Day after day I would come to the gym and see the same people doing the same weights on the same exercise, hell, at exactly the same time of day, never changing a thing regarding their routines. They are just killing themselves wondering why they are not making the gains like the guys over in the corner who are grunting and groaning at the heavy, black scary looking dumbbells scattered across the gym floor.
So many times I have been disappointed to have to tell regular gym users that they simply haven't made any significant gains in muscle mass due to the reasons that will be discussed in this article. This is a painful experience for those who have been slaving in the gym for 6 weeks and will almost instantly lose interest in their training. Are you one of these people?
There Are A Few Main Reasons That People Don't Make The Gains They Want To In The Gym:
- Variety in one's routine.
- Simply not throwing around enough iron in the weights room.
The one I want to concentrate on today is number three. "Simply not throwing enough iron around in the weights room." Does just reading that point intimidate you a little? Are you a bit scared of lifting the heavy weights? Are you a bit worried about getting injured? DON'T BE. I will explain why.
Its called the "Overload Principle". This is the process by which a muscle is stressed by a greater than normal load. Strength occurs as a result of an increase in the thickness of the muscle fibers within a muscle as opposed to muscle fibers increasing their number. The increase in muscle size is called hypertrophy. Hypertrophy and the associated improvements in strength are achieved by exercising a muscle greater than an individual is accustomed, i.e. attempting heavier weights than you have ever used.
In order to improve muscle strength, endurance, and size a muscle or muscle group MUST BE overloaded. Take a moment and just think about what has been said and how it should impact your workout.
Here is a classic example of how NOT to OVERLOAD a muscle: You hit the gym every week on a Monday night to work your chest. You walk up to the bench press and think about what weight you did the previous week. Hmmm, it was 80kg, so you stack on 80kg and do 3 sets of 10 reps. You know you could probably lift a heavier weight but you're thinking what about getting injured. Will you be able to handle that extra 3 kg?
Why would your chest get bigger if you don't force it too? The chest will only grow if it has to adapt to a weight that it is not used to pushing. If your chest lifted 80kg last week then it is already at a size and strength to cope with the 80kg on the bar. Why wouldn't you try 85kg or even 90kg and make that sucker have no choice but to grow?
So next time you're in the gym and you start thinking about the weights that you have lifted before, try forgetting about them and start thinking about new and higher weights than you have ever done before.
Let's touch on number two on our list, "Variety in one's routine." Once you adapt to the demands of your weight-training program, it is necessary to increase frequency, volume and intensity to produce further gains. This can be achieved through the following methods:
Methods To Increase Frequency, Volume and Intensity:
- Duration and number of workouts (sets, supersets, exercises)
- Length of rest periods between sets and workouts
- Weight load
- Increasing the number of reps
- Increasing the speed of contraction.
When you overload a muscle group, adaptation occurs. As a result, muscle grows and becomes stronger and therefore adjusts to the stress that is placed on the muscle.
Personally I don't keep the same routine for more than two weeks without changing it around in some way, whether it be changing the exercise or the order the exercises are performed... it MUST change. Some of the pros never go one week without changing their routines. The idea behind this is to keep the muscle guessing about what will be around the corner so it keeps getting bigger to protect your body. This method never lets you settle into a routine which can slow your gains.
So what have we learned today? Well we now know to go as heavy as possible with good form to get maximum muscle overload and hypertrophy and we also know that routines need to switched regularly to prevent the muscle adaptation process.
Hope this can help you get the gains you deserve in the gym!