Muscle Size & Strength – Know Your Potential

In my previous article on the principles of “Progressive Overload “, we learned that in order to make our muscles grow bigger and stronger, we need to gradually increase the training stimulus by applying 4 key principles viz. Intensity, Volume, Frequency and Rest.

In this article, let’s look at a couple of important questions:

  • Can we expect to gain muscle size and strength forever or is there a limit?
  • How do we apply these principles to our workouts?

What is Progressive Limit?

Progressive Limit or muscular potential is a key factor that determines the rate and extent of muscle growth. No matter how hard and how heavy a Buff Dude lifts in the gym, his gains will eventually slow down or even stall after a point of time. When this happens, it means he has hit his progressive limit.

Different people have different maximal limits of progression. Every individual has a different potential for hypertrophy and strength for a particular training variable. This is why it is extremely important to adopt an optimal training approach that works for your body. That way, you will be able to extract the best out of your muscular potential and achieve your fullest physical potential.


How do you calculate Progressive Limit?

An important measure of Progressive Limit is your Training Age. This does not mean the number of years that an individual has been lifting weights.

Training Age depends on the amount of time taken by an individual to improve his lifting strength regardless of his total lifting experience. Someone who has been lifting for five years but has still not been able to improve his training volume has not progressed towards his muscular potential. He is still miles away from his maximum growth potential and with a proper training program, he may be able to get bigger and stronger.

So, lifting heavier = getting stronger?

It is surely a good feeling to keep adding plates on the bar. But even after several training sessions, if you’re stuck at the same number of reps or sets, is that progress?

I’ve seen a few of my friends progressing on their 1RM too soon and too frequently. Well, this may surely make you feel like a beast but a time will come when you won’t be able to add any more weight on the bar and your “progress” will come to a halt. You’ve hit a plateau in your training.

How would you manage to overload now? And if you don’t overload, how can you expect your muscles and strength to grow?

Here’s the problem: you’ve reached your genetic strength potential so fast that your progress has stopped. Now, no matter how hard you work, you will find it difficult to grow any further.

Work Smart, Not Hard

The best way to ensure that you keep gaining size and strength, workout after workout, is Periodization.  This is a much smarter strategy for maximizing your gains than just adding plates indiscriminately to your bar.


Another issue with haphazardly increasing weights is Overtraining.

Your body needs time to rest and recover. Pushing yourself to the limit may give you a rush of machismo and make it appear as if you are making gains but these will at best be short-lived benefits. You’ll pay for it later in the form of stalled progress.

Final Words


We’ve already learned the principles of Intensity, Volume, Frequency and Rest in the previous article. The best way to periodize your workout is to alternate intensity, volume and frequency over the period of a single training cycle itself. Do this and you will reap the benefits of size and strength for much longer.


Author credits – Siddharth Lall