Progressive resistance principle

barbellExercising can be compared to a new job: imagine that from being an office worker from one day to the next you become a road-worker:

at the beginning your body would undergo several interesting changes. You would develop your lower-back muscles by carrying stones in a wheelbarrow and in addition you would develop a firmer grip in your hands, because you would be working with a shovel all day long.

In this example, the changed working conditions would result in positive adjustments, but after some time your muscle strength would no longer develop as fast as when you first started out on your new job. A sudden new impulse, however, would again cause new adjustments.

Exercising can be compared to this. Many trainees develop tremendously during the first year, but subsequently hardly achieve any noticeable results.

 To force the body to keep on adjusting (and therefore growing) the progressive resistance principle is applied.

deltoids, bent over lateral raises

We will discuss two applications suitable for your workouts.

Proportional incremental development: the weight is continuously and proportionally increased. An example of this application is when you add 1.25 kilograms of weight to your bench-pressing exercises every week.

deltoids, cable upright rows

Step-by-step development: weight is increased by leaps. Every leap is followed by a certain period without any weight increase, after which another large weight increase takes place and so on. This method is used by very experienced athletes.

There are a number of methods which – provided they form part of your training – ensure progress in your workouts.

  • Increase the weight you are lifting. Do a standard number of repetitions and sets every week. Add, for instance, 1 to 2.5 kilograms of weight to your last two sets.
  • Increase the number of repetitions for each set. Use the same weight for each workout, but try to increase the number of repetitions from week to week.
  • Increase the number of sets in each workout. Don’t forget, however, that by adding one extra set you increase the total load by more than 25%!
  • Shorten the rest period between the sets of an exercise. Use the same weight, same number of repetitions and same pace during each workout, but shorten the rest taken between sets by for instance 10 seconds. This increases the intensity enormously.
  • Lengthen the time the muscle remains under tension. Use the same weight and the same number of repetitions, but try to slow down the downward motion. Start with a pace of 3-0-1 (3 seconds to lower the weight, no rest, 1 second to lift the weight). During the next workout slow the pace down to 5-0-1. The following week slow down to 7-0-1 and so on. In practice you often use 2 or more of these methods at the same time.

It is important to know that there are a number of different ways in which you can keep on exercising progressively.

deltoids, standing barbell presses

 A slower development over a longer period of time tends to lead to better and longer lasting results. Try to develop your body as slowly and consistently as possible.

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Disclaimer: is all about general bodybuilding and weight training information. This is not medical advice and should not be implemented as such. You must not use the information on as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another professional health care provider.

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