Most anyone who has been training for any duration of time knows the basics of progressive overload: time under tension, volume, density, frequency, etc. But there are things you may be overlooking that implement those principles in ways that are leaving some of your potential for gains on table. These are by no means all inclusive, but are five of the best ways you can approach your training in order to see muscle hypertrophy.
1️⃣ Train to failure. Research has shown that the last 5 reps before you reach mechanical failure (I.e. cannot perform another rep with proper form) are the only reps that count when it comes to stimulating the muscle to grow. How many of us can actually say that we’re trying to this point consistently? If you think you do, I challenge you to push for another rep or two and you might be surprised that you’ve been limiting yourself mentally, and that has limited your physical growth. More good news: it does not matter if you are reaching failure with higher ups and lighter weight, or if you were reps with a heavier weight. For those of you freaking out about the limitations of working out at home right now, you can still BUILD muscle
2️⃣ Use full ROM. If lifting heavy causes you to compensate your ability to perform the movement though FULL range of motion, check your ego and drop the weight. You will activate and engage the muscle more thoroughly when you move it through its entire range of motion. You stimulate more of the muscle fibers and when some of them fail, the others kick in so that you can perform even more reps. This in turn increases time under tension and volume. While there is overlap, remember that training for strength does not always equate to training for hypertrophy. Think about the relatively small power lifter in comparison to the jacked bodybuilder. The little guy can out-lift the bodybuilder in certain lifts, but doesn’t mean his muscles are larger than the bodybuilder’s are. That said, don’t neglect a good stretching routine (not just with workouts!) so that you gain greater ROM.
3️⃣ Use your mind. Again, the research has shown that greater muscle activation comes from recruitment neurologically, not just physically. When we think about the muscle that we are working, we actually utilize the muscle more. Do warmup sets to activate the muscle. Tap the muscle before you start each set. (You can even have someone tap the muscle during lifting if they are available). Visualize the muscle you targeting contracting while you lift. All of these things aid neurological stimulation.
4️⃣ Cycle your training. Muscles respond to novelty. Do one mode of training for a period of time like 8-12 weeks and then switch for the next 8-12 weeks, and so on. If you usually use free weights (dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, etc.), use cables or machines. If you use a prescribed number of sets and reps, try #RestBasedTraining. Use a specific advanced training technique (like rest pauses, 3 second eccentric count, partial reps, supersets, drop-sets, bands with weights, etc.) for all your seasons. Once you max out, switch.
5️⃣ Rest. Stop cheating yourself by not taking adequate rest. This applies to rest between sets, as well as rest between sessions targeting the same muscle group. You are cheating yourself of reps if you don’t take enough rest between sets. You are robbing your ability to perform in all aspects of progressive overload if you don’t allow the muscle to repair between workouts. If you are still sore, you won’t be able to use your maximal effort. More is not more if it leaves you spinning your wheels. Just like diminishing returns for eating too much, there are diminishing returns for training to hard too.
P.S. I love the feeling of muscle soreness as it is an indication to me that I have my all, but it is not required for growth.
P.P.S. This book is amazing for all the info on muscle building, not just glutes!! It is HUGE!! Like college textbook size, and packed with info that I have not gotten in any other training books.
1/ What’s your best tip for progressive overload?
2/ Which of these are you going to implement?
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