As an avid gym-goer, I often see and hear things that make me cringe.
A common phrase I hear in the gym is “Why am I not getting stronger” or something along those lines. For me, hearing those words probably bothers me more than the person saying it!
For example, it might be a gym-goer (be it your friend) who shows up five days a week for over an hour and repeats the same workout with the same weight, sets, reps, and effort for years without any change in their body.
It’s very depressing to keep doing the same routine without any small improvements. Or maybe I’m just crazy!
If you want to look better or get stronger, the main reason you might be failing is probably because you’re not pushing yourself enough.
Muscle grows and gets stronger when challenged, but to keep gaining, you need to keep increasing the challenge. If you don’t make your muscles work harder than they’re used to, they won’t adapt further.
The human body won’t change unless it’s pushed to. That’s why you can’t get too comfortable with your training. Once it becomes easy and not challenging, your progress will stop.
What Is Progressive Overload?
This concept means constantly increasing the demands on your body to keep gaining muscle size, strength, and endurance. To get bigger and stronger, your muscles need to work harder than before. Increasing the weight is one way, but there are other methods too.
If you don’t keep up or increase the challenge for your muscles, they will get weaker and smaller.
Progressive overload is a simple but key idea for effective resistance training.
It’s not just for weightlifting; it also applies to cardio programs, causing changes in your body that improve your aerobic capacity and heart-lung function. Progressive Overload In Action
Let’s say you do a barbell biceps curl with 75 pounds, your 8-rep max. Over time, you’ll get stronger and your biceps will grow. Doing eight reps becomes easy.
So, what next? Keep using 75 pounds for 8 reps, or make some changes?
If you stick with the same routine, don’t expect more gains. Your biceps can handle that already. But, they will grow and get stronger if you challenge them more.
Methods Of Progressive Overload
1. Increase the Resistance
A common way to challenge your muscles more is to lift heavier weights. If 75 pounds is easy, try adding 5 pounds to each side of the bar. When you lift heavier, you might do fewer reps at first, but you’ll get stronger and can repeat the process.
Newer gym-goers should use this approach for as long as they can as they can. Try to lift a bit more each session.
A common pitfall is ego clouding your judgement – therefore stopping your gains.
Some bodybuilders with big egos only add in terms of 45-pound and 25-pound plates to any exercise.
Adding a 25-pound plate on each side means putting 50 more pounds on the barbell. For someone with a lot of training, this kind of increase could take years of hard work.
Don’t let your ego decide how much weight to add. Remember, your gym has smaller plates too, like 10-pound, 5-pound, and even 2.5-pound plates. You can even buy very light plates, less than 1 pound, online for a low price.
Adding half-pound plates to your bench press every week for a year would add up to a 52-pound increase; using 1-pound plates would mean a 104-pound increase. Think about making small increases over time for long-term success.
2. Increase the Reps
Instead of adding weight, you can do more reps as you get stronger. Don’t stop at a set number; keep going until you can’t do any more with good form.
It’s crucial to note that as you gain strength, if your goal is to increase muscle size, you should choose to add more weight rather than increasing reps once you’re able to do more than 12.
In other words, when you can comfortably complete 12 reps, instead of aiming for 13 or 14 in your next workouts, it’s better to increase the weight.
When a weight becomes easier to lift and you start doing a higher number of reps with it, your training begins to focus more on building muscle endurance rather than muscle size or strength.
3. Increase the Volume
This means doing more overall work by adding more sets to your exercises. Since your reps should be between 8 to 12 and your weight shouldn’t change much, adding sets is a good way to increase total work.
This might mean doing 3 sets instead of 2, or adding another exercise.
4. Increase Training Frequency
Increasing frequency in training simply means working out more frequently. For instance, doing squats twice a week imposes a greater challenge on your body than squatting just once a week.
For a bodybuilder, this could mean training five days a week instead of four, or trying out a double split routine.
For a strength athlete, increasing frequency might involve performing a specific exercise more often. For a strongman competitor, it could mean adding an extra session to practice various events.
For someone focused on general fitness, it might involve adding an extra day of training to concentrate on a particular area of weakness.
There are many options, but the key point is that training more frequently adds an extra level of challenge to your routine.
5. Decrease Rest Time Between Sets
Reducing the time you rest between sets is another way to make your workouts harder. This makes your body more efficient at anaerobic exercise (like weightlifting).
Making Progressive Overload Work For You
You can use any of these methods, but focus on one at a time. As you adapt, it’s good to have different options, especially if just adding more weight isn’t effective anymore.
Of course, this depends on your goals, like building muscle (staying in the 8- to 12-rep range) or focusing on strength (increasing the weight).
For endurance, doing more reps with the same weight might be better.
Bodybuilders might focus on increasing volume, while endurance athletes might benefit from less rest time and more reps. Choose techniques that match your fitness goals. Prioritize what matters to you.
Increasing strength mainly involves making exercises harder. But doing this too often might cause injury.
My personal advice for building strength is to set a rep goal, work towards it, and then make the exercise harder once you’ve reached it.
Still Not Getting Stronger?
You’re in the gym regularly, but those gains just aren’t showing.
What gives, right?
Well, here’s the deal: it’s all about tracking your workouts. Not just scribbling down what you did, but really understanding your progress.
That’s where an app like PumpX can be a lifesaver. Track your sets. Track your reps. Track your progress and conquer your plateau on your next gym session.
PumpX is like that gym buddy who keeps you honest. It tracks everything you do – every set, every rep. Why’s that matter?
Because you can’t improve what you don’t measure. You think you’re pushing yourself hard, but are you really? This app shows you the cold, hard facts.
Getting stronger isn’t just about throwing weights around. You’ve got to be smart about it.
Know your numbers, see where you’re improving, and tweak your workouts as needed. PumpX helps you do all that. It’s like having a coach in your back pocket.
So, if you’re serious about bulking up and getting stronger, it’s time to stop guessing and start tracking. Get PumpX.