My Top 5 Advanced Hypertrophy Techniques

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If you use a specific training technique long enough, it will eventually stop producing the desired results. As strength coach Charles Poliquin has stated “A program is only as good as the time it takes for you to adapt to it”

When traditional hypertrophy methods lose effectiveness, advanced techniques can get you out of a training rut.

So, in order to make constant progress there are two fundamental concepts that you should store in your memory banks are:

“A muscle that is recruited but not fatigued is not trained.” - Vladimir Zatzorsky

“The two most important training factors associated with strength and growth: 1. How much load (fiber tension) is used 2. How tired (fatigued) the athlete gets.” – Jerry Telle

 So, now that we understand that muscle growth is an adaptive response to mechanical work and stress, I want to share some of my favorite training protocols with you; protocols that are designed to increase workload and muscle tension; protocols that will force your body to adapt, make you stronger and more muscular and can thus take your performance and looks to another level.

Remember: The two primary tasks of these 5 protocols are:

  •  To increases muscle fiber tension
  •  To extend the set which furthers the fatigue of more muscle fibers

Notes on the sample workouts below:

Warm-up sets are not indicated; perform 2-4 warm-up sets prior to 1st work set; control the eccentric portion of every repetition; DO NOT BOUNCE WEIGHT OR USE MOMENTUM; Stop a set if optimal technique cannot be maintained

5. Drop sets

This approach extends the set and time under tension by gradually decreasing the load to allow for more repetitions to be completed. Drops sets are simple to execute and produce significant fatigue of muscle fibers. As the athlete fatigues, the load is decreased by 5-10% and additional repetitions are performed.

Arms Routine

   A1) Standing Barbell Curl: 4-6 reps to failure, rest 10 seconds

  • Decrease load 5 -10%, perform as many reps as possible, rest 10 seconds
  • Decrease load 5-10%, perform as many reps as possible, rest 2 minutes then move to exercise A2

   A2) Supine EZ Bar Triceps Extension: 6-8 reps to failure, rest 10 seconds

  •  Decrease load 5 -10%, perform as many reps as possible, rest 10 seconds
  • Decrease load 5-10%, perform as many reps as possible rest 2 minutes then return to exercise A1

Repeat A1 and A2 for 2-4 rounds

    B1) Incline DB Hammer Curl, 60 degree: 6-8 reps to failure, rest 90 seconds, move to B2

    B2) Standing Cable Triceps Pressdown: 10-12 reps to failure, rest 90 seconds, return to B1

Repeat B1 and B2 for 2-3 rounds

4. Rest-Pause

This technique is especially useful for arm and back exercises and is ideal for those who train alone. Rest-pause technique allows the trainee to take a 10-15 second break mid-set to allow for a brief recovery. This short recovery will allow you to perform more reps and place more mechanical stress on the target tissues.

Upper Back and Lats

    A) Bent-Over Barbell Row, pronated grip: 6-8 reps to failure

  • Rest bar on floor for 10 seconds
  • Do as many reps as possible (AMRAP)
  • Rest bar on floor for 10 seconds
  • Do as many reps as possible (AMRAP)

Rest for 3 minutes, then repeat 1-2 more rounds

    B) One Arm Dumbbell Row, neutral grip: 6-8 reps to failure* for each arm

  • Without any rest do as many reps as possible for each arm
  • Repeat Rest 2-3 minutes, then repeat 1-2 more rounds

*Due to the built in rest-interval with one arm rows, the rows are continued until three sets are completed for each arm.

   C) Straight Arm Cable Pulldown: 10-12 reps to failure

  •  Rest for 10 seconds
  • Do as many reps as possible
  • Rest for 10 seconds
  • Do as many reps as possible

2 more rounds

3. Partner assisted negative

The technique requires an experienced coach or training partner. The athlete performs a max number of repetitions, once muscle failure is achieved, the partner lifts the load to the starting or the position, in which the muscle is fully contracted; the trainee lowers the weight slowly and under control. The set is extended with eccentric only repetitions; the partner assists liberally with the concentric portion of repetitions.

Posterior Chain (hamstrings, glutes, low back)

   A) Romanian Deadlift: 4 sets of 6-8 reps, rest 1-3 minutes

   B) Prone Leg Curl, partner assisted negatives: 3 sets of 6-8 reps + 2-3 negative reps, rest 1-3 minutes

  • Once you reach muscle failure, partner assists the concentric portion of the repetitions, lower the weight is a slow continuous-tension tempo (3-6 seconds).

   C) Back Extension, 45 degree: 2-3 sets of AMRAP

2. Double Compound Set

As opposed to a standard giant set, this protocol sandwiches an antagonistic exercise between the same movements. Use the same load with A1 and A3.


    A1) Seated DB Shoulder Press: 8-10 reps, rest 10 seconds

   A2) Wide Grip Pull-up or Pulldown to neck: 10-12 reps, 10 seconds

   A3) Seated DB Shoulder Press: AMRAP (as many reps as possible)

Rest 2-3 minutes then repeat cycle 2-3 more rounds

   B1) Seated DB Lateral Raise: 10-12 reps, rest 10 seconds

   B2) Seated Cable Rope Row to Neck: 12-15 reps, rest 10 seconds

   B3) Seated DB Lateral Raise: AMRAP

Rest 2-3 minutes, then repeat cycle 1-2 more rounds

Video 1: Alternative compound set for chest workouts – Incline DB and flat BB Bench Press (Erick Minor. 2012)

1. Twitch Giant Sets

This is my favorite technique because it allows the trainee to use relatively heavy loads and improve conditioning with the same protocol. Use 3 exercises for the same body part but perform low reps (3-6) and take very short rest intervals (5-15 seconds) between each of the 3 exercises.

Chest and Back

     A1) Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 4-6 reps to failure, rest 10 seconds

     A2) Barbell Bench Press, Mid grip: 3-5 reps to failure, rest 10 seconds

     A3) Pushups or Dips (weighted if necessary): 6-12 reps to failure

Rest 1-3 minutes, then repeat a circuit 2-3 times

      B1) Wide Grip Pull-up, weighted: 4-6 reps to failure, rest 10 seconds

      B2) Bent-over Barbell Row, mid grip: 4-6 reps to failure, rest 10 seconds

      B3) Supine Dumbbell Pullover: 6-10 reps to failure

Rest 2-3 minutes, then repeat B circuit 2-3 times

A final word of caution: These 5 techniques are very demanding and should be used sparingly recommend 4-weeks on an advanced hypertrophy protocol before returning to a standard training protocol.