Tips and tricks — they’re more valuable than gold, especially in certain contexts in which money is out of the equation. What it truly comes down to is knowledge, and knowing what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. In the world of health and fitness, tips, tricks, and insider insight are the most valuable and potent tools you can have. Unfortunately, even if you’ve followed every nugget of conventional wisdom to a T, you could still be coming up just short of where you want to be.
Over the next several pages, we’ll explore these unorthodox tricks that some lifters incorporate into their routines to break through the proverbial ceiling. Some of these are mental tools, while others may be more akin to placebos than measurable, scientific, physical hacks. But if these methods deliver results, does it really matter? Read on to see five weight lifting tricks that will help you lift more than ever before.
1. Use one arm
One way to crank the difficulty knob up to 11 on your lifts is to literally divide them up — by using one appendage instead of two, Bodybuilding.com recommends. Naturally, this won’t work with every lift, but for certain exercises, it can add an extra layer of difficulty that will have you sweating and straining like never before. Specific lifts that you can modify for one arm include the deadlift, overhead press, and rows.
Just don’t try using one arm when squatting or bench pressing — the results could be ugly.
2. Change up your routine
They call it a routine for a reason, and one of the negative effects of a routine is that you can get lazy and muscle memory can set in. That’s one reason that trainers recommend mixing things up every once in awhile, and Healthline explains that an easy way to throw your body a real curveball is to swap your reps and sets. For example, if you’re used to doing, say, three sets of curls with 10 reps in each set, turn that on its head — try 10 sets of three reps. Of course, this will be more difficult depending on what lift you’re doing, but it will add some variety to the routine and keep your body from getting too comfortable.
3. External focus
This next trick gets at the mental aspect of lifting and will help break through any psychological barriers you may have built yourself. STACK explores the concept of focus, and specifically, shifting your focus from the internal to the external. In a nutshell, the article suggests focusing on the task at hand — be it trying for a record mile time, or breaking your personal best at the deadlift. Also, don’t focus on your own body; focus on the external object in question, like the bar or dumbbell in your hands.
4. Muscle pre-exhaustion
This may be the most counterintuitive thing you’ve ever heard, but there are fitness buffs who swear by it — especially if they’re trying to start seeing gains after plateauing. It’s pretty simple: You just completely exhaust your muscles before getting into the meat of the workout. This is called muscle pre-exhaustion, explains Muscle & Fitness, and the logic behind it is that your muscles, being already in a state of fatigue, will need to work twice as hard to complete certain lifts, thus growing stronger. Science has had its spats with this concept, but if you’re having trouble seeing gains, it can be worth a try.
We’re talking about muscular irradiation, a concept that is just as foreign to most people as diplomatic nuclear armament agreements. It’s kind of complicated, too. Essentially, muscle irradiation refers to the “irradiation” of muscle tension and neural activity, activating additional muscles and unlocking additional strength, says Muscle & Fitness. Sound weird? Well, it is. And it’s also hard to explain. We suggest reading further into it, and even reading some of the scientific studies done to document its effectiveness.