So you have been training for a few years now and things are starting to slow down.
Initially when you started you weren’t able to lift very much weight and so your first goal was to be able to lift the heaviest dumbbell on the rack and push the most amount of weight on the machine. It was more about being able to get stronger and if you were getting stronger then that would be a key indicator that you must be gaining muscle.
As we all know after that honeymoon period of the first year or two at the gym your lucky to lift an extra 2kg every couple of months on top of your maximum load.
So you now start looking for another alternative and start reading about other training techniques and systems like negative reps, rest pause, super sets, giant sets, pyramid etc etc and you start mixing up your training.
And again for a few months that seems to have pushed you through a plateau and things seem to be moving again.
But again things slow down a few months later. This is just your muscles way to adapting to that stimulus that first caused the initial stress and becoming bigger and stronger which is what you wanted.
But we do always want to make progress week upon week, month upon month and year upon year.
So what are some simple things that you can do to ensure that your making progress every session at the gym.
Track and log your training. We all know that the basic principle of progressive overload is the easiest way to ensure progress. Overall volume per week will ensure that you maximise your gains in the gym weather you lift one more rep than you had previously done, one more kilo or even one more set will all add up to more muscle. This is ensuring that your nutrition and recovery is on point.
I personally don’t just aim to be my strongest in the 1-3 rep range but I want to be the strongest in every rep range I do. So maximising my total volume from 1 rep all the way up to 20-30 reps is crucial for growth. So tracking my reps, sets and resistance per session allows me to see my bodies feedback to my training. If I’m doing more volume per session then I know that my body is in a good state in terms of recovery.
This also allows me to see when my body is tired as I won’t be able to progress every week for months on end and will need to back off the gas at some point and de-load. Giving my body addition time to rest or recover.
This could be taking a week off training, this could be reducing the volume per session by reducing the amount of resistance that your using per lift for example you could reduce the resistance by 20%. Or you could reduce the volume by reducing the amount of sets performed for example 5x sets reduced to 3x sets per exercise. Or you could reduce the volume by reducing the repetitions from say 20 reps down to 15 reps etc. There are lots of different way to reduce volume and by giving your body some addition time to rest and recover this should allow you to push harder when you get back to your normal volume.
On the other end of the spectrum would be to strategically put in a over reaching or over training week where your overall volume would be increased by a large amount of volume rather than a smaller increment. This could be another exercise on top of your normal routine, more sets, more reps and the use of intensity techniques like negative reps, partials, drop sets, super sets etc could all be used to prolong your stress response. This would be a shock to the muscle and a plateau breaker than can force a response from the muscle. This can be useful now and then but I wouldn’t be doing it week upon week as cons would out weigh the benefits and you could halt your progress by not allowing enough recovery time for the muscle to recovery and grow.
I like to periodise my training in a 12 month fashion focusing on different phases between 12-16 weeks depending on my goal. Weather it was to get stronger, more volume for specific muscle hypertrophy or more metabolic demanding stress for a fat loss phase.
The key to most training systems for me is tracking your workload. Then changing up your routine throughout the year but giving yourself enough time to adapt to your program and progress. This will give the muscle different stimuluses to adapt to and giving you a response.
Track your reps, sets and resistance. Even when using different intensity techniques.
Enjoy it. If your not enjoying your training then why do it. It shouldn’t be a chore to go to the gym and train.
In order to achieve something that you have never achieved before you need to do something that you have never done before.
Time to grow.