The next time a weight seems too heavy, make it heavier! Seriously, according to Eric Cressey, C.S.C.S., a strength coach in Ridgefield, Conn., adding a few pounds more to your bench and simply holding the weight at the top position can trick your body into lifting heavier on your next set.


Load the bar with 25% more than the most weight you can lift for one perfect rep. Un-rack the bar, and, with a slight bend in your elbows, hold it over your chest at arm's length-as if you were about to begin a rep-for five seconds. (Have a spotter nearby just in case.) Rerack the bar, then rest for one minute. Reduce the weight to 2.5%-5% more than your previous best lift (your one-rep max)-now you're ready to set a new record.

Called post-activation potentiation (PAP) by exercise scientists, "the heavy hold temporarily increases the sensitivity of your muscles to calcium," says Cressey. Because calcium is an essential ingredient for generating muscular tension, just holding a heavy weight can help temporarily make you stronger, he says. As a result, you should be able to bump up your max by five to 15 pounds. (However, because PAP is stressful, only use it occasionally.)