Everyone trying to build muscle knows the principle of progressive overload or continuously taxing your muscles to the point of triggering those tiny tears that force them to build themselves back stronger.
In the weight room, however, it can be difficult to find the right balance between pushing yourself to the breaking point and going over the edge into stagnation and injury.
Here are some pointers for finding that sweet muscle-growing training spot:
- Focus on multijoint exercises — Spot training isolated muscles, as with bicep curls, has its place for strengthening weaker muscles and balancing them with stronger ones. But it shouldn’t be the focus of your workouts if you want to see steady progress in your overall performance and muscle definition.
Devote most of your time to bench presses, deadlifts, squats and other compound moves to see great results.
- More reps isn’t always better — Don’t feel like you have to be pumping them out like crazy to prove you’re advancing in your training.
Those high-stress lifts, pushes and other loads you can only bear through three to five reps are doing their best to rip those muscles just a bit more and making the build-back that much more rewarding.
- Don’t push yourself to exhaustion with every workout — The above being said, you still don’t want to feel like a wrung-out dishrag after each strength training session. You can do this two or three times a week without jeopardizing your progress, but leave at least two days aside for active recovery with lighter activities to give your body time to do the repairs necessary for faster growth and recovery.
The same goes for sleep, too.
- Challenge yourself every way you can — Progressive overload can and usually does involve adding more weight to your exercises, even during the course of one workout, but there are other ways to achieve it.
You can do the same number of reps as last time but put your attention toward flawless form, shrink rest times in between or add more reps or sets.