Our muscles get bigger and stronger under stress when you work them out. They get damaged during workouts and then repair themselves further for growth.
But what would happen if they became capable or adapted to handle the workout stress without getting traumatised?
Answer: They would not get damaged anymore and neither will they grow further, a phase which can also be called a ‘training plateau.’
Hence, in order to achieve progressive muscle growth, it is very important to introduce your muscles to higher and higher stress and keep cyclically ‘damaging’ and repairing them. Now, you would be wondering “How do I do that??”
Not to worry. This is actually a very effective training strategy that has been followed for ages, called Progressive Overloading. It is an advanced training strategy, but one that you can adopt to get the desired results and avoid the dreaded plateaus.
What is Progressive Overload?
Pushing the muscles progressively to their testing levels will help in breaking training plateaus. This progression is achieved by manipulating various training variables such as number of sets, number of repetitions, load, and rest periods, each time increasing these components to a new level of muscular stress.
How exactly do you do that?
What is important to remember at the very outset is that there should be sufficient period of adaptation before progressing to significant levels, in order to avoid fatigue and overtraining. That being said, here are a few ways in which you can tweak the components and progressively increase the load:How exactly do you do that?
- Increasing the load – Load is the amount of weight lifted for a particular exercise set. It is one of the most critical aspects of a resistance training program for muscle growth. Hence the most prominent way to increase the stress on targeted muscles is to increase the load until it becomes more challenging to lift. This will result in further growth of muscle tissues.
- Increasing the reps – After achieving the strength to lift heavier weights the next alternative to increase the overload is by doing more repetitions. This is particularly helpful when it gets difficult to add more weight on the bar. Progressing on the rep range will help to develop the endurance.
- Increasing the volume – Progressing the volume increases the total stress on muscle tissues and stimulates growth. Increasing the total no sets is the most ideal way to progress training volume.
- Increasing Training Frequency – After progressing the load, reps and total volume, increasing the exercise frequency of a particular muscle is one way to increase the overload. This strategy of overload also works well when targeting a weak body part.
All the above strategies of progressive overload are going to benefit your training. You can choose any of the strategies or all of them, depending on your goal and focus. Once the desired adaptation is achieved, then other parameters can be targeted for further growth.
Are you coming back to training your muscles after a long break? Worried about having lost what was gained earlier? Do not get stressed, because your muscles have a way of remembering the training they underwent… Check out Fitmag’s article on Muscle Memory here: “Can Muscles Recall Training Habits?”
Author Credits – Siddharth Lall