To keep getting stronger, building muscle or improving any aspect of your fitness, there needs to be a progressive overload. Progressive overload simply means that there needs to be some kind of progression over time in order to imporve what you are trying to imporve. You can't expect to see any imporvements if you never change your workouts.
When it comes to building muscle and strength, this means doing more exercise volume. And when it comes to improving endurance/cardio, this means increasing your running mileage and/or running intensity/speed. Similar logic can be applied to mobility training, jump training and sport-specific perfomance.
HOW TO PROGRESS YOUR WORKOUTS IF YOUR GOAL IS TO BUILD STRENGTH OR MUSCLE MASS
As previously mentioned, for this goal we need to focus on increasing exercise volume. To calculate your exercise volume simply multiply weight used for a particular exercise with number of reps and number of sets:
EXERCISE VOLUME = WEIGHT USED x REPS x SET
To make best progress and avoid injuries, we need to do just enough exercise to signal our body to get stronger but not too much to cause joint overuse and injuries. So similarly to how type of medication and medication dosage is individualized to each patient, same logic is applied here with exercise. We need the right type and the right amount of exercise.
Each muscle in our body has its own optimal exercise volume which differs from other muscles. Optimal exercise volume also depends on your genetics, nutrition, sleep, stress and other factors. This means that what might an optimal muscle volume for you, it can be too much or too little for someone else.
Finding your optimal muscle volume is key, because once you know that then you will know how much you have to workout to make progress or prevent regression. For most people who are looking to build muscle or strength the following guidelines will apply:
So let's say your trying to improve your lower body strength and shape legs. To achieve this goal, we decide that you need to start with 3 sets of squats for 10 repetitions and we'll do this exercise twice a week on non-consecutive days. Since you've never been to gym before you are not sure what weight to use that will allow you to perform 10 repetitions for 3 sets with good form.
The only way to figure this one out is to experiment. We'll go to the gym and progressively increase resistance until we find the weight that will allow you to perform 3 sets of 10 reps. We'll do this in a safe manner and paying careful attention to your form.
Fast forward 2-4 weeks and now you are much more confident in your form. We figured out that 100 ibs is an optimal resistance to allow you to perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions. To find our exercise volume we'll simply multiply 100 ibs X 3 X 10 = 3000 ibs (total exercise volume).
Now you are wondering how you should progress from here?
At this stage, we'll keep the number of sets we are doing every week the same, but focus on adding resistance every session or every week. We'll add weight in steady increments each time we train (1.5 lbs - 5 lbs increments). This is the best strategy at this stage because by adding weight/resistance every time we train we are achieveing two things at once:
This strategy of adding resistance every session or week will work for a while, but after certain period of time your progress will slow down. It will get progressively more difficult to progress on a session-to-session or a week-to-week basis. At this point, to keep progressing we have a couple of options:
Have any questions or comments? Let me know!
Author: Nem - Nemanja Sambaher
Nemanja Sambaher (Nem) is a Certified Personal Trainer and Registered Kinesiologist in Toronto with a Master of Science degree in Kinesiology. Nem has been involved in the health and fitness field for more than 10 years specializing in strength training, weight loss, muscle gain, sports performance, and injury rehabilitation.
Nem is a published author with a strong science background. His work has been featured in scientific journals like Neuroscience, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. As a writer, Nem contributed for online publications like Stack.com, Running Room and Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.
Having experience in a clinical setting, corporate environment, fitness industry and as a university researcher, Nem offers a unique approach to health and fitness. As a kinesiologist and a personal trainer, Nem helps people improve the way they move, look and feel. His exercise and nutrition coaching has allowed his clients to gain strength and muscle, lose body fat, eliminate pain and improve physical performance and health.
His clinical work includes electrocardiogram testing, phlebotomy, lung function assessment, movement and gait analysis. Using exercise as a therapeutic modality he has prescribed and carried out rehabilitation programs for patients with various injuries and chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer survivors and many others.
Most recently to further improve the client experience and enhance results, he has introduced a TO Kinesiology mobile app. This not only allows Nem to take on clients from all over the world, but also allows current clients to have 24/7 access to their TO Kinesiology trainer along with a full video exercise library, nutrition coaching tools, and progress tracking software.
Nem believes in the power of Kinesiology and proper exercise prescription for all Canadians looking to improve health and fitness. In his work with clients, Nem combines elements of strength training, hands-on therapy, conditioning and rehabilitation to maximize results and ensure a holistic approach.
You can learn more about Nem on his LinkedIn page. To schedule a session with Nem, get in touch with us here.