Training and nutrition advice
One could argue that THE MOST important element of weight training, or any type of training, is progressive overload. If you're not using progressive overload you'll never get anywhere.
What is progressive overload? This is the principle of always doing more each workout. It's progressive because you only make very small changes each session. It's overload because you are trying to overload your system so you can get bigger, faster, and/or stronger.
This idea works fantastic with big compound movements. This is how people can squat and deadlift several hundred pounds. They didn't do a 500+ lb. deadlift on their first day of training. Maybe they only did 100 lbs., or less. They had to build up to the heavier weight. They progressively overloaded their system to get to the point where they could lift a lot more.
So, how can you use this technique? Let's cover some examples.
The easiest way to begin to overload yourself is to add more weight. If you hit your rep goal for bench press today then you'll increase the weight for the next bench press session.
The other easy way to overload yourself is to add more reps. If you're used to doing 10 reps of a given exercise, you can do 11 or 12 reps for added stimulation.
I like to do both, and so do most people who are trying to get bigger and/or stronger. Here's how something might look when working with adding more weight and reps:
You're working on improving your bench press. You have a working goal of 10 reps for 3 sets. Here's how a progression of this may look (these numbers are just to give an example of what might happen):
That's how a combination of increasing the weight and/or reps may look when using progressive overload. Sometimes you won't be ready to increase the weight, so you increase the reps instead so your body will be better prepared to lift more weight. Remember, the numbers in that example were purely for the sake of example. I'm not suggesting you aim for all those numbers yourself. Hopefully the example gets the idea across on how progressive overload looks and works.
If you're a beginner lifter, I highly recommend following this type of progression. Only increase the weight once you've hit your rep goals. If you can't complete a rep goal, then stay at the same weight for your next session and focus on increasing your reps. This works great for intermediate lifters as well.
Advanced lifters will certainly benefit from this too, but eventually you'll reach your genetic limitations and can't just keep going up and up and up. You'll need to get more creative to get any more out of yourself. The more advanced you become, the more difficult it is to grow in size or strength.
This blog entry is aimed towards those new to lifting so you can get a general idea of what progressive overload is and how you can approach it. However, for those who are curious, advanced lifters can use techniques like drop sets, partial reps, super sets of the same muscle group, etc. to push their bodies in new ways. You could even do 21s in the squat to really push your legs. Do 7 squats only in the top half of the motion, then 7 squats in the bottom half of the motion, then finish (if you can!) with 7 full range of motion reps.
21s are typically associated with things like biceps curls, and not bigger movements. But, why not?! Sometimes you've got to get creative to get your body to grow!
Now, if you ARE a beginner, I do NOT recommend trying any of the more advanced methods to push further growth. You don't need to do drop sets yet. Save those for when you start to get stuck and you can't add more weight OR reps.
If you keep going all out in your workouts when you're just starting out you'll burn out too quickly, and won't be able to adequately recover. You'll be beating your body up and getting little to no results. Keep things simple for as long as you can. There is no reason to go ape shit right out of the gate, other than ego points. But, don't ego lift either. You're more likely to injure yourself, and injuries suck. They prevent training, and even worse, they could be so bad that they alter your training for the rest of your life.
So, take your time in progressively overloading your system to get better. Doing too much too soon will not help you. This is a life long journey, not a race.
If you have any questions regarding this material please post them in the comments section!
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