I’m going to be brutally honest and cut to the chase with this article. I feel as if resistance training workouts are getting to be just as bad as these fad diet trends we see today. When you look at both the training and the nutritional side of things, all of these various trends, techniques, and goofy pieces of equipment come and go in waves.
Why can’t we look at things from a foundational standpoint and make it a lifestyle? There is not ONE specific diet out there that is going to get you lean and ripped. There is not ONE specific workout out there that is going to pack on lean muscle mass and have you looking like the models on the cover of magazines. It’s just not that simple since all of us a different.
I could give you access to the resistance training workouts I do as well as my nutrition plan it could give you no results at all. Why? Because your body may react differently than mine to a certain stimulus from resistance training workouts. Likewise, my macro nutrient ratios might not yield you the same results as they do me. We are all different which makes it that much harder to figure out what works. But there are some commonalities that we need to look at.
The More Things Change… The More They Stay the Same
Look at fad diets today. You try them until you eventually give up and go back to your previous lifestyle. Then the next big thing comes along and the cycle repeats. The same with resistance training workouts. Something new comes out that excites you, it motivates you to get back in the swing of workouts and training until it no longer does. As they say, everything works until it doesn’t. Or, people see results and when they plateau, they give up rather than making minor changes to break out of the plateau they are in.
The common denominator when it comes to nutrition is that all of these diets force you into a caloric deficit. And unless you can track everything, you’re doomed to fail. The same thing can be said about your resistance training workouts. You need to be able and willing to track your workouts so you know how to progress. Let me explain.
The Reason Behind Tracking Your Workouts
It’s all about progressive overload – PERIOD. There is no rocket-science needed in order to see changes in your physique. By focusing on time under tension and progressive overload, you can steadily make progress and see the changes to your physique that you’ve been looking for. You don’t need all of these crazy and insane looking resistance training workouts in gyms or on DVDs. All you need is enough weight to constantly progress (and this can be done in many different ways which I’ll get into).
By having a workout log or workout journal, you are better able to have a visual on the weight, reps, and sets you are doing in the gym along with the exercises. This is important because if you want to achieve progressive overload with your resistance training workouts, you don’t know what you don’t know. We all have a good memory; some are just shorter than others. And the fact of the matter is, after a week, it’s difficult to remember everything you did (especially the weights of all exercises) the prior week or even last several weeks.
When you log your workouts, you can visually track how your workouts have been trending over the past several weeks or even months. This will help you get a better grasp of your progressive overload with your resistance training workouts. Here are some examples to use and implement.
Tip #1: Time Under Tension
How quickly/slowly are you going through the eccentric and concentric portion of each exercise? Do you even pay attention to it? I’m willing to bet for most people you are going way faster than you think. Some of you may even be using momentum or other muscles groups to complete the movement – especially if the weight is too heavy for you to lift without assistance. The goal of time under tension is to raise and lower the weight in a slow and controlled motion. The most damage is done (in a good way) to a muscle fiber during the eccentric portion of the motion. This would be where the muscle itself is being stretched versus contracted. You should put a greater focus on slowing down the eccentric portion of the movement if you truly want to focus on gaining lean muscle mass (hypertrophy).
Tip #2: Overload Via Total Weight
Progressive overload when it comes to an actual weight would be increasing how much weight you are using on a particular exercise. For instance, if you are benching 185, toss a 2.5lb weight or 5lb weight on both sides every week or every other week and push to achieve the same number of reps you were doing with the lower weight. You may not be able to hit that same number but you’re overloading the muscles with a heavier weight which creates a progression in your resistance training workouts.
Tip #3: Overload Via Total Reps
Another technique would be to simply push for more reps during your workout. If you are used to doing three sets of 8 for an exercise, try hitting 10 reps for each of those sets. Again, it’s progressive overload without trying to get all fancy with new trends. Muscle doesn’t care about how fun a workout is, or how trendy a new piece of equipment is – all it cares about is contracting and stretching the muscle fibers and tearing them down.
Tip #4: Overload Via Total Sets
Lastly, look at your sets. If you are used to doing a total of eight sets for a given body part, strive for 10. If you’re used to doing 10, push for 12. You get the point. Resistance training workouts don’t need to be complicated and many people are overthinking things. By simply doing MORE than what you have done in the past, you’re providing a stimulus to the muscle that it isn’t used to. This helps force change and ultimately helps transform your body.
You can implement all of these tips above into your training to help achieve the results you desire. Maybe one week you increase the weight. The next week you increase the reps. So on and so forth. The key is to keep progressing with your resistance training workouts.