Professional bodybuilders look like testosterone incarnate. Their arms are the circumference of an average man’s thighs. They have 10-pack cobblestone abs.
And when they strike a crab pose, their striated muscles and bulging veins look like a Boston roadmap.
That’s why we asked Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D.—a former natural bodybuilder who’s a top expert on muscle science—for his list of bodybuilding techniques that have stood the test of time. Add them to your own strength routine for a better workout and serious gains.
1. Accentuated Eccentric Sets
Bodybuilding trigger greater strength and muscle-building gains by focusing on the eccentric—or lowering—phase of heavy lifts like the deadlift, squat, and bench press. Bodybuilders can use more weight than their one-rep max by zeroing in on this portion of the lift, explains Schoenfeld.
The reason: Your muscles can handle more weight during the eccentric because they’re only slowing the weight against gravity. On the way up, however, they must push the weight against gravity, says Schoenfeld.
And even though you’re only performing half the bodybuilding movement with heavier weights, your body doesn’t know that.
“Sensors in your muscles pick up on the extra tension in your body,” says Schoenfeld. “Those sensors then incite the release of chemical signals that ultimately produce more muscle-building proteins.”
Schoenfeld recommends trying these muscle-draining reps at the end of a bodybuilding workout, rather than the beginning, so they don’t sabotage your strength.
Use it: Grab two spotters and try this with the barbell bench press, shooting for 120 to 140 percent of your 1-rep max. Lower the bar to your chest as slowly as you can. Have the spotters assist you in pressing the bar back to the top. Repeat 3 to 5 times.