Muscle Adaptation Tweaks

In the past I have talked about the need for progressive resistance so that you are overloading muscles to make them adapt to the heavier loads or more repetitions. This works for a while but unfortunately your body becomes accustomed to doing the same exercises, and of course your own capacity for effort can be limited along with your ability to recover. Don’t get me wrong I am not advocating that you opt out of the progressive resistance camp, but you might consider a couple tweaks to get your body to react by building larger muscles and gaining strength. Here are a couple of tweaks that can help put you get back on track, making those muscles adapt and avoid plateauing.

Tweak 1 – Reduce rest time between sets

During my chest and triceps routine I was resting about 2 1/2 minutes between sets and while this allowed me to do one set after another of push-ups, in some ways it made it too easy. Without even adding any reps I took the rest time down to 2 minutes between chest exercise sets and 1 1/2 minutes for triceps exercises. I know this doesn’t sound like much, but it made it more difficult to do the sets with less rest. So without adding weights or repetitions the intensity was increased simply by reducing the rest time.

Tweak 2 – Alternate routines

Because your body can get accustomed to doing the same exercises, your muscles adapt but growth begins to slow down. You might consider having two different routines and either rotate them using one routine on week 1 and another routine on week 2. This causes a bit of muscle confusion and will help you avoid hitting a plateau as quickly. The changes don’t have to be huge for instance:

Week 1 – Chest/Triceps Day

  • 4 sets push-ups
  • 2 sets of triceps dumbbell kickbacks
  • 1 set triceps dips

On alternate weeks perform this routine.

Week 2 – Chest/Triceps Day

  • 3 sets of dumbbell chest presses
  • 2 sets of dumbbell chest fly’s
  • 2 sets of dumbbell triceps extensions

Hopefully by limiting the rest between sets and using a bit of muscle confusion by alternating routines you can spur on continued growth, making your workouts more difficult and at the same time a bit more interesting. In addition to these tweaks make sure you are using the principles of progressive resistance to add sets, repetitions, and weight. I would love to hear about any tweaks you use to increase muscle adaptation or make your workouts more fun.

Namaste

 

Advertisements

Just What is Progressive Resistance?

strength training deadlift

Anyone who does strength training has heard the term “progressive resistance”, and most of the experienced weight training folks have a pretty good idea of what it means.  In its simplest form it means to add resistance or intensity either to each workout or periodically.  Three examples include:

  1. Adding a repetition to your set – so this week I did 9 reps instead of 8 last week.
  2. Maybe you added a another set – this week I did 3 sets instead of 2 last week.
  3. Adding weight – I added 5 pounds to my curl bar, or 10 pounds to my bench press
This is not me

This is not me

So why do I care about progressive resistance?  The answer is really pretty simple in that muscles will not grow unless they can be stimulated beyond the capacity that they are accustomed to.  Adding repetitions to sets, adding sets, and increasing the weight you move all help to stimulate your muscles and they are forced to adapt.

Now as anyone knows who has been involved with weight training over a long period of time there are ceilings you hit along the way.  For instance you may get to the point where a 50 pound dumbell is too much for you to curl, where you have kind of maxed out on the adding weight approach.  A typical approach by most people involved with strength training is to do 2 or 3 sets with a weight that they can handle for 8 to 12 repetitions per set.  Once they get to 12 repetitions they may decide to start adding weights or optionally keep the weight the same and add another set.

So what about that ceiling that we all seem to hit in terms of how much weight we can safely hoist?  Well you can add more reps and sets, but eventually this to can come to a halt and with this approach your workout gets longer and more exhausting.  So here are a couple other ideas to keep pushing your muscles, making them work harder:

  1. Do each repetition considerably slower – this puts extra strain on the muscles without having to add reps, sets, or weight
  2. Spend less time resting between sets – instead of resting say 90 seconds drop it down to 60 and you will feel the burn

There are yet other ways to ramp up the intensity, but I’ll save those for a future post.  Let me know what you do to increase the intensity of your strength training workouts.

Namaste