Archive for the tag - build muscle

What is Progressive Overload?

Many fitness enthusiasts are fairly committed to the gym and working out, but often perform the same routines with the same weights over and over again. They don’t see any changes in their bodies or increases in strength, and often excuse their lack of results with the mistaken belief that it takes many years to see any real changes.

As it turns out, the human body doesn’t change unless it is forced to do so. If your body doesn’t need to adapt by getting bigger or stronger, then it won’t.

Enter a concept known as progressive overload. Developed by Thomas Delorme, M.D. to help rehabilitating World War II soldiers, progressive overload is the the gradual increase of stress placed on the body during exercise training.

The concept is beautifully simply and scientifically proven: In order for a muscle to grow, it must be overloaded. Doing so activates the natural adaptive processes of the human body, which develops to cope with the new demands placed on it. In addition to stronger and larger muscles, stronger and denser bones, ligaments, tendons and cartilage are all resulted through progressive overloads.

There are 7 techniques to incorporate progressive overloads into your workout:

  1. Increase resistance. This means lifting more weight. If you normally do 8 repetitions, but are now able to do 9, it may be time to increase the weight. If you are new to working out, you may be able to increase weight by 5% - 10%. If you are more advanced, 2% - 5% may be more appropriate.
  2. Increase repetitions. If you normally do 6 repetitions of an exercise, try for the 7th rep. Once you can do the 7th rep, try for the 8th.
  3. Increase the sets. If you normally do 2 sets, try for a 3rd set. While the first set will get you a majority of the results and benefits, there are some additional benefits that can be yielded from additional sets. I generally don’t do more than 4 sets.
  4. Increase frequency. If you train your legs every 10 days, perhaps you can train them more often. It’s generally unwise to train a muscle that is still sore from a previous workout, but there may be an opportunity to hit certain muscle groups - especially those that are lagging - more frequently.
  5. Increase intensity and effort. Instead of going through your workout like a zombie, really crank up the effort. Sometimes working with a good partner or trainer can be a big help. Push yourself - or find someone that can do the pushing for you!
  6. Increase exercises. Maybe you do 3 different exercises for your biceps, or any other muscle group. Try introducing a 4th or 5th exercise to yield increased results.
  7. Decrease rest time. By doing more exercises in the same amount of time, your body will have to work harder and more efficiently.

You’ll need to map these 7 techniques to your exercise goals. For example, increasing the resistance is great for people that want larger muscles. Increasing the repetitions or decreasing rest time may be better suited for people that want increased definition or endurance training.

Whatever your goals, make this powerful time-tested technique work for you.

6 Reasons Why Your Muscle-Building Workout Isn’t Building Muscle.

You're welcome.

Increasing strength and building muscle mass is a common fitness goal. But often, guys and gals aren’t seeing the results that they had hoped for. Here are 7 reasons why:

  1. You aren’t sleeping enough. It’s 5am as I write this post, so I feel a bit like I’m throwing stones in a glass house. But it’s true: During sleep - especially deep sleep - the body is able to repair and rebuild the muscle fibers that are destroyed during exercise. 8 hours is the recommendation.
  2. You aren’t getting enough protein. Diet is important. Protein is the building blocks for muscles; if you’re not getting enough of it, then your muscles won’t be able to rebuild after they broken down from exercise. Find out how much and what kind of protein you should be taking.
  3. You are over-training. Your muscles need time to recover; if you train the same muscle groups each day, then you’re not giving them enough time to rebuild. Therefore, it makes sense to break your workout up. Do legs one day, arms another, and so on. Need help? Check out my fitness routine for ideas.
  4. You are consuming too much alcohol. Don’t tell the boys of Jersey Shore, but alcohol abuse has a negative impact on muscle growth. Technically, alcohol slows down protein synthesis, lowers testosterone (a muscle building hormone), leads to dehydration (water is needed for muscle-building!), drains your body of vitamins and increases fat storage. Yikes!
  5. You aren’t progressively overloading your muscles. If you’re not increasing the weight or number of reps, of course your muscle won’t grow. Keep pushing yourself. If you’ve done 8 reps at 45 lbs for three weeks, go for 6 reps at 50 lbs. Then 8 reps at 50 lbs. And so on. Remember, if your goal is to build muscle, you want to do low reps of heavy weights.
  6. Your workout is stale. Remember: Your muscles adapt to a routine, and if you’ve been doing the same thing over and over again, it’s possible that your muscles have just adjusted accordingly and are no longer challenged. In addition to progressively overloading your muscles, switch up your exercises.

Are you not seeing the muscle-building results that you’re trying to work towards? Let me know in the comments below.

High Reps / Low Weight Vs. Low Reps / High Weight.

Which is better: Light weights and high reps or heavy weights and low reps? Well, it depends on your goals.

But first things first, let’s define low and high reps. A “rep” is one repetition of an exercise. For example, if you do three push-ups, you just performed 3 reps. Low reps are anywhere from the 6 to 10 range - that is, performing 6 - 10 push-ups, presses, curls, etc. High reps are anything including and above 10, usually the 10 to 15 range.

High Reps / Low Weight

Some trainers (i.e., Tracey Anderson) are big fans of using light weights performed at high reps. The truth is, it depends on the goals of the client. If you can curl a dumbbell 15 times, for example, the weight is generally too light to actually break down your muscle fibers. It is the body’s repairing of muscle fibers that builds muscle - so high reps will do little to increase muscle mass. On the other hand, high reps will get your heart pumping and a cardio effect occurs and you’ll burn calories and fat. In addition, high reps build muscle endurance which helps muscles work under stress. If you’re training for a triathlon, for example, high reps and light weights could be very useful. 10 - 15 is generally considered high rep.

Low Reps / High Weight

Lifting heavier weights at lower reps is the best method for building muscle mass. Increased muscle mass boosts metabolism and heavier lifting increases bone strength. There a lot of great benefits here, but again, it depends on the goals of the client. In general, you should select a weight that fatigues your muscles (in other words, you can’t do one more rep) in 6 - 10 repetitions.

The bottom line: Which is better? It depends on your goals. If you want to build muscle endurance and get some cardio, then high reps of low weights are for you. If you’re looking to increase your muscle mass, boost your metabolism and strengthen your bones, low reps of higher weights are your cup of tea.

Questions? Leave ’em in the comments, below.