For those that may not care much about being the biggest wolf in the woods, but absolutely want to be the baddest, There are a few tricks of the trade that are very useful. The most important one, is knowing that the human nervous system is incredibly adaptable. In fact, your nervous system is the most adaptable part of your body. It will adapt both acutely and chronically to produce your desired gains.
Today we will focus on the acute adaptations for the benefits of strength and power gains. There are a lot of names for this, including post tetanic potentiation and neural supercompensation. The basic principle of this is that after a maximal effort, given about 4-6 minutes of recovery, the nervous system will basically rev up and “over-perform” allowing you to perform at an effort that is approximately 2% greater than your max. This is accomplished through a variety of neural mechanisms including improved inter- and intra-muscular coordination, and a more optimal (intensity and duration) tetanus accomplished via an adaptation in firing rate. What??? Basically, if you squat a 400 lb 1 rm, then wait 5 minutes, you should be able to squat another 8 pounds.
There are a number of ways to cash in on this response for strength gains. I will focus on just one for the moment. Contrast sets are one great way to utilize this adaptation for the purposes of long term strength gains. There are about a dozen ways to do contrast sets, but again I will focus on one. A great version of contrast sets involves utilizing one very heavy set, followed by one set for speed. For example, you could do a 1 RM deadlift, rest 4 minutes, then perform a 2 rep power clean at about 85% of 1 RM. In this particular instance, the goal is not to lift more weight, but to lift your normal weight with better speed. Rest 4 minutes and repeat for 6 rounds (12 sets total). What you will notice is that you continue to feel fresh and powerful for more sets than you would normally. The interesting thing is that the speed set will also aid in supercompensation for the heavy set.