They say that men think about sex every 15 seconds. They don’t tell us, of course, what fills the time between one lascivious moment and the next. For most guys, it’s probably sports. For the serious gym rat, though, it’s the thought of taking his muscles to the point of failure and beyond in an effort to build ridiculous amounts of mass. Sexy it ain’t, but you’ve got that covered already. Everyone knows that to build big muscles, they need to be pushed workout after workout. By exhausting your muscles, you help them undergo mechanical and chemical changes that induce growth.
The sticking point for many guys is that the high-intensity techniques that wreck your muscles so they can be built up bigger, stronger and faster — techniques such as forced reps and negatives, or stripping weight quickly as you work through drop sets — often require a training partner. And, as many of you know, trying to find an adequate partner can make the story of Job seem quaint by comparison.
But bodybuilding is an individual sport by nature, and bodybuilders tend to be self-motivated, independent thinkers. Does that mean you’re out of luck on the muscle mass front? No. You can still train your muscles with fiber-busting intensity well beyond the point of failure. You just have to train smarter than the average gym rat. That’s where we come in.
We’ve put together five bodypart programs for the solo flyer, each utilizing a different intensity technique. These workouts will be so effective at helping you build muscle mass safely and effectively — without a partner — that you may soon be thinking about sex (with a partner) every five seconds. That ought to make for a productive life.
SOLO INTENSITY TECHNIQUE 1 — RACK TRAINING
Muscle failure is the point at which you can no longer do another rep with the prescribed weight, and it’s the first sign that you’re taking your training in the right direction. Achieving failure using dumbbells, cables and machines is easy without a partner. The challenge arises, however, when you add the three barbell exercises critical to mass gain — the bench press, overhead press and squat. Without a partner, the inherent difficulty in taking these moves to failure, or in an attempt to determine your one-rep max, can result in injury. The solo trainee’s best solution is the power rack.
Although it may look like just another rack for squats, the power rack has horizontal safety bars that run through it from front to back on both sides and can be used like a spotter. The key is to set these safeties at a height equivalent to the bottom of your range of motion (ROM) for the exercise at hand. On the bench press, for example, they’d be at chest level when you’re lying on the bench. On the seated shoulder press, they’d be at shoulder level when pressing to the front or slightly higher when pressing behind the neck.
On the squat and bench press, your best option is to lower the barbell from the J-hooks through the negative portion of the lift until it taps the safety bars, then drive it back up. When you want a spot on a hard rep, bounce the barbell off the safety bars to provide just enough lift for an extra rep or two.
Upon reaching absolute failure, simply leave the barbell resting on the safeties. For shoulder presses, we suggest you start with the barbell in the bottom position on the safety bars; trying to unrack the barbell can be awkward and cause injury. With this technique, you can even test your true one-rep max without a spotter.
Solo Workout for Shoulders Exercise Sets Reps Shoulder Press* 3 5–6 Behind-the-Neck Shoulder Press* 3 6–8 Barbell Upright Row 3 8–10 Lateral Raise 3 10–12 Bent-Over Cable Lateral Raise 3 12–15 * In power rack
SOLO INTENSITY TECHNIQUE 2 — NEGATIVE REPS (SMITH MACHINE)
Performing negative reps (lowering a weight without pushing it back up) obviously requires a training partner to help you lift the weight through the positive portion of the rep. Those who train alone have envied this technique for years because it’s a great way to overload a muscle with more weight than it’s used to handling. (You can resist much more weight than you can lift.) It also induces more muscle damage, which causes the muscle to grow larger and stronger.
The solo trainee’s best approach is to do single-arm negatives on a Smith machine. Find a weight you can bench-press on a Smith machine with one arm, then add 20%—30% more weight to use for negatives. Unrack the bar and slowly lower it using just your right arm. Try to make this negative rep last about five seconds. When the bar reaches your chest, use both arms to press it back to the start. On the next rep, use your left arm for the negative. You can use this technique on the Smith with overhead presses for delts, rows for lats, close-grip bench presses for triceps and drag curls for biceps; you can also use it on the leg press machine for legs.
Solo Workout for Chest Exercise Sets Reps Smith Machine Negative Bench Press 3 5 (per arm) Smith Machine Bench Press 3 8–10 Incline Dumbbell Press 3 8–10 Incline Dumbbell Flye 3 10–12 Cable Crossover 3 12–15
SOLO INTENSITY TECHNIQUE 3 — SINGLE-LIMB FORCED REPS
Forced reps are one of the all-time great intensity techniques in the sport of bodybuilding. Research shows they’re more effective at boosting growth hormone (GH) levels than regular sets taken to failure, and they also help athletes drop more bodyfat. This is likely due to higher GH levels, which not only enhance muscle recovery and growth but increase fat-burning as well.
In most cases, forced reps require a spotter to assist you in completing the extra reps after you’ve reached muscle failure. In this version, you provide your own spot by doing one-arm or -leg exercises, then using your nonworking limb to help get an extra two or three reps.
This technique is great to use on one-arm preacher curls for biceps, one-arm pressdowns for triceps, front raises and lateral raises for delts, straight-arm pulldowns for lats, one-leg extensions for quads and one-leg curls for hamstrings.
Solo Workout for Biceps Exercise Sets Reps Barbell Curl 4 6–8 One-Arm Preacher Curl 3 8–10 Concentration Curl 3 10–12
To see other solo intensity techniques go to muscleandfitness.com