By Ron Harris
It’s that time again, my people of the iron! Put away the shorts and tank tops and break out the sweatpants and hoodies. It’s off-season, and that’s when we pack on fresh new muscle mass. But be honest with yourself for a moment. Have you legitimately been making significant gains in your off-season phases? If not, you probably just need to try different strategies. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got. Here are a few ideas to help you shake things up this off-season and add some brand-new size.
1. Use more intensity techniques
I’ve said this before, but it’s ironic that most of us employ more intensity techniques like supersets, drop sets, rest-pause, and forced reps when we’re either in contest prep mode or simply dieting to get leaner. These techniques place greater demands on your recovery ability because as the name implies, they are more intense! Why use them when your body has fewer resources in terms of calories and energy levels? Instead, hit the intensity techniques in the off-season when you’re eating more and doing less cardio, therefore in a better position to benefit from them by fully recovering and growing?
2. Cycle your loads and reps
All rep ranges have their time and place for stimulating muscle growth. Rather than haphazardly throwing them all together into every workout, why not train with a plan? An easy way to structure this would be by weeks:
Week 1: 6-8 reps
Week 2: 10-12 reps
Week 3: 12-15 reps
Week 4: 15-20 reps
This would give your joints and connective tissues a break from the constant pounding of very heavy weights, while still being sure you have that heavy training included. Many assume the off-season must be all about heavy weights, all the time. That’s more of a powerlifting mentality. Bodybuilders benefit more from a wider variety of loads and rep ranges.
3. Try more frequent bodypart hits
I’ve written here a couple times already about the training split I follow now and absolutely love: Push/Pull/Legs. This has you working every bodypart once every four days. Again, the off-season is when you have more resources available to recover and grow, so why waste that on working a muscle group just once a week? If you’re eating and resting more, you should be able to do very well with a more frequent training schedule. You can come up with your own combo too, maybe combining back and chest into one workout, shoulders and arms into a second, and legs on the third training day. If you’ve only been working everything once a week, you could very easily see excellent results with this.
4. Eat clean!
Finally, many of us treat the off-season like an eating free-for-all, scarfing down things that we would never dream of touching on a diet. As such, it’s common to get way out of shape and lose sight of all your muscle definition and cuts. Why not have some discipline instead, and limit your treats and cheat meals to once or twice a week? This allows you to see what’s really going on with your physique over the weeks and months of building, so you can be certain that you’re improving instead of hoping and praying there’s some new muscle underneath the flab.
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