During our Prodigy supplement review, CJ Woodruff* explained how he was approaching a chest press movement on the inclined Hammer Strength machine:
Muscle Overload, CJ Style!
I did my best to filter out the music, but I was right in front of the speaker. Here’s a basic transcript:
No “Set Number of Reps”
I have no clue how many reps I’m going to try to go for.
Don’t get me wrong, the textbook answer is that I’m shooting for 8-12 repetitions, but at the end of the day, if I fatigue my muscle, if I break down my pec muscles – if I get to failure – then I’ve done good.
If it’s by 8, or by 6, then that’s fine.
But if you’re up to 12, or whatever your number you guessed, and you don’t feel like you’re all the way done, then keep fucking going! What are you stopping for?!
That about sums that up….
Training Beyond Failure – The Partial Reps
CJ and Amin Shahry (CJ’s bodybuilding coach and trainer) are big proponents of using “partials” to get the final squeeze out of the muscles.
In this video, CJ doesn’t do a ton of partial reps, but by the end, he can no longer do another full press movement. That doesn’t mean he’s done though!
By performing that last ~10% of the exercise until you are totally fatigued, you juice those muscles up that extra bit – a major difference between getting just some soreness / growth (if you’re eating enough calories and protein), and getting a lot of soreness/growth.
This is one of those tricks that you’ll love – you’re already at the machine and in the exercise, so the amount of extra time taken is negligible. But the results are not – you feel it way more.
Give it a shot on your last failure set of something relatively light, and come back tomorrow and tell us how it feels!
On that Note — Training by “Feel”
I often tell people that, unless you’re truly being weighed in for something (like a competition, or the military), then nobody cares how much you weigh – we care about your look and health!
Similarly, CJ will tell you that there’s no sign above your head that tells people how much you bench press. But people can see how you look in your clothes. If you’re going for aesthetics (the look), it’s not always all about lifting tons of heavy weight (although that helps in other ways).
Sometimes, in order to stress the muscle and induce growth, it takes slow, controlled, muscle-tearing movements. It doesn’t necessarily have to be heavy. It just has to be right.
If you’re not “feeling” it, then you’re not training the targeted muscle to its full potential. You might be hitting the wrong muscle groups, or need minor changes that a quality trainer can give you.
Minor changes in grip and posture can mean the difference between cheating with your back and shoulders (like I always do) and truly hitting the muscle you’re going for. Trainers like CJ can help with this.
Anyway, that’s another rant for another time, but it’s not all about how much you lift and the typical 3×10 reps. Sometimes, it takes a light movement at 15 reps, plus 5 partial reps, to really cause muscle ruination. And that’s perfectly fine when you’re going for “the look” and not a powerlifting championship.
That all said, it is important to occasionally lift crazy heavy weights too, for another form of muscular shock. Powerlifters aren’t small by any means, are they?
There’s several ways to grow a muscle, and you should consider and mix them all up.
CJ is a competitive bodybuilder, fitness model, and personal trainer in Austin, TX. His website is coming soon, but in the meantime, you can follow him on Facebook.
CJ and I train at the Big Tex Gym in Austin, TX – The #1 choice for hardcore training in North Austin! Find me or CJ and we’ll hook you up with some new supplement samples!
Amin Shahry, CJ’s Bodybuilding Coach, can be found here: here.