Cruise the internet and you will find at least several dozen videos hailing the latest and greatest way to get strong. Each one claims to have the final answer to super-strength. And each of these has many followers who can attest to how strong they have become using a particular program.
Some of these programs have merit and will work and some will not only stall your progress but increase the chances that you will overtrain or get injured. Understanding the basic principles of exercise and strength training will help you separate the good from the bad.
The reality is that there are many ways to become strong. If you are a beginner, almost any program will work for you, for awhile. If you introduce resistance training to someone who has never lifted, they have no choice but to get stronger. First, because they are improving the neural pathways to the muscle and then because they are increasing the size of their muscles. A person who is new to lifting weights primarily improves during their first few weeks by becoming more efficient at lifting. They get better at the actual motor patterns of the lifts and the nervous system adapts by sending a faster signal to the muscles to contract and engage more muscle fibers.
After the initial period of training, strength primarily improves by increasing the size of the muscle fibers.
Muscles which experience having to lift more resistance than they are used to will adapt by becoming stronger. This is known as the Progressive Overload principle. To make your exercise program most effective you need to progressively overload the muscle. This can be done by varying how hard your train, (intensity), how often you train, (frequency), how long you train, (duration), and the type of training you do, (mode).
Working harder, more often, longer and with different types of exercise overload the muscle and causes stress to the system. The body adapts to these changes over time, typically between 4 and 12 weeks. If you train with the same stimulus too long, you body stops getting stronger. If you change too soon, your body does not have time to adapt. If you work too hard, too often, you risk overtraining and the body will not adapt to the training and you risk the chance of getting injured.
The body responds specifically to how we train. If we train with heavy weights and low reps, we will be better at lifting heavy weights for low reps. If we train with light weights and high reps, we become good at lifting light weights for many repetitions. This is the Principle of Specificity – We get better at the things that we practice.
Over time, usually a period of several weeks, the body will adapt to the same stimulus and stop changing. You should change your program at this time. This is the Principle of Variation. Variation does not mean changing your sets, reps and exercises every workout. This type of training does not give the body time to adapt to the training stimulus and your strength results will be minimized with this approach. You can vary the exercises, number of sets or repetitions, rest periods between sets and workouts and the order in which you do the exercises in your workout once your body has started to adapt to a training stimulus.
Pay attention to how you personally respond to your workouts. Everyone is a little different in how exercise will affect their strength and development. The Principle of Individuality means that you should use programs and exercises that work for you.
The Principles of Maintenance and Reversibility state that you can maintain your strength level with a minimal amount of training for a period of time. Your strength gains will start to reverse if you do not train at all or when exercise sessions are spread too far apart.
Any strength program will work as long as the program follows the basic principles of Exercise Science. These principles are Progressive Overload, Specificity, Individuality, Variation, Maintenance and Reversibility.
If you would like more information on the best way to train for your strength and fitness goals, contact Jim@strengthforlife.us