the nervous system. You can also do isolation supersets by performing isolation exercises on specific muscles, which is a great way to build definition, but not effective for gaining mass.
Then, of course, you can stagger supersets and utilize one exercise for a compound muscle group with an isolated body part, which is a good method to use to increase weak spots in your form. Pre-exhaustion supersets are the opposite of staggering supersets. By performing an isolation exercise followed by a compound exercise, you take the isolated muscle to exhaustion and then hit it again during a compound move to shock it into developing more muscle fibers.
Drop sets are when you start with a normal lift weight, perform as many reps as you can and then, when you can’t do any more, you drop off a few pounds and knock out some more reps. Once you reach failure on that amount of weight, drop off a few more pounds and continue until you are down to the bare bar.
Drop sets are brutal and you have to possess a certain mental grit to be able to complete them. However, they are an excellent shock exercise and will definitely stimulate muscle growth if you can keep from crying due to the burn!
Drop sets can be used to stimulate growth in practically all body parts. It’s best to begin with one drop set and move on from there as you acclimate to the intensity of the exercise. You will also need a good, reliable spotter to accomplish drop sets as you are pushing yourself to fatigue with each drop set.
Forced reps are another good method for achieving muscle stimulation. This form of weight training adds weight in the opposite way in which drop sets reduce weight. Simply pump out a couple more reps when you hit the point of failure, even if your reps do not reach a complete range of motion, and then add more weight.
For example, you start with 200 pounds and hit failure at 8 reps but, instead of stopping, you push another 2 reps out, hitting 10 reps. Next session, bump up the weight to 210 pounds and try to get in 6-8 reps before forcing in 1 or 2 more. By continuing with this forced rep method, you will soon be able to pound out 250 pounds for 4-6 reps as well as benefit from the extra muscle mass produced.
Again, because you are pushing yourself beyond your comfortable failure zone with forced reps, you will need a reliable spotter to assist you.