The Arnie Bible to Strength Techniques


Confused or feel left out when your mates use the gym words “Negatives”, “Partials” or “Flushing”? If you’re a personal trainer, strength coach or gym junkie, I’m here to help boost your bodybuilding vocabulary so that you do not feel like such a donkey. Here’s a list of the old-school, Arnie-day intensity techniques used in strength training and bodybuilding/hypertrophy training.


The stress is changed constantly, for example, add more weight, more reps/sets, increase the speed, reduce the rest time between sets, choose unfamiliar exercises, perform exercises in an unfamiliar order.


A training partner supplies a little extra help so you can lift the concentric at the end of your set. The purpose of this is to stimulate a greater number of muscle fibers. You can also use your own body to help, for example, use your legs with a push press. Another way you can perform forced reps is to rest/pause and then continue the set, however if you rest too long you end up using the same muscle fibres rather than stimulating new ones.


Continue pushing out partial range reps when you are too tired to complete full reps (at the end of a hard set).


This helps bring up weak areas, for example, doing a pec fly rather than a bench press which uses the pecs, triceps and deltoids. You can then isolate further by doing incline DB flies which isolate the upper pecs. And if you want to get super pedantic, perform an incline cable crossover to hit the inner area of the upper pecs.


Negative reps put more stress on passive structures (ligaments, tendons). The weight is lowered slowly and with control. You can use the Cheating Method to put more stress on the negatives.


Deliberately use other muscle groups to help lift a concentric in co-operation with the target muscle. For example, when starting to fail with a barbell curl, start using your shoulders and back (slightly) to assist another 4-5rep.  Cheating is used to make the exercise harder, not easier! It is a way of doing forced reps without a training partner, just make sure the extra effort is just enough and not excessive so that the target muscles are still being forced to contract to the max.


This refers to different approaches where you extend your sets following your regular reps with forced reps, negatives, forced negatives, partial reps to exhaustion.


Keep adding weight so your sets become 6, 4,3 reps and do 2 sets at 1 rep (as an example). Bench, squat, deadlift are common exercises to perform at maximal effort.


Doing a number of sets per body part you want train with increased intensity in between other exercises. For example, if you’re a dude with shitty calves and need to bring up your game, you might do a few sets of calves – bench – more calves – back – more calves and so on.


Giving any area that is weak or lagging special priority. You can do this via;

-train a specific body part (such as calves) immediately after rest day when you are fresh and strong

-train that body part at the beginning of the workout rather than at the end when you are more fatigued

-change your program so that you include extra intensity training for a lagging body part


Two exercises in a row with no rest. Tri-sets are three exercises in a row with no rest. This increases the intensity. Super-setting within the same body group allows you to hammer away at that given area, pumping it up and exhausting more fibres.  Super-setting two muscle groups, for example training opposing muscle groups, allows one muscle group to rest while you are working the other so more work can be done in that set time period.


Reduce the weight as you begin to fail so that you can continue with more reps, stimulating extra muscle fibres that are not as fatigued as the ones previously used. Dropping down the intensity of your weights must be made quick so the muscle fibres don’t recuperate and you end up just using the same fibres again.


The total bodybuilding effect comes when you fully stimulate and innervate as many muscle fibres in the muscle as possible. You can plan your training so you pre-exhaust and fatigue the big muscles first (isolate) before you train it in combination with the smaller ones. For example a Bench press uses the pecs, front deltoids and triceps, so if you pre-exhaust the pecs first (which are generally the strongest by far of the three muscle groups), then you can aim for all three muscle groups fatiguing at around the same time during the following Bench exercise, rather than the front deltoids and triceps fatiguing before the pecs.

14. I GO / YOU GO

This is training with a partner and immediately doing your set after theirs has finished, never putting the weight down. If you are aiming for hypertrophy and going to failure each set, the number of reps will get shorter each time. This is more appropriate for small muscles, such as biceps, deltoids and calves and not so good for bigger compound exercises like squats and bent-over rows that require more rest and are too demanding on the central nervous system.


Holding a relatively light weight steady at various points. For example for deltoid lateral raises, after your muscles have fatigued with your normal set, hold the arms out at various heights and hold.


Doing a different exercise for each set within the same muscle group. For example, doing one set of overhead barbell military press, then one set of single arm dumbbell overhead press, then one set of seated incline OH press, etc. You perform each set one at a time and rest in between sets.


Do a complete rep, then a half rep and repeat.


Do a series of half reps in the lower range of motion (eg. Dumbbell curl from start position to elbows flexed 90deg), then a series of reps in the upper range of motion (eg. Dumbbell curl from 90deg elbow flexion to full flexion), and then a series of full reps.


Explode a weight up rather than lifting with constant speed. This recruits maximal amounts of fast twitch fibres, which are bigger and stronger than the slow twitch fibres.  Speed training creates constant failure since when you try to accelerate a weight there is always a limit to the amount of acceleration you can achieve.  This is best used for exercises that use a lot of big muscles, eg, speed deadlifts, squats and bench.

sydneystrengthconditioning weights

These are some weight training methods for gaining muscle mass and bodybuilding purposes. If your goal is strength rather than bodybuilding, you may be interested in strength training intensity methods such as CONTRAST AND REACTIVE METHODS, RELAXED-OVERCOME-BY-DYNAMIC WORK, ISOMETRICS, ECCENTRICS, PLYOMETRICS, LACTIC ACID TOLERANCE TRAINING, REPETITION WORK and a comprehensive array of ASSISTANCE LIFTS to focus on your weak areas. This will be another post.

If you incorporate any of the above techniques into your training or coaching, hit me up on facebook and give me a shout on your favourite techniques. If you do not incorporate these methods into your training but now have a greater understanding of all that (fairly insignificant) gym jargon and your social life (when in the presence of muscle-heads) has thus improved as a result, I’d be keen to hear about that too.


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