Throughout my nearly 3 decades of intense weight training, I have been asked numerous times for input on specialized workouts, training ideas, and of course, supplements for muscle growth.
However, the purpose of this article is not about supplementation, but to give you the “key” to increased growth and improvement in your weight training program.
The Common Weight Training Error
A common error people can have in weight training is doing the same old thing over and over again without increasing resistance.
Over time, our body will adapt itself to believe the current situation (or stressor) is the norm, and can now handle it with ease.
To make this clear, let’s take a look at the following example:
For 6 months, Fred goes to the gym three times a week and performs 3 sets of flat bench press loaded with 135 pounds for 10 repetitions. These sets are performed after a proper warm-up with exactly 90 seconds of rest between sets.
To some, this may appear extremely effective and diligent. However, Fred’s body adjusted to the stress of this exercise well before the 6 month period ended. He probably did improve his lean muscle mass for a time, but the potential for growth and improvement ceased after a few weeks.
But why, you may ask?
Lean muscle mass is built by tearing down, rest and recovery, and rebuilding processes.
When we lift weights, our muscles are broken down (or slightly torn apart). With proper rest and nutrients, recovery of this slight destruction begins. This is when body reveals its brilliance by not only rebuilding the muscle back to its previous condition, but stronger than before.
Next time, we are able to handle the previously performed load with more ease and less muscle destruction.
So, Fred’s body was able to remember his repetitious exercise, adapt, and handle it easier the next time. His body no longer had to work as hard to perform the exercise, therefore less muscle tear down occurred, resulting in less potential rebuilt muscle.
This is where progressive resistance comes in to play (e.g. added a little weight to the exercise every so often). You cannot guarantee the potential for the increase in lean muscle until you understand the principle of progressive resistance.
As you may have guessed, there reaches a point in time where the ability to add weight will slow. After all, if a person could continue to add weight, the upper limits of how much weight that could be lifted would be infinite. We know that is not true.
There are limits to what each of us can eventually lift. Further, each of us (being different and unique) has a region of what I like to call “personal upper limits.” The trick is to reach these “personal upper limits” as expeditiously and safely as possible.
What happens when you cannot add more weight?
There are three specific things you can do to spur new muscle growth and find new levels of intensity in regard to progressive resistance:
- Increase your exercise intensity by shortening the period of rest between sets (see example above) from 90 seconds to 60 seconds. This will lower the amount of weight you can lift (new baseline), but will increase the intensity of the exercise. Do not be discouraged by the lesser amount of weight in which you are performing the exercise. This increase of intensity will give your lean muscle building mission a boost. Trust me, you will feel and experience a new “burn” as your muscles are being primed for new growth.
- Vary the speed in which you perform repetitions. By using the example above, you can do this by simply lowering the weight to your chest in a much slower and controlled manner than your normal cadence. For example, you can lower the weight with a one-thousand one, one-thousand two, and one-thousand three cadence. Then, after lowering, explode the weight upward in a controlled routine manner. Again, the amount of weight you can effectively handle will decline. However, another baseline of weight is created from which you will build.
- Change the main target exercise. This means exchanging flat bench press with incline bench press, or by exchanging flat bench press with flat dumbbell press. There are a number of other exchanges you could do, but hopefully, you get the idea. You are still basically targeting the same muscle group, but performing a completely different exercise. When this is done, your baseline weights are again changed.
By utilizing the above methodology, you will ensure there are always things you can do to keep from becoming stagnant in your pursuit of increased lean muscle mass.
I will stress to you that it is very important to document your exercise in a training journal. This way, you can monitor your progressive resistance plan, remember what you did, see your progress, and continue the development of your lean muscle building plan.
Remember, progressive resistance works if properly understood and applied. It will produce consistent results. Visualize it in your mind, believe it in your heart, see it happening, and achieve results!