I am a relative newbie to bodybuilding and would like some clarification about the following terms that I always hear about in the gym: forced reps, supersets and dropsets. Can you please explain?
Interestingly enough, as a newbie you will not need to use any of the methods you asked about for quite some time. Forced reps, supersets, and dropsets are all intermediate-advanced techniques that should not be employed until you have at least 1-2 solid years of training behind you. Still, I’d be happy to clarify each for you so that when you are ready you will be able to begin adding these techniques to your workouts.
* forced reps: this is when a training partner or spotter applies just enough pressure to a bar or dumbell (cable or machine) to allow you to complete a repetition that you would have been unable to perform on your own due to muscular failure.
* superset: this is when 2 exercises are performed back to back with no rest in between. A rest is only taken upon completion of the 2 exercises. Supersets can be performed for antagonistic bodyparts…chest/back (bench press/lat pulldown) or, for the same bodypart…two tricep exercises in a row (pushdowns/skull crushers).
* dropset: this is when you perform an exercise to muscular failure, then, immediately take some weight off the bar or machine (or grab lighter dumbells) and continue with the exercise. For example, if you are bench pressing with 185 lbs and reach failure, you may drop the weight immediately to 135 lbs and get as many more reps as you can.
I’ve been training for 3 years and have made nice progress. However, I notice that some weeks I prefer to be in the gym more days and in other weeks, less. Is this strange? Can I still be a successful bodybuilder?
This is not strange at all. In fact, it is quite common. Due to work pressures, school pressures, relationship pressures, sleep patterns, diet, natural body rythms, etc., all of us feel more energetic and motivated during some weeks than others. If you are serious about your training, than going to the gym can be very hard work. Unless you make your living as a bodybuilder or athlete it can sometimes be difficult to get to the gym after a particularly stressful day at work.
My suggestion to you is something I call “split-cycling.” this simply means that week to week you change your bodypart split in accordance with the amount of days you will go to the gym that week. Here is how it would work:
week 1: 3 day split
week 2: 4 day split
week 3: 5 day split
Using the split-cycling method will allow you to keep your mind and body fresh, as well as motivation high, as you can go to the gym around your “life schedule.” it will also allow you to specialize on certain bodyparts some weeks and back off on others. Give it a try. Good luck!