What is the purpose of hitting the gym and working out? The basic answer is to improve yourself. Sometimes however, people forget to try and push themselves to improve each time they hit the iron. Programs become routine and people stick to what is comfortable.
Of course that exactly the opposite of what you want to do.
When the body is comfortable that means it is not being forced to adapt. That means no gains in muscle size or strength. Basically that means you are doing maintenance work at the gym. Now if that is your goal then you are set, but if you are looking to improve then you need to focus on making your body uncomfortable; get it out of the comfort zone and into the grow zone.
You do that by pushing yourself in a specific manner to make sure each workout gets you out of your comfort zone.
5 Ways to Progress
To start, make sure you use a workout log or journal to mark progress. It can be difficult to remember how much weight you lifted over a certain number of sets for a specific number of repetitions. Writing it down gives you no excuses and helps you to mark what you should be doing next. These are all different methods that can be employed.
- Increase Your Reps – This sounds basic but it is one of the easiest ways to overload your muscles. Let’s say you are doing bench presses and you do 3 work sets of 6 reps with 225. The next workout your goal should be 7 reps for each set. After you can do that it goes to 8 reps.
- Increase Your Sets – For the same example from above, add an additional work set of 6 reps at 225.
- Reduce Rest – If you normally take 90 seconds between sets, reduce it to 60 seconds. That rest period does make a difference in the recovery your muscles have. Now you are challenging your endurance.
- Speed Up or Slow Down – Reps can be done slower or faster. Each method works something different. This technique can be added in with the others. For example if you are doing 8 reps on the bench with 225 try and explode through them faster than before. But make sure you don’t get sloppy with your form.
- Increase the Weight – This is the most common aspect of progression, increasing the weight. A lot of people end up focusing on this too much at first. Ideally you need to learn to control a weight and increase reps and even add a set and then jump the weight to the next level while reducing reps and a set or two. Think of it like a video game; each time you go up a new level you then build up the work before you hit the next level.
No matter which techniques you employ, always make sure you are using proper form and getting the most out of each repetition. Doing partial reps and sloppy form is more of an ego thing. While it allows you to progress to more weight or more reps, it really isn’t doing anything to help with muscle strength or size gains. In fact, it really is just a fast track to getting hurt.
So start writing things down and look to progress each and every workout. You will be happy to not only see things change in your notebook, but in the way your body looks and feels as well.