How can you continually improve in the gym?
If you’re someone who regularly goes to the gym and you’ve hit a sticking point where your numbers have stopped improving and your body has stopped adapting, then you want to read this post.
In sports science, there’s a principle called Progressive Overload. In a nutshell, it means we need to push our bodies further than they have been in the past to stimulate improvement in a certain area. Much like the old
It means challenging your body slightly more than you did last week so it can adapt and become better. If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got. If you don’t push your body further than what it’s used to it has no reason to adapt. Once your body has adapted to a certain weight or speed than doing the same thing the next week won’t make you any better.
*Note, there is time for rest or ‘deload’ weeks, but the majority of your training should progressively build off the week previous.
In Ross Edgely’s: ‘World’s Fittest Book’ he explains – “to improve, you must ‘expose’ your body to a specific ‘stimulus to the quality or intensity of which it is not adapted’. There is no magic pill, quick fix or shortcut. You’re going to have to sweat. You’re going to have to work. And at times you might not like disrupting your comfy state of homeostasis.”
Simplified down –
If you want to get stronger – lift heavier weights
If you want to get bigger – do more reps
If you want to get quicker – run faster
If you want to get fitter – run longer
A good place to start is keeping track of your numbers from week to week. If you have any consistency in your training you should be doing similar sessions from one week to the next to allow for comparison.
Pick 1 or 2 lifts each session that are your focus (not every exercise in the session has to be overloaded) – we like choosing big compound movements like squats, deadlifts, bench press, chin ups etc.
In this case lets use the bench press for example. Pick one thing to improve (weight, reps or sets). Week 1: 5x5 @ 80kg
5x5 @ 82.5kg (more load) or
5x6 @ 80kg (more reps) or
6x5 @ 80kg (more sets)
5x5 @ 85kg (more load) or
5x7 @ 80kg (more reps) or
7x5 @ 80kg (more sets)
5x5 @ 87.5kg (more load) or
5x8 @ 80kg (more reps) or
8x5 @ 80kg (more sets)
You could even just focus on moving the bar faster (hard to judge without technology) or you could decrease rest periods between sets (we don’t recommend this if your goal is strength… muscular growth – yes)
The same could be said for running i.e. you run 5km every week as part of an endurance training program. If your best time is 20 minutes (4min per/km) then aim for 19.50. Or break it up into 1km efforts and run 5x1km at a 3.50 min/km pace.
The moral of the story is – to continually improve in the gym you MUST continually overload your body specific to the kind of exercise you’re trying to improve. Your body needs more stress than what its had in the past to adapt. Tiny improvements each week – whether that’s 1kg, 1 rep or 1 second add up to large improvements in the long run. Any gains are good gains. #one22