By “shake up” your workouts I’m in no way referring to the infamous “Shake Weight”, so don’t even think about it. That’s not a valid exercise or training technique, no matter how you do it.
Anyway . . .
I love the basic barbell and bodyweight exercises and their variations.
These basic exercises have been staples of my workouts for months:
- Squats TO a box (pictured above)
- Kettlebell swings
- Handstand push-ups
- Inverted rows
I primarily workout at home since I have a barbell set, power-rack, a couple kettlebells, and Jungle Gym. It’s all I need to accomplish my training and physique goals.
And because I’m limited with the exercises I perform, I have to use various training techniques to shake things up from time to time, and to keep making progress. And also to keep boredom from creeping in.
Before I share the training techniques I use in my own training, I must state that I’m not claiming to have created anything new; all of the methods I’m going to discuss are techniques I’ve learned elsewhere. I’ll do my best to credit each individual who I learned the method from with the respective training methods.
Give these techniques a shot if you’re getting bored with your current workouts or you want to bust through a plateau.
There are different variations of rest/pause training, but the method I’m referring to is that promoted by Dante Trudel of DC Training. This is a training method I experimented with for several months last year, and experienced some good results with building muscle. It’s also a great method to incorporate if you’re short on training time.
Rest/pause requires you to perform a set to failure (more on “failure” in a moment), rest about 25-30 seconds, perform another set to failure, rest about 25-30 seconds, and perform a final set to failure.
I define “failure” as stopping the set when you know you can’t complete another rep with perfect form. Banging out sloppy reps doesn’t make you any tougher — it’s just a good way to get hurt. And I don’t suggest missing a rep because it increases your chance of injury and drains recovery.
So, let’s use chin-ups as an example utilizing the rest/pause method.
- Chin-up Set #1 – 10 reps
- Rest about 25 seconds
- Chin-up Set #2 – 5 reps
- Rest about 25 seconds
- Chin-up Set #3 – 4 reps
So your rest/pause set would be 10 + 5 + 4 for a total rest/pause set of 19 reps.
How to Progress with Rest/Pause
I generally set a total rep target, such as 25-30 reps. Once you can perform a total of 25 reps (or whatever number you choose), increase the weight and start over. For dumbbell exercises I prefer to keep the reps in the 25-30 range. However, for exercises such as chin-ups you can go lower (15-20 total reps) while still being able to train safely.
Appropriate Exercises for Rest/Pause
There are certain exercises you should never (at least in my opinion) apply the rest/pause method such as squats and deadlifts. It’s just too risky. I would also stay away from using rest/pause with bent over barbell rows because it’s too taxing on the lower back.
You can perform exercises like barbell and dumbbell bench presses, but I highly recommend using a power rack and spotter. Rest/pause training is tough, and you don’t want to risk a barbell or dumbbell crushing your wind pipe or giving your face a painful make-over.
Some of my favorite exercises to incorporate rest/pause are bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, inverted rows, chin-ups, and parallel bar dips. Other great exercises are cable rows, pull-downs, calf raises (prepare to experience some crazy, painful cramps with these), triceps extensions, biceps curls, and even leg curls.
This is a technique I first read about from Dan John. Ladders can be used for building strength, muscle, and for conditioning work.
Personally, I use ladders primarily for conditioning work. For example, last weekend I needed a quick training session before heading out to a local Oktoberfest. I asked myself, “What would I be able to do quickly that’s very challenging?”
Stupid question. But the answer was even more stupid.
I decided to do burpee + push-up ladders superset with kettlebell swing ladders.
All I did was perform 10 reps of each, rest a few seconds, 9 reps of each, rest a few seconds, 8 reps of each, all the way down to a single for each.
Here’s a visual:
- 10 burpee/push-ups
- 10 kettlebell swings
- 9 burpee/push-ups
- 9 kettlebell swings
- Repeat all the way down to 1 rep each
When you’re finished, you’ll have completed a total of 55 reps for each exercise.
Or, if you’re feeling like a total lunatic, you can go back up the ladder. Perform a single for each, rest, perform 2 reps, rest, perform 3 reps, all the way up to 10 reps.
If you want to give the ladder technique a try, test it out with “advanced” burpees.
Try to complete a ladder — from 10 reps down to one — as quickly as possible for a crazy conditioning workout.
Those two training techniques should keep you busy until Part 2 of the 5 Training Techniques to Shake Up Your Workouts is posted where you’ll get three additional methods to change things up a bit and possibly but through a training plateau.
**Cue evil laugh. Bwa-ha-ha-ha!