Sports Coach Logo Sports Coach Training Principles Fitness Components



text Translator



site search facility






Tips to Promote Continued Strength Development

Dr Larry W. McDaniel and Allen Jackson provide advice that may be helpful to those in the intermediate or advanced stages of training who may be: searching for ways to stimulate the growth of muscles, reached a plateau in strength improvement, or demonstrating boredom with their current training routine.

The theory for increasing muscle power, strength, or endurance is to provide opportunities for your muscles to work harder than they are accustomed to. You may overload the muscles by progressively increasing intensity. For example, in weight training, more intensity may be generated not only by the addition of more weight but by increasing the number of sets, reps, adjusting the rest interval, and cycling your training programs. To increase muscular endurance, one suggestion would be to decrease the rest interval. To increase muscular power, one must not only move a significant amount of weight but increase the speed of the movements. The Overload Principle underlies all types of training! (Wilmore & Costill 2004)[3]

Tips to energize your workout and increase strength

Cycle Training

Training periods may maximize the development of your metabolic systems, reduce injuries, or stimulate muscle growth, and strength. One suggestion would be to use 4-6 cycles per year. Cycle your workouts to focus on muscular strength, endurance, or power. During the power cycles, incorporate lower body jump plyometrics, upper body plyometrics, medicine ball exercises, and power lifts. At least one cycle per year should focus on unilateral training using dumbbells or machines that would allow working each limb individually. (Weider 2008)[2] (Wilmore & Costill 2004)[3]

Muscle Confusion

An important factor in maintaining constant improvement would be never to allow your body to adapt to a specific training protocol fully. Muscle memory or "Engram" is the term used to describe this process that involves the nervous system´s adjustment to repeating or practicing the technique. This process involves the nervous system mapping the nerves and the muscle fibres that are activated and store this information in the brain. Varying workouts by manipulating the order that the exercises were performed and the types of exercises for each body part may assist in the process of increasing strength. As the economy of effort (improvement in technique) increases, less stress is placed on the working muscles. By varying your workouts, new challenges will be presented to the muscle in each training cycle that may increase muscle growth. (Weider 2008)[2] (Wilmore & Costill 2004)[3]


Muscles work in unison or relatively independent from each other. To maximize shape or build a muscle independently, you must "isolate" the muscle or use lifts that separate it from the other muscle groups. For example, one may be able to isolate the bicep by performing the bicep curl with a dumbbell and performing the exercise by supinating the hand on the later part of the movement. (Luttgens & Hamilton 2006)[1] (Weider 2008)[2]

Eclectic Training

Combines mass building with isolation-refinement movements into a specific training system. This training principle suggests that you select a variety of exercises and general principles that work best for you to increase muscle mass and muscle definition. (Weider 2008)[2]


Begin working the muscle with an isolation exercise to fatigue, then perform multi-joint exercises. Use this technique periodically to shock the muscle or stated another way to apply different stress on the muscle. (Weider 2008[2]

Continuous Tension

Momentum in weight training may slow strength development. Once the weight has started moving, it weighs less. Perform the exercise slowly so that the tension or stress on the muscle being worked is constant or continuous. This tip may not be beneficial in powerlifting. (Weider 2008)[2]

Reverse Gravity

Also called negative or eccentric lifts involves resisting the downward force of gravity as you lower the weight. Negative reps are a common cause of soreness yet are very important in maximum muscle growth. Many experts suggest that muscle growth is more common to eccentric contractions than concentric. (Weider 2008)[2] (Wilmore & Costill 2004)[3]

Peak Contraction

Allows you to keep full tension on the muscle. For example, when performing a bicep curl, stop the movement when the arm is about a foot away from the shoulder and perform an isometric contraction. Remember to contract the muscle as hard as you can! Peak contraction may maximize muscle growth! (Weider 2008)[2]


To stimulate muscle growth, one must engorge the muscle with blood. By performing 3-4 lifts for three-plus sets for a selected muscle, you may be able to maintain a high level of blood in the muscle. This process is called "Flushing" (transit hypertrophy). The rest period is also reduced in Flushing. Many bodybuilders believe that the connective tissue that surrounds the muscle, bundles of muscle, and each muscle fibre may need to be stretched to allow an increase in muscle size. (Weider 2008)[2] (Wilmore & Costill 2004)[3]


How can you work a max weight for more than 2-3 reps? When using the rest-pause technique perform 2-3 reps rest for 30 seconds then repeat. Increase the rest period after each set; 30 sec., then 40 sec., etc. This technique may allow you to work near maximum weights to stimulate muscle growth and strength. (Weider 2008)[2]

Stretching muscles during strength training

Stretching muscles involved in each lift during the rest period between sets may stimulate strength development. However, stretching between sets may hinder progress in power development. (Luttgens & Hamilton 2006)[1] (Wilmore & Costill 2004)[3]

Tips related to planning the number of sets and reps to improve strength

Set System

Some weight training programs suggest only one set per exercise. For best results for athletes or bodybuilders´ most professional trainers recommend one warm-up set and a minimum of 3 working sets. (Weider 2008)[2]

Partial Reps

Partial reps can be completed at the beginning, mid-point, or the end of the exercise motion. Example "Curls 21"

  • 7 reps going from full extension to half flexion
  • 7 reps going from half flexion to full flexion
  • 7 reps going from full extension to full flexion

Partial reps may assist in the process of overcoming weak areas of a specific exercise movement. (Weider 2008)[2]

Forced Reps

Forced reps are similar to "Cheated Reps". If you are bench pressing a weight for 8 reps have your training partner assist you past the fatigue or sticking point in the pressing motion to add 2-3 more reps. Forced reps push your muscle beyond normal fatigue to stimulate higher growth and muscle density! (Weider 2008)[2]

Staggered Sets

Staggering sets work well for smaller, slower, developing body parts in between sets for larger body parts. For most lifters staggered sets provide an opportunity to use their time more economically. (Weider 2008)[2]

Split System

After a few months of training the whole body 3 times a week split your workout; for example, upper and lower body sections or utilize movements that involve pushing one day and pulling the next. The Split system may allow one to use their energy more effectively for higher intensity training. (Weider 2008)[2]

Double Split

Many bodybuilders or athletes work 1-2 body parts in the morning and then return to the gym later and work 1-2 more body parts (the Double Split-weight training involves working out twice in one day). This allows for a higher energy level for each part worked. Splitting your routine may allow you to perform at a higher level of intensity, pushing your muscles to significant growth and strength! (Weider 2008)[2]

Triple Split

Same concepts as Double Split except you work out three times a day! (Weider 2008)[2]

Super Sets

Select an exercise for antagonistic muscle groups, for example; Triceps & Biceps, Back & Chest, Lower Back & Abs, Quadriceps & Hamstrings, etc. Then alternate muscle groups for each working set. (Weider 2008)[2]

Compound Sets

Similar to Super Sets except for alternate two exercises for the same muscle group. (Weider 2008)[2]


This term has been used to describe the performance of three exercises for the same muscle group without resting between sets. It is an excellent shaping technique and may add vascularity. (Weider 2008)[2]

Giant Sets

A series of 4-6 exercises for the same muscle group without rest between sets. An additional suggestion would be to work the muscle from different angles. (Weider 2008)[2]

Descending Sets

Heavy to the light system. (Stripping the Barbell] After a warm-up start with a heavyweight and few reps then reduce the weight and add reps in lower increments. (Weider 2008)[2]

Tips for fine-tuning 1RM percentages to increase strength


Re-test or max out to examine progress in various muscle groups during and at the end of each cycle or period. Then adjust the workload, sets, and reps using percentages of the new 1RM.


Start by performing 12 reps with 60% 1RM for the muscle group involved

  • Add weight near 70% of 1RM & perform 8-10 reps
  • Add weight near 80% of 1RM & perform 5-6 reps
  • Add weight near 90% of 1RM & perform 1-2 reps

The principle of Pyramiding states as the amount of weight increases, decrease the number of reps. The number of sets and percentages may be adjusted from those above to fit your needs. (Weider 2008)[2] (Wilmore & Costill 2004)[3]

Reverse Pyramiding

Perform this technique when you know you will have some time off from your workouts. For example, start the first set near or in the 90% range of the 1 RM and perform 1-2 reps then work down the pyramid. (Weider 2008)[2]

Adjusting the order or sequence for performing lifts to increase strength

Muscle Priority

Train your weakest body part (muscle group) first when your energy is high. The higher the intensity, the more muscle you can build, but this type of intensity takes lots of energy! (Weider 2008)[2]

Modes of Resistance Training

Change the modes of resistance training with each cycle or within each cycle. Use barbells, dumbbells, machines, medicine balls, and upper and lower body plyometrics.


  1. LUTTGENS, K. and HAMILTON, N. (2006) Kinesiology, scientific basis or human motion. 10th ed. Boston, MA., McGraw-Hill
  2. WEIDER, J. (2008) [WWW] Muscle and
  3. WILMORE, J. and COSTILL, D. (2004) Physiology of Sport & Exercise. 3rd ed. Champaign, IL., Human Kinetics.

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • McDANIEL, D. et al. (2008) Tips to Promote Continued Strength Development [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Authors

Dr Larry McDaniel is an associate professor and advisor for the Exercise Science program at Dakota State University, Madison SD USA. He is a former All - American in football and Hall of Fame athlete & coach. Allen Jackson is an Assistant Professor at Chadron State College.