Indicator: The #1 Muscle Building Technique You’re Not Using

by admin on December 18, 2013

By Vince Del Monte

Q. What is the best way to ensure I know I’m getting stronger and making progress in the gym?

A. Indicator Sets! This is easily the number one training tool you’re not using. How do I know that? Because I did a google search on this term and nothing comes up (except on my own website) so pay close attention to what I’m about to teach you or else you’ll continue to lift the same baby weights and look the same in five years from now.

Indicator sets are designed to help you improve your physical performance within various rep ranges.

Indicator sets could also be called test sets. To use them, you need to take just a few minutes to record exactly what you are doing within your workouts and also set up certain indicators. I have indicator lists for major compound moves in order to track progress and map out progressive goals. To help you understand this, lets examine my current training split: Day 1 – Upper body strength training, Day 2 – Lower body strength training, Day 3- Off, Day 4- Back/triceps/shoulders size training, Day 5- Leg training, Day 6- Chest/Biceps/Shoulders, Day 7 – Off.

On Day 1 I perform the incline bench press using a strength based wave loading workout and on every 2nd or 4th week I do an indicator set at the end of my workout using my 6 rep max (RM). I also do a back exercise on this day but I do not test this exercise.  On Day 2 I perform a convential deadlift using a strength base wave loading program and on every 2nd or 4th week I do an indicator set at the end of my workout using my 6 rep max (RM).  I also do a hip dominant exercise on this day but I do not test this exercise.

I recommend you choose one upper body exercise and one lower body exercise, always a compound move that you can load a lot of weight on the bar, as your indicator set.  This exercise will not change until you achieve your ultimate goal.  For me, it’s to rep out 225 lbs on the incline barbell press for 20 reps and to do 405 lbs on the deadlift for 20 reps.

On Week 1 (at the time of this writing I’ve only been training for 10 weeks and recovering from an elbow surgery) I was hardly able to do 6 reps with my 6 rep max which was 185 lbs on the incline barbell press and 275 lbs on convential deadlifts.  On Week 4 I tested 9 reps and 11 reps respectively. On week 8 I tested 13 and 17 reps respectively and on week 10 I tested 17 and 20 reps respectively!  This means I’m not undertraining, I’m not overtraining and my nutrition and lifestyle is spot on.  So I will keep working with 185 lbs until I achieve 20 reps on the incline barbell press and I’ll be moving up to 305 lbs on conventional deadlifts starting next week. Look out 405 for 20 reps!

If you want to improve your performance in specific rep ranges, indicator sets are a great tool to let you know whether you are actually making progress. You should be getting more reps out of that weight. Once you are getting 20 reps out of your 6 rep max, it’s time to up the weight. You cannot realize maximum gains if you stay in one place for too long.  The key to massive muscle gains is constantly challenging those muscles and indicator sets are are tremendous tool to help you set, track and crush your goals. And if you’re not improving your reps every two weeks than that will indicate you’re overtraining, under recovering or need to improve your nutrition or lifestyle.

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