For there to be progress there must be progression. Doing the same workout week in, week out will get you nowhere fast.
In fact, a common story you hear from the gym bro’s is the old “I like this program because it got me mad results when I first started it”. Thing is they often started it and never changed it (making the statement 5 years after the fact).
A single workout in a program will work for 3-4 exposures only.
What this means?
After doing a program (with a certain amount of workouts, repeated weekly) for 3-4 weeks, it’ll do very little for you.
There needs to be ongoing disruption of the organism for it to NEED to grow.
Some of my favorite progression strategies
Rep addition method – Do the same exercise and sets, but add a rep each week until you can’t add anymore.
Example – Week 1, do 5 x 8 at 60% of of your 1 rep maximum. Add one rep per set per week until you no longer can.
5% Rule – Start week 1 doing 4×12@55%, each week add 5% to the load and drop the reps by 1.
10% Rule – Start with the same sets/reps as above, but increase the load by 10% and drop 2 reps.
Or you can very simply add 5kg for lower body movements and 2.5kg for upper body movements. Do it until you can’t do the prescribed reps at the increase reps, then use one of the strategies above.
Now for the ‘hunch’
All this science stuff is great. It gives us a compass for templating effective training.
Just as important though is the feel of training.
Knowing how to sense when you’ve had enough, or maybe not enough.
Pushing to that point of absolute muscle fatigue and exhaustion, especially if you’re an experienced trainee.
The one thing that often separates an experienced trainee, who can get themselves next level results, versus somebody who seems to ‘spin the wheels’ and go nowhere is the ability to push.
To ask themselves after each set, “could I have done more?”
To constantly search the ‘feeling’ of an effective training and effective training sessions, not just stick to certain numbers that may have been prescribed.
This is also something a Personal Trainer or Strength Coach will do well. They’ll have a good plan on paper (the science), but will be happy to depart from the plan somewhat if the see the need to do so.
It’s this departure that will sometimes be needed to create the overload.
The mechanical tension and the metabolic stress. For somedays you’ll be on fire and capable of far more than what the program prescribes. This is even more so if you’re always doing percentage based training.
Whilst a beginner will likely respond well to just about anything in the early days, intermediate and advanced trainees will need to be worked hard.
If you fit into this category, be sure to work with a coach, training partner or get a plan that keeps you accountable to doing this.
We all know that when we work out on our own we often don’t work as hard as we could, this is where having the right support structures in place are critical.
Just as important as pushing hard is knowing when not to.
I’m a big fan of de-loads every 4-6 weeks. This is a week where we can still aim to put extra weight on the bar and lift heavy, but we cut approximately 40% of the total volume.
This is particularly important for avoiding burn out and ensuring that you continue to progress.
Food – Being in a healthy calorie surplus is a must. 10-20% above your total daily energy expenditure is a good target.
Sleep – If you’re not getting the gains you want and your sleep is less than 8 hours per night, it’s no coincidence.
Supplements – Whey protein is helpful in hitting your 2-3g of protein per day. Creatine Monohydrate is also great for improving cell volume and recovery time between sets.
Hydration – Aim to drink enough high quality, filtered water to sustain metabolic function associated with recovering from weight training. Body weight in KG’s X .033 is a good way to calculate just how much water you’ll need (in Liters).
Putting on muscle is about more than chance. Whilst good genetics are certainly helpful, by following the principles above you’ll give yourself the best chance of making serious progress. It’s a long process that you’ll need to commit to for the long haul. If ever you’re unsure, seek out and work with a coach that has a track record of delivering results.