If you want to get big and strong you must do one thing in your workouts. You have to remember to make progressive overload the guiding principle of your training. You simply cannot force your body to build muscle if you are keeping the status quo on the effort you are putting into your workouts. In this video, I’m going to dispel the myth however that progressive overload means simply adding more weight to the bar. There are many more ways to achieve this, and in doing so, many more opportunities for you to build muscle and get strong.
That said, it is important for you to first identify what your specific goal is. Are you looking to just get strong, just build muscle, or both? They both can be accomplished simultaneously, it just means that each will be compromised somewhat along the way. We can minimize the compromises if we know how to get big and strong the right way.
To illustrate the differences in approaches we are going to take a classic bodybuilding exercise for building bigger biceps like the dumbbell curl and pit it up against one of the most classic and effective compound lifts – the deadlift. As you’ll see, many of the techniques can be applied to each lift in a slightly different application but with the same end goal.
We know that the easiest way to create progressive overload and build strength and muscle size is to do exactly what we said however and add weight to the bar or dumbbell that you are lifting. As strength increases, often times, so too does muscle growth albeit at a slower pace (especially at the beginning of your training).
Next we can increase overall volume as long as the volume is of sufficient enough intensity to push your body to adapt in the form of increased muscle size and strength. The key here is to not confuse junk volume for effective volume. Lifting sub maximal weights that are greatly beneath your strength capacity is not going to trigger enough of a response to get either stronger or bigger.
Which brings us to effort level. Not talking about intensity as defined in the realm of strength as a percentage of a max but rather simply about the amount of effort you are directing into your training. If you are lazily lifting your weights rather than attacking them with a focused intention, then you are likely leaving many gains on the table and missing an obvious opportunity for overload.
We don’t always have to focus on how much we are lifting to ensure progressive overload. We can focus on how long we rest between sets that we are performing to achieve an progression as well. If your sets and reps are the same and the intensity is consistent but you decreased the rest time between sets by even just one minute, your second workout would serve as a form of overload and drive positive adaptations.
Range of motion is another way we can increase the effectiveness of an exercise from workout to workout without having to change the amount of weight on the bar. Performing either a deficit deadlift or a one and a half rep curl are going to increase the travel of the bar or dumbbell respectively on every rep and therefore create more work for the muscles you are training.
The range itself however does not always have to be lengthened. You can increase the “effective” range by taking advantage of accommodating resistance and overlapping strength curves. The inclusion of a band on a dumbbell curl or chains on a deadlift will help you to better match the strength curve of the exercise for a longer part of the range – thereby increasing it’s overall effectiveness.
Speed and momentum are also methods that can be manipulated for overload and are discussed in more detail in the video.
The key is that thinking that adding more weight to the bar is the only way for you to achieve progressive overload and get bigger and stronger is a myth. The schooled strength coach will be capable of steering you away from this and show you how not only to increase your lifting capacity but also to build size and strength through other methods.
If you’re looking for a step by step program for building bigger muscles and getting stronger, you can find them at athleanx.com via the link below. All of the plans are presented in a step by step, day by day manner so you can follow along and make sure that you never miss a beat on your way to making improvements and training like an athlete.
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