Achieving a lean, sculpted and muscular physique is not quite as simple as “eating clean” or exercising every day in the gym with a program downloaded from a popular bodybuilding forum. It requires a well planned and thought out strategy that you follow consistently day in and day out (unless you have crazy genetics, although this is very rarely every the case).
How To Effectively Use Resistance Training To Keep Your Muscle!
In part two of this articles series, we discussed the concept of energy balance (moving more and eating less) and we explored some of the ways to use exercise to stimulate our metabolism to burn more energy. In this article, we’ll look at how you can introduce resistance training to build some much needed muscle!
All beginners need to start slow, that’s a given. You don’t or shouldn’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand this concept. The aim for an new trainee into the gym should be to progressively over time build up their training intensity to greater levels as the body adjusts and adapts to the training stimulus. This is called progressive overloading.
The story from Greek mythology illustrates the principle. It is said that the mythical hero, Milo of Croton became the strongest man in the world by lifting and carrying a calf every day until it grew into a full-grown bull. Milo, perhaps unwittingly, achieved the pinnacle of strength by applying the principle of progressive overload.
The Professionals Frustration
As a fitness professional who spends countless hours in a fitness facility either training others or training himself, I tend to see many habits or hear discussions between members that make me cringe or bite my tongue.
One of my biggest frustrations is the gym member who comes in 5 to 7 times a week for more than an hour at a time (usually mostly updating the Facebook profile), does the same exact full body workout with the same exact weight, sets, repetitions, methods and with a half assed effort for years. And of course their body never changes in shape or look.
From my experience it seems that these individuals either mistakenly tell themselves that it takes years to notice any change from weight training and accept it as the way it is, while others on the other hand get discouraged at seeing no results and quit all together. Granted there are also those that workout merely to maintain their current physical condition by maintaining what lean muscle tissue they have and by keeping the body fat off, but it definitely shouldn’t take 5-7 hours a week to achieve this goal unless anything resembling a nutrition plan is nonexistent.
For those individuals whose efforts are to change the appearance of their bodies, the main reason for failure is EFFORT, or lack thereof. Instead of creating progressive overload or forcing the body to do more than it’s accustomed to, they simply go through the motions and maintain what they have.
The human body will not change unless you force it to, overtime you hit the gym floor. As with all things in life, you get back what you put in and if you’re not putting in the effort to your training that is needed then you don’t stand a chance at reaping the befits and seeing the body change which is the rewards of resistance training.
What Exactly Is Progressive Overload?
Progressive overload requires a gradual increase in volume, intensity, frequency or time in order to achieve the targeted goal of the user, this goal should always be to adequately stimulate or trigger muscle protein synthesis (MPS). To effectively do this, one must reach true muscular fatigue. True muscular fatigue is when you cannot physically do another repetition, this is actually very hard level of intensity to achieve as it is not for everyone as it requires a heightened mental state and a high level of motivation to take your training to such a level.
Without progressive overloading your body does not need to adapt and therefore will never get bigger or stronger beyond a certain point and in most cases can potentially then detrain.
This principal refers to continually increasing the demands on the musculoskeletal system in order to continually make gains in muscle size, strength and endurance. In simplest terms – In order to get bigger and stronger you must continually lift more and more and make your muscles work harder than they are used to. If you don’t, your muscles will not become any stronger or bigger than they currently are.
On the flip side, if the demands on your muscles are not at least maintained and are actually decreased, your muscles will become smaller and weaker and atrophy or waste away (refer back to article two of this series and read about Protein Turnover). Progressive overload is a very simple concept but it is crucial – it lays the foundation upon which resistance training is built.
The progressive overload principal doesn’t just apply to resistance training and increasing muscle growth and strength, it can also be applied to increasing bone and connective tissue strength (through resistance training) as well as cardiovascular fitness and the associated physiological changes that take place through a progressive cardiovascular exercise program.
General Physical Preparedness
You now know about the concept of progressive overloading and are ready to hit the gym and SMASH out some big weights, not quite yet tiger…
Before you can build a house, you must first build a strong foundation! General physical preparedness (GPP) is an essential and important part of the program periodisation to ensure that not only do you apply the concept of progressive overload to your routine but that you also address any of your personal weakness and imbalances.
All newbies should go through some form of GPP phases before they’re training with more advanced forms and methods of resistance training. Those phases consist of the following and should look like this:
The Preliminary Phase – Introduces resistance training at moderate intensity with the primary focus of development some good movement patterns and to teach the trainee how to feel the right working muscles. With this phase we use a higher rep range (see chart below) with less sets, the aim of this is to us metabolic stress to trigger MPS.
The Symmetry Phase – Works on correcting any left to right muscular strength imbalances the trainee may have and this primary focus is to narrow the gap between the two sides
The Bilateral DB / Kettlebell Phase – Now that you have hopefully bridged the gap between and strength imbalances, starting to introduce some bilateral movements. By this stage we are increasing the amount of repeated efforts to trigger MPS now that we should have an increased strength capacity.
The Barbell Phase – By this stage you should have adjusted to strength training. We now start to use barbell which allows us to lift greater loads which will help us to produce more mechanical strain on the musculoskeletal system.
The Intermediate Phases
The next stage after these GPP phases is to the start the fun stuff! The moderate to advanced training methods that you can start to use to continue to shock your body. Introduction of basic overload techniques, super-sets, alternating loading periodisation and undulating loading periodisation.
Example techniques and progressions
- Quasi super-sets, quasi tri-sets, quasi giant sets
- Supersets Pre-exhaust e.g. isolation to compound exercise
- Supersets Post-exhaust e.g. compound to isolation exercise
- Double Drop Sets Constant Rep e.g. 10+10
- Supersets Origin to Insertion Constant Rep e.g. Bench press to push ups
These phases should last about 16 weeks before you move on and advance to the advanced phases of strength training.
The aim of every trainee should be to advance all the way through the phases of training to reach the advanced training methodologies. Once you have advanced through to these phases, achieving some extra strength whilst also working towards putting on some extra kilos of lean muscle is a great way to stay strong and lean and achieve the best of both worlds. using some block periodisation techniques will ensure this happens.
In the graph below, notice how every phases of strength work is subsequently followed by a hypertrophy phase.
Other example techniques and progressions
- Superset / Double Drop Set e.g. Squats 10/Leg Press 10+10 (compound)
- Double Drop Set / Superset e.g. Leg Press 10+10/Squats 10 (compound)
- Superset / Double Drop Set e.g. Squats 10/Leg Extensions 10+10 (post exhaust)
- Double Drop Set / Superset e.g. Leg Extensions 10+10/Squats 10 (pre exhaust)
- 1 1/4 method
- 1 2/4 method
- Isometric techniques
- Tri-set compound exercises – Constant reps
- Giant set compound exercises – Constant reps
So there you have it, the way to a strong a muscular physique mapped out. A wise man once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!”
Will you take a step and contact us today to help you get in the best shape of your life?
In case you missed them:
Part One: Finding Inner Happiness/Peace
Part Two: How To Keep Your Metabolic Rate Primed