We all want to make progress forever, and let’s face it, most of us want a physique that resembles the hulk, and can move heavy sh** with ease. Unfortunately, the human body is a complex and intricate organism, and hates the idea of being jacked and strong. We lift, we adapt and over time our body prevents us from making gains. This is why unless your training intelligently you’ll be small and weak forever.
First, let’s start with the basics.
Quite simply, when we lift, we stimulate the musculoskeletal and central nervous system.
This stimulus disrupts homeostasis, the bodies happy land or comfort zone and forces the body overcompensates by adapting to the stimulus to ensure it can tolerate it next time it is faced with that stress.
This is known as the SRA model – Stimulate, Recover, Adapt.
Repeated Bout Effect
Once the musculoskeletal system is exposed to a stimulus, there is a host of adaptations that take place to ensure that no further damage occurs from the same exercise.
Remember your first ever leg session?
Do you still get the same level of soreness and fatigue?
I highly doubt it, and this is the SRA model and repeated bout effect demonstrating the dynamic nature of physiology.
The more we expose the musculature to a stimulus, the quicker we adapt, and the easier it becomes. This phenomenon is why we hit nasty plateaus and stall in our progress.
Once we have become accustomed to a stimulus, to continue to force adaptations, there must be something that changes. This is where the principle of progressive overload comes into play.
As we can see, if there isn’t any overload, there is no adaptation. It’s that simple really…
The physiology of resistance training is a highly studied phenomenon. We know that to make progress we need to overload the body with and progressively increase the stimulus to ensure that muscle growth and strength ensue.
However for the vast majority of trainees, there are two primary reasons that they fail to apply the overload principle, causing their hypertrophy and strength gains to stall:
- Under Application of Overload
- Over Application of Overload
There are a number of important scientific strength principles that pertain to resistance training:
And arguably one of the most important is progressive overload.
Overload is inextricably related to the adaptation model, which gives rise to these two fundamental flaws in peoples training – they either don’t do enough or they do too much.
First of all, it should be evident that overload is a necessary component to the training bout to continually force the musculature to grow and adapt.
So the first scenario by which people stop making gains is that they fail to overload or create a novel stimulus will mean that the body has no reason to change.
In a nutshell, they aren’t doing enough to cause a change. And if nothing changes, nothing changes.
Variation and overload can be achieved in a myriad of ways, primarily:
– Increasing Reps
– Increasing Sets
– Increasing Load
– Decreasing Rest
– Increasing Workout Density
– Increasing Range Of Motion and so on…
Failing to overload and continually doing the same thing time and time again, or simply being a pussy and not working hard enough will lead to a plateau in your training.
This is the under application of overload.
Conversely, the second scenario is that doing too much can hinder your progress. o
Overloading the body with too much volume or intensity can quickly can lead to non functional overreaching, and potentially over training.
When the body cannot recover from the training bout session to session, week to week, there will be a decrease in performance and subsequently your strength and muscle growth will suffer.
There is only so much volume you can recover from in a given workout.
This is known as Max Recoverable Volume (MRV), and there is a large inter individual variance in the maximum amount of volume one can tolerate in response to resistance training.
Therefore, the key is to stimulate with progressive overload within the means of your MRV, recover and adapt.
The trainees who progressively overload and ignore the importance of recovery and adaptation are exceeding the bodies recuperative abilities and thus, won’t make progress long term.
This is extremely common, and we see it all of the time. People going into the gym and demolishing their soft tissue with high volume training or completely frying their CNS by testing their 1 rep max every session or constantly hitting failure.
This is the over application of overload and is why a lot of trainees struggle to progress after their first 1-2 years of resistance training when the beginner gains slow down.
Don’t get me wrong; the people who bust their arse in the gym are a pleasure to coach, as it is a lot easier to tame a bull than it is to create a bull.
However, to continually improve your strength, build size and overcome plateaus, it is imperative to understand your individual MRV, and how it applies to overload and the SRA model.
Finding the right amount of volume and understanding how to progressively overload whilst maximising recovery and progress is an art. It takes time, patience and diligent programming.
How To Become Strong & Jacked
If you want to become as big and strong as you can, then you must be doing the following:
- Following a structured program.
- Adopting some form of periodisation.
- Focusing on progressively increasing MRV over time.
- Incorporating Deloads/Light Weeks.
- Constantly assess your programming.
By assessing your program and progress, questions you should be asking yourself are:
Am I pushing myself enough?
If the answer is no, then it’s time to crank things up and have a cup of concrete.
Am I going too hard, and neglecting the importance of MRV and recovery?
If the answer is yes, then take a step back, look at what you’re doing and find the balance between pushing yourself and knowing when to pull things back to ensure you recover.
Am I progressing?
If yes, keep going.
If no, then reassess your program, evaluate your recovery and effort, and see where things are.
If the answer way, intelligent and structured training is necessary for individuals who have maxed out their beginner gains.
Planning your training, thinking long term and progressively increasing your max recoverable volume is how you are going to make progress time and time again.