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Fitness Experts reveal secrets to explosive upper body strength


Training principles are ideal for beginning and intermediate weightlifters. But according to fitness expert Joe Wuebben, experienced lifters require aggressive training to continue to see increases in muscular size and endurance.

In their upcoming book, Stronger Arms & Upper Body (Human Kinetics, September 2008), Wuebben and coauthor Jim Stoppani suggest incorporating advanced training techniques as a means of boosting intensity and providing a new stimulus to promote continual results. "Increasing intensity is the key. The longer you've trained, the more creative and innovative you'll need to be to make workouts more intense," says Wuebben.

Wuebben and Stoppani's advanced training techniques include:

  • Giant sets.A giant set involves training one muscle group with four or more exercises or training four or more muscle groups one after the other. Giant sets help speed up a workout, increasing intensity by allowing limited rest between exercises. They also offer a means of training more than two muscle groups together or exhausting a single muscle even further.
  • Drop sets.A drop set involves performing a set of a particular exercise to failure and then immediately decreasing the weight and repping out to failure with the lighter weight on the same exercise. "Performing drop sets provides a means of not only training to failure on a given set but training past failure to boost intensity in a workout for greater gains in muscular size, strength, and endurance," Wuebben says.
  • Ballistic training.Performing each rep in a set as fast and explosively as possible, or ballistically, develops strength and power by maximizing the recruitment of fast-twitch muscle fibers. "Ballistic training can also indirectly enhance muscle growth," Wuebben explains. "The stronger a person becomes, the more weight he or she will be able to use in the future on a particular exercise for the same number of reps, which can lead to gains in hypertrophy."
  • Static contractions.This technique involves holding one position statically for an extended time. A muscle's time under tension can be maximized with static contractions to elicit gains in muscular size. Static contractions eliminate the sticking point (the weakest point of the range of motion) and allow the muscle to be overloaded.
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