Progressive resistance training is the gradual increase of weights in exercises. It is also called progressive overload. This enables progress in the increase of muscle mass and strength. If you want constant growth and constant increase of muscle mass and strength, here are the principles that make this possible.
The hormonal response that occurs as a result of resistance training is the key to muscle growth. Not just a key, but the only key. Weight training is the means of stimulating the hormonal response, in which nutrition and sleep have crucial role.
Testosterone and the Human Growth Hormone (HGH) are one of the main hormones that contribute to the increase of muscle mass, body building, fat burning and the increase of strength – in regard to resistance training.
Thus the stimulation of these two hormones is the most important thing in weight training. Anything that negatively influences these two hormones will hinder your progress and will slow down the building of muscle mass – no matter how and what you train. Anything that positively influences these hormones, will speed up your progress, will increase muscle mass, will cause positive body transformation. That’s why weight training must be correct in regard to hormones.
Increased physical stress caused by resistance-training workouts will increase hormonal response (secretion of testosterone and HGH). This will increase the level of adaptation to physical stress (physical fitness). And this will decrease the physical stress from exercise.
The body is an adaptive mechanism. The more the body adapts itself to resistance training, the less effect that same training will have on it and its hormonal responses. Thus the main element to be most maneuvered with in training is physical stress.
Increased physical stress increases hormonal response,
hormonal response increases physical fitness (adaptation),
fitness decreases physical stress.
There are several methods of increasing physical stress that you can use.
Principles of Progressive Resistance Training
Long-term Progressive Resistance Training
(the best method)
Exercising long-term (months) with same weights and same number of exercises and repetitions will not enable fast progress. Such training becomes activity on the level of aerobic exercise (cardio). It will lower hormonal response and the stress imposed on the muscles. That causes stagnation.
Muscles need continually increasing stress, greater than the previous time. Such increased stress challenges them to continually grow so they become more able to sustain it the next time.
Very effective training program that utilizes this method is the 5×5 StrongLifts program.
The method of progressive resistance training with gradual increase of weights can be used in any program. The increase should not be drastic from one workout to the next. It is enough to increase weekly, 2-5 kg depending on the exercise..
This is the fastest and most effective method of increasing muscle mass and strength. And also progressive resistance training enables higher effort without increasing the time of your workouts.
Training to Failure
This method is very simple. You train with a weight that you can do 5-10 repetitions at most with. You do as many as you can for the set until your muscles give up. Immediately you lower the weight and continue the same exercise until failure. Then you lower the weight again and continue to failure.
For example, you do bench press with 80 kg. You do 8 reps and can’t go more. You get up immediately and take out 20 kg off the bar and do another set. You do 4 reps and can’t go more. Then you take out another 20 kg and immediately do another set to failure. If you want to have a laugh in the end, continue this way until the bar is empty. Do another set with the empty bar. You won’t be able to do more than 9 reps with. Nor anyone else alive. Your muscles will cry, you will laugh.
This method does a maximum activation of muscle. It can be combined with Progressive Resistance Training.
! This method is not to be used if you are in a beginner’s phase or if you haven’t trained quite some time. Otherwise, you will get sudden and extreme muscle soreness. It can be too high a shock for your organism and make you ill.
Increasing the Number of Repetitions
This is a method of limited use. Drastic changes in the number of reps will shift the training method. And the speed of building muscle mass will shift too.
To increase the number of reps you need lower the weights. If you are experiencing slower progress in increasing weights or if you feel you’ve reached maximum (especially in 5×5) , this method might help.
If you were doing for example 5-10 reps in an exercise, now lower the weight so as to be able to do 15-25 reps. The basis of this is that you impose a different type of stress on the body. The body will need to adapt to such a change. It will experience something it didn’t expect.
There is a great difference between weight training with more reps (lighter weights) and fewer reps (heaiver weights). This difference is not just in which of the two muscle types gets activated.
The most prominent difference is in the hormonal response. The hormonal response is always higher when you exercise using heavier weights than lighter weights with many reps. And it is much higher when you do compound exercises which influence the whole body, instead of just isolation exercises.
This method should not be used for a prolonged time or as a main method of resistance training. It can be used temporarily in a several months, because the body will not expect such a change and will need to adapt additionally. Especially if you’ve trained several months with heavier weights and if you notice slower progress. Make the change and train one to two weeks in this way. Then continue with heavier weights and less reps.
The main rule is:
What is the equation of muscle growth?
In order to have growth of muscle you must have “growth” of iron on the bar.