Three measly pounds of muscle-at least you hope it's muscle-after an entire year of hitting the iron with all your might: It doesn't seem fair. Maybe your genetic potential just
isn't up to par. Maybe mother nature dealt you the no-mass-possible hand. Maybe you're destined to be inducted into the Hardgainer's Hall of Fame. Then again, maybe you just need
to fine-tune your exercise habits so that you keep your growth plane on an upward trajectory for longer periods of time.
Let's take a look at five techniques, reminders-or whatever you want to call them-you can use to ensure that you're getting maximum results from each and every one of your home-gym
Check your training log-you do have one, don't you? - and take note of the weights you're currently using on the "big" compound exercises: bench press, squat, bent-over row, press
behind the neck. Pick some reasonable weight goals for each of these exercises, poundages that you think you can achieve in a month's time, and lock them into your mind. (Also jot
them down in your training log and check them every day as a re-minder.) Strive to achieve these goals by the end of a four-week stretch. Once you're successful, move on to new weight
goals and you'll undoubtedly move up to new, impressive levels of muscular development.
When you train solo, it's easy to slip into loose form just to get more reps, especially if you've got those aforementioned weight goals looming over your head. Don't let it happen.
Momentum stifles results. Keep your form strict and feel the muscles working even if you have to count your rep speed out loud: two seconds up and two seconds down. If you don't
quite make your weight goals, there's always next month, so don't go throwing your poundages up, down and around. This jerky style will not only produce less results, but could very
well cause an injury-and think how much that will cramp your mass training schedule.
Each set should be unique in some way from the last. For example, say you did your first set of bench presses with a wide grip. On the second set bring your hands in to about shoulder
width. This will give the pecs a slightly altered angle of pull compared to the first set. On leg exercises alter your foot spacing and/or foot angle on each set. Re-member, variation
prevents stagnation and boosts growth, so make each set a little different from the last for more fiber stimulation.
Mind & muscle link
Getting the mind into the muscle takes lots of practice and concentration with a capital C. Once you achieve this connection, however, you can almost will gains to happen. One way to
facilitate the linking process is to use your warmup movements as a mind/muscle primer. While you're doing your warmups, think about the muscles you're working. Each rep should be
slow and controlled. Don't simply crank out the reps in rapid fashion without a thought as to what you're trying to accomplish. Get the neurons firing and make the connection early
so your first work set is as productive as possible.
Weight training is an invigorating activity, so invigorating that it's tough to slack off. Even when your body is ravaged by fatigue, you can't help but continually push yourself for
fear of losing muscle. Unfortunately, this means stagnation and plateaus are inevitable- unless you schedule periodic low-intensity weeks, that is.
The average trainee needs about two weeks away from intense training every four to eight weeks. Two low-intensity weeks won't cause you to lose strength and muscle; in fact, you need
this period to help your recovery ability heal. (Note: The study discussed in The Optimum Workout this month used lower intensity for months at a time, which is why the subjects lost
strength.) If you're pushing hard on, say, a three-day-per-week, full-body routine, you should shift into low-intensity mode about every seventh week. Even if you feel great and the
potential for overtraining seems far, far away, force yourself to stop all sets before positive failure for two full weeks. You'll have more motivation and reach your mass goals more
There you have them-five tune-up techniques to keep your home-gym workouts as productive as possible and your body on the mass track: weight goals, strict form, set variation,
concentrated warmups and periodic low-intensity training. Use these tactics intelligently, along with a sensible training schedule, and watch your physique grow above and beyond your