The concept of progressively training your body is simple. In order to become strong enough to lift more weight or to promote growth, increasing overall demand on the body is paramount. Your body only stimulates itself to change if it feels it needs to. We all have this evolutionary laziness built in. This is especially evident when normally sedentary individuals first take up cardiovascular and resistance training. People new to training see significant changes in their body within the first couple months. After this, the body plateaus and needs to be challenged in new ways to continue muscle stimulus with the purpose of growth and strength.
Using a progressive overload method provides the best results when plateaus are reached. This means that as you continue your work at the gym you have to increase the intensity, volume and frequency. Intensity can refer to how heavy of a weight you use as well as your perceived level of exhaustion in relation to failure. Volume relates to the total number of sets and repetitions performed during an exercise or over a whole routine. And frequency relates to how much a specific muscle group is trained in a single workout session or in a week. A simple way of looking at the progressive overload method is this – when increasing intensity (weight), you must decrease volume (sets X reps) and/or frequency.
When increasing volume (sets X reps), you must decrease intensity (weight) and/or frequency.
If you increase frequency, you must decrease intensity (weight) and/or volume (sets X reps).
That information is all well and good but let’s make it even easier. Increasing your strength is our end game so we will need to start lifting heavier weights to accomplish this. This increase in weight can take place once it is perceived that your set is too easy and your not fatiguing in anyway, or setting a goal. Accomplish 10-12 reps of an exercise, increase your weight next time so that you fatigue at eight reps, stick with this new weight until you’ve hit your 10-12 repetitions consistently with great technique. On the flip side of adding weight you can add more repetitions. This means you’ll be able to maintain form as well as increase the time under tension for your muscles. This could be determined as going to three sets of 12 repetitions or by doing four sets of 10 repetitions. If you add training days to your regime this will also provide the body with a new stimulus, as it has to adapt to more consistent stress. Take precautions with over training and listen to your body, it knows best and rest and recover are the crucial component to all training. Don’t confuse a little soreness with injury, and don’t become lazy. The last method to help overload your body are decreasing rest between sets such as resting 60 seconds instead of 90 seconds.
As a whole, any kind of exercise and training is beneficial to you, but there will come a time when plateaus are reached and you want me. Implementing a progressive plan, with whichever method you prefer, will help you succeed in the long term much more effectively. It’s all about finding what works for you, and consistency.
Dave Barth is a trainer lead at 360 Fitness in Red Deer.