3 Training Techniques to add to your Gym Sessions


“Your mind will quit a thousand times before your body will. Feel the fear and do it anyway.” – Anonymous

As a skinny fella, I am after any added benefit I can get to add more muscle.  In the past, I have tried a vibration belt to grow my abs, drank raw eggs after watching Rocky (don’t try it.  It’s vile) and I even had this crappy contraption that was shaped like a bow.  The idea was you placed the bottom end on you stomach as you pulled down while performing a crunch.  Great marketing, crap results.

I’m sure I am not alone on this.  I know people trying to lose weight who have bought fat loss pills and tried to survive on a shake a day.  It’s an unfortunate sign of human nature in modern society that we get easily convinced to invest in things that are utterly worthless if there is a sniff of getting ideal results.

That said, there are a number of training techniques proven to increase muscular gains.  Not immediately, of course.  That is farcical.  But over time and with the right eating plan, adding the following techniques to your training regime will help you go from Bruce Banner to the Incredible Hulk.  Minus the green skin.

Drop Sets


A lot of people do drop sets without even realizing.  The premise behind a drop set is that you work your weight to failure – for example, do 8 reps of bench presses at the selected weight, then drop the weight by about 20% and perform as many more reps as possible to failure.  As muscles fatigue at lifting a certain weight, there is a lot more energy left in the tank to complete additional, albeit lighter, reps.

As I’ve mentioned, most people do drop sets without even realizing it, by using a spotter to assist them in the final few reps of a set.  The weight has been dropped as the spotter is bearing some of the load.

The benefit of drop sets comes from the activation of different muscle fibers.  By incorporating the use of Type I (slow twitch) and Type II (fast twitch) muscle fibers, added stimulation is provided to break down the muscle, thus giving it more impetus to grow.

It should be noted that drop sets offer no real strength gains, though they can benefit muscular endurance.  The main purpose of the drop set is hypertrophy, aka, aesthetics (study).  Athletes, for example, are unlikely to use drop sets.

I have been using drop sets for a while.  When I move up in weight but cannot reach the required rep range, they provide particularly helpful.  Drop sets provide a grat pump post-set, adding that little bit of visual motivation to keep pushing.

Dramatic Transformation Principle (DTP)

This is not for the weak at heart.  Or for the person with only an hour to spend at the gym.  My personal experience of DTP training saw gym sessions take close to 2 hours to complete. I also felt like throwing up on more than one occasion.  Saying that, I cannot recommend this highly enoughh for those looking for big results in a short period of time.

Created by Kris Gethin, DTP is as it states, a dramatic transformation. With that being the case, superhuman efforts are required.  The formula states that 10 sets of a particular exercise will take place.  Starting with a lighter weight that allows for failure at 50 reps, the weight is then increased for a set of 40, 30, 20 and 10.  In pyramid fashion, you go back down – 10, 20, 30, 40, 50.  Similar to drop set training, the variation in reps and weight allows for all of the muscle fibers to be hit.  This works both muscular endurance and muscular strength.

My gains using DTP over only 6 weeks are as good as I have experienced with any other training program.  This photo of my back was after 4 weeks of DTP training.  It hasn’t looked as wide since.  I took a lot from a mental standpoint throughout the training as well.  The statement at the beginning of this post rings true and their were plenty of times I wanted to stop but fought through.  It’s incredible how this mindset was then be adapted to other areas of my life.

It is intense.  Time is needed to complete all of the required reps.  Failure must be reached each set and the temptation to lift a bit lighter will be there.  I had to eat like a horse due to the amount of volume, on leg day especially.  I was also sore from DOMS an awful lot, struggling to sit down nd stand up properly on some days.  However, if you’ve an event coming up that requires you to be more muscular, or you want to look buff for the summer, this would be my choice of training.

1 1/4 Reps


1 1/4 reps are a training technique that take some getting used to.  I had never heard of, let alone used them until I began the Modern Physique program.  The basis of the 1 1/4 rep is the weight is lowered, then lift a quarter of the way, before lowering again, then contracting fully (video).

The premise behind the 1 1/4 rep method is that it allows the muscle greater time under tension (TUT).  Muscles are constantly being forced to work for an extended amount of time.  Therefore, the tears that are taking place increase which allows for extra growth.

Regarding the exact amount of time, there is plenty of ‘anecdotal’ evidence that suggests that taking 30 seconds to perform a full rep (including the 1/4 portion) can see improved strength and muscle mass gains.  This falls in line with the idea of lower reps building strength, and the rep range of 8-12 building mass.  What has been proven, is that there is an increase of protein synthesis when increasing TUT (study).

I have found that 1 1/4 reps are best performed with a lighter weight.  The first 2-3 reps will seem easy enough, but by number 6 my muscles have been screaming.  Performing a set of bicep curls with 15lb weights has had my arms begging forgiveness.  Don’t aim for a whole workout routine on these, but certainly add them as a finisher for select muscle groups.

Avoid: German Volume Training

German Volume Training (GVT) was developed in the mid 70’s in Germany (shock).  Also known as the 10-sets method, GVT incorporates the user to perform 10 sets of 10 reps on the same exercise.  Ideally the weight being used would see the user be able to perform 20 reps with it if only peforming 1 set.

A number of bodybuilding experts have used this method to great success.  Kris Gethin highlights a week of GVT in his 12 week muscle builder and Jacques Demeres won an Olympic silver medal in weightlifting, attributing his success to the method.  However, recent research has suggetsed that the additional sets of the same weight and number of reps has little, if any benefit (study).  Worse still, those attempting GVT are at the risk of overtraining.

As a skinny fella, I want to stress my muscles and force them to grow.  At the same time, I want to be efficient in my training so that I can live my life outside of the gym.  Those that have truly highlighted their gains due to GVT have been of the mesomorph body shape.  As ectomorphs, we have to consider things differently  Therefore, GVT is not recomended as a staple of skinny fella training programs.

3 great ways to alter your workouts and give your muscles more impetus to grow.  Experienced any others?  Let us know in the comments section.

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Comments 18

  • Excellent post! Quite a few things I will consider incorporating into my own work out. I’m striving to tone up, as opposed to *only* shedding fat, so this will definitely help.

    • Thank you Emily. Bear in mind, muscles don’t tone…they grow or they shrink. However, I’m in order to get a little extra definition, any of those techniques will help you.

  • My husband loves the gym and this post is perfect for him. Will definitely be sharing this. So well written

    • Thanks Sally. If he is a skinny guy like me I’d really recommend the DTP technique. Theres a lot of eating to go with it, something the Flying Food Ninja will really enjoy

  • Great info! I kind of want to try the DTP for summer… but I get sick to my stomach fairly easy while working out :/ I think I’ll try it and see how it goes!

    • Yeah, completing the cardio is key, due to need to get oxygen in. You could start with less reps to begin with – 30 – as opposed to 50. The workout will still see great benefits.

  • Oh! Hmmm… I never heard of German Volume Training. Interesting! I feel like that would be really boring any way. 🙂 Happy Lifting!

  • I just learned how much I love drop sets. It really test and push you to the limit. I love it.

  • Great tips. My husband is always trying to add bulk. I want to slim my muscles, but they bulk easy. It will help both of us to get the most out of our gym sessions. Thanks for the tips. We will have to try it out.

    • If he has the stomach for a big increase in food, try the DTP definitely. It took me years to gain anything substantial. After 6 weeks of training that way (and a gradual increase of 1,200 calories a day), I was very happy with the results.

  • Reading this really makes me want to get back in the gym. This is really good info. Anytime I work out, I go back and forth between weight training and doing cardio. In the end, don’t get much done because I can’t stick to either. If I go back to weight training, I’ll have to remember this.

    • It’s important to remember that cardio and weights are not mutually exclusive. Those that lift weights with no cardio are doing their heart no justice and those that perform cardio with no weights are limiting their fat-burning potential.

      If motivation is an issue, here is a post that offers 5 ways to keep the motivation going.

  • I struggle to put on muscle as a runner with a very ectomorph type body, so I’m always looking for new things to try in the gym. Good tips.

    • It’s always going to be difficult for us ectomorphs to gain muscle mass with our propensity for a high metabolism. Adding cardio to this just adds to the challenge. I used to run, cycle and play sports and all of my food was being burned off quicker than Roadrunner. I would consider linking in more power based routines if you run competitvely. These will be very helpful for the end of races. By combining this with DTP forexample, which I believe will help with your mindset when running, the results, you shoudl get the results you want both competitively and aesthetically.

  • I really liked your post! I struggle to gain muscle myself and there are some great tips and some great avoids in here and hey…I appreciate your writing style! Super casual and real! I love it!

  • I can’t imagine using DTP on a major compound lift (deadlift or squat), as that would be 300 reps in total! Nobody in their right mind would advocate that type of regimen!

    • That’s a fair point you make Harley. The training technique is better utilized with dumbbells, machines and isolation exercises. In the 6 weeks I completed the training, only one leg day suggested squats (starting at 30 reps and going down in 5’s). By the last set, it was bodyweight only and walking the next day was a struggle. Saying that, the results came.

      As I’ve mentioned, it’s not for the weak at heart and it is not something I would recommend jumping straight into. Careful build up with other types of high rep training and a focused cardio plan certainly need to be done prior.

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