Breaking Through Muscle Building Plateaus, Part III

By Zach Even - Esh

You’ve likely heard the saying, “What’s old is new again.” Well, this is true. I’ve read Arnold’s books countless times and recall the countless intensity techniques he spoke about using to busy through muscle building plateaus.

My favorite is when Arnold would take 250 lbs of weights in his car, head out to the camping grounds with a training partner and they would squat upwards of 50 sets until they could no longer stand. Nowadays this is called “Volume Training”.

You can use volume training with one exercise as Arnold did or you can utilize this technique by adding several sets to your main exercises. Over the course of several weeks your volume per muscle group has increased significantly and will have forced your muscles into new growth. But, taken too far and too often you’ll end up feeling the effects in a negative manner so be sure to listen to your body with this technique.

Another great intensity technique is called “Running the Rack”. Perhaps my favorite, as I’ve used it for the improvement of athletic performance not just bodybuilding.

Arnold would do this with dumbbell shoulder presses or side raises. Start with a light weight and perform 3 - 5 reps. Immediately jump up to the next heavier weight and perform another 3 - 5 reps. Continue running up the rack until you can no longer perform 3 reps. Once you hit your limit weight, start going back down the rack.

You can perform this technique when you are short on time or want to get more work done in less time. I’ve done this with countless exercises and training tools such as Kettlebells, Bodyweight Exercises and even Squats. Although Arnold popularized this method with dumbbells, I’ve utilized this method beyond just dumbbells.

When using Squats in this manner, you will be resting only long enough to change the weights. This would be a sample workout for my Squats.

Set 1: 135 x 5

Set 2: 185 x 5

Set 3: 225 x 3

Set 4: 275 x 3

Set 5: 315 x 3

Set 6: 225 x 5

Set 7: 135 x 10

For performance, this style of going up and down in weight with minimal rest develops strength endurance, which is where your body develops the ability to maintain strength for extended periods of time. This style of training also develops a very dense muscle compared to light weight, pump training.

“I Go, You Go!” is a competitive, fun and effective way to push the intensity of your training. Arnold would do this with barbell curls, handing off the barbell after each set to his partner while never allowing the barbell to touch the floor.

Try this intensity technique with bodyweight exercises such as pull ups or push ups.

With bodyweight exercises, you can increase the reps on each set as well, to make it even more challenging. Here would be a sample of I Go, You Go with push ups.

Set 1: 3 reps

Set 2: 6 reps

Set 3: 9 reps

Set 4: 12 reps

Set 5: 15 reps

Keep going until someone can no longer perform the required reps. Afterwards, move on to a new exercise such as pull ups. Pull ups are tougher than push ups, so with this exercise, add 1 rep every set until you or your partner can no longer complete the required reps.

Try one of these intensity techniques in your own workouts and let us know how it works for you. 

Breaking Through Muscle Building Plateaus, Part I and Part II.


Zach Even - Esh is the Founder of The Underground Strength Gym located in NJ. A loving husband & father, Zach is committed towards helping others achieve success in mind, body & life. Zach is the creator of numerous books, DVDs & training programs, all of which have been inspired from his 23 years of in the trenches experience.

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