Don’t let your muscles off easy. These techniques will see to it that they’re hurting (in a good way) after your next session with the iron.
EMBRACE THE PAIN
Us avid weightlifters are a funny bunch. Rather than avoiding pain at all costs (like most “normal” people), we strive to hurt every time we enter the gym. In fact, we absolutely love to wake up the following morning feeling tight, stiff, and sore in whatever body parts we trained the day before. The problem is, however, the more time one spends pumping iron, the harder it gets to manifest muscle soreness.
Here are seven sure-fire ways to make darn sure you wake up nice and sore after your next muscle-blasting workout.
UP THE VOLUME
While I am not a huge proponent of 20+ sets per muscle group workouts (on a regular basis), they can serve as an excellent “shock to the system” on occasion. When looking for some extra soreness, especially in a lagging body part, try doubling up your sets for a day—but do not lower your intensity one iota.
2. BE MORE NEGATIVE
The “negative” or “eccentric” portion of a repetition is not only where we have the most strength, but also where the majority of muscle cell micro trauma takes place. Small tears in muscle fibers ignite anabolic (growth-producing) mechanisms, and also produce the kind of soreness that makes us gym rats happy. By slowing down the negative contraction to 4-5 seconds on every rep, you will help to make sure you wake up sore.
3. BREAK THE MOLD
The truth is that most lifters tend to utilize the same exercises over and over again in their training programs. And while this is not inherently terrible, it will prevent one from getting sore after a few months—even if the weights are progressive. By making your body adapt to new angles of push or pull, planes of motion, and distributions of force, you will effectively fire off different sets of motor unit pools, waking up dormant muscle fibers and perhaps bringing about soreness in areas you never felt before. At your next workout train hard on all new movements, and I bet you will be tempted to grab an ice pack the next day.
4. HOLD THE STRETCH
Another portion of a repetition with great potential for creating the kind of micro-tears that make us hurt is the “stretch position”. Holding a stretch under tension helps produce hypertrophy in a similar manner to eccentric reps by damaging muscle fibers, forcing the body to “rebuild” them bigger, stronger, and more resilient. If you would like to manifest some new growth and bring about the kind of deep soreness that makes Ibuprofen your closest friend, try holding the stretch position of every rep (for 4-5 seconds) during exercises like DB Flyes, Stiff Leg Deadlifts, CG Seated Rows, Incline DB Curls, and Overhead Triceps Extensions.
5. ISOLATE WITH SERIOUS WEIGHT
In several previous articles I have discussed how most successful bodybuilding programs are built around the foundation of “compound exercises”. And while this remains my opinion, I will make an exception in this one unique case. Since this particular discussion centers on some sure-fire ways to get you sore, especially when it’s been months since feeling this wonderful sensation, we can drop some of the multi-joint exercises for a workout and focus on “isolation” moves. Most of the time, gym-goers reserve heavy resistance, low rep sets (4-5) for “big” movements like squats, bench presses, deadlifts, and BB rows, which spread the “load” over several muscle groups. However, I invite you to try using the 4-5-rep-to-failure range on more “isolated” exercises like concentration curls, leg extensions, machine side laterals, and rope pushdowns, which should shock your muscles and cause you to say “ouch” a few dozen times the following day.
6. HYPER-CONTRACTION REPS
This is a term I came up with to describe a painful technique I like to utilize with my clients now and again in their workouts. It involves not simply holding the peak contraction of every rep for 4-5 seconds, but actually flexing/squeezing the muscle as forcefully as possible against the resistance. If I told you to flex your biceps as hard as you could for 5-10 second at a time (with no weight in hand) for 9-12 sets, I guarantee you would wake up sore the next day. However, if you attempt hyper-contraction reps in the gym during sets of low cable curls, cable crossovers, leg extensions, or leg curls, for example, you may just be in pain for days to come.
7. FORCE IT
If you have a training partner, then utilizing 2-4 forced reps after reaching failure on all of your work sets is a terrific way to make your muscles nice and sore. Always do your best to continue to lower the weight using your own strength, and then have your partner apply just enough pressure to help you achieve the positive contraction.