We often spend a lot of time in the gym, making sure we have high quality workout hoodies and shorts that lets your body breath. We do the workout and feel good about ourselves but we rarely look back and think about if you’ve actually had a workout that’s beneficial to us. One common way to tell if you’ve had a terrific and challenging training session is if you accomplished a new personal best in the poundage department. It’s simple mathematics. If your previous record was 8 reps at a given weight and now you grind out 10 strict reps at that weight, you’ve scaled a new strength peak! Great workout!
Of course, handling increased resistance isn’t the only way to have a fantastic workout. You can juggle other variables of intensity such as number of sets, repetition ranges, rep tempo, or rest between sets, or you can throw advanced intensity techniques like forced reps into the mix. Whenever you can add intensity to your regular exercises, you’re heading in the right direction. You may want to look about adding in some electrolyte powder for your consumption, as you don’t want the intensity of your workout to follow your muscles for days on end.
I say “regular exercises” because most guys tend to gravitate toward certain favorite exercises, and even toward specific machines. The usual reason? It’s because they suit our individual biomechanics and we’re good at them (as in, we can handle weights on them that are more impressive relative to the weights we handle on other similar machines). Most guys who like the feel of preacher curls, for example, will have a favorite preacher bench or machine on which to perform them. The same is true of almost every exercise for every body part. Once we find an exercise station we like – one that doesn’t hurt our joints or tweak preexisting injuries and one that allows us to handle more weight than on the others – we’ll use it pretty much all the time. We even tend to use the same handles and bars.
Sometimes, however, the best workouts occur when you throw out everything familiar and have a completely different type of workout than usual. The best workout can be one in which you don’t do ANY of your favorite exercises. So, if you typically do close-grip benches for your primary mass-building (compound) triceps exercise, try bench dips. Or simply change machines – if you typically do close-grips with free weights, try doing them on the Smith Machine.
I have a favorite leg press where I train at Bev’s gym. It’s the 45 degree angle sled (constant resistance throughout the range of motion). It allows users to pile on more weight than any other machine. I have regularly used 12 plates (Olympic 45 pounders) on each side for full reps, and have gone as high as 14 on each side. I usually include it in every leg workout. But my legs got pretty used to it after all these years. Lately, some of my best workouts are the ones in which I DON’T use the sled, but instead substitute other types of leg presses I rarely used to use.
Bev’s has several leg presses that offer variable resistance. Unlike the sled, where the resistance is the same both at the top and bottom of the range of motion, the variable resistance leg presses increase the resistance as you straighten your legs. That makes a big difference! Your frontal thigh muscles – the quadriceps – can handle more resistance when your legs are almost straight than when they are fully bent. That’s why partial reps in the squat – just bending your legs a little and coming back up – are so much easier than deep squats, and why you can therefore handle more weight. Variable resistance leg presses makes you fight your way throughout the whole range of motion by making it get harder and harder as you get closer to lock-out. It’s as if somebody is adding weight as you push out toward lock-out.
Can you handle as much weight on these variable resistance machines as on the sled? Hellz no! But that doesn’t mean you’ve been shortchanged. In my most recent quad workout, I didn’t use any constant resistance leg press machines, substituting two different types of variable resistance machines. I did low rep sets on one, and high rep, slow tempo, one-legged sets on the other.
The result? An insane pump and my quads were sore for nearly a week! They’ve seemed to feel thicker and fuller ever since! So, don’t worry about skipping one of your staple exercise stations in your next workout. Try something completely different, throw your heart into it 100%, and experience surprising results! Believe me, you’ll KNOW you had a great workout!