Making drastic changes to my physique and my clients’ physiques has taken a long time. It’s great to look back and reflect on how my understanding of training has changed over time. I wanted to share with you what I have learned about the most effective way to train as a beginner and someone more advanced.
What is Progressive Overload?
Regardless of what you been told or what study you’ve read, I think the key drive for muscle growth is progressive overload, not volume. Let me explain; there was a time when I thought that if I wanted to build muscle, I just had to do a lot of stuff (volume), but over the years my focus has been centred around lifting more weight over time. I think playing sport when I was younger has definitely helped me have a clear objective of what the goal should be when it comes weight training. When we trained for basketball, training meant were trying to improve at the sport, and progress (improved shooting percentage) was used to access if the training was effective. I take this same approach when it comes to weight training, the goal is to get better at lifting weights.
How to Get Stronger?
When you embark on your training journey you are essentially looking to improve upon that current skillset.
To assess the effectiveness of each training session, and to see if what you are doing is actually working, the result should be you lifting more weight over time.
In my experience the people who made the most dramatic improvements to their physique had gotten substantially stronger from when they started.
IMO, if your performance improves over time so will your physique - the body you aspire to have would be a more capable version than your current self. Over your training career its important to continually strive to beat previous max weight or reps at a certain weight over time, or both if possible. If this isn’t happening for you then your training program could be better.
Is Volume necessary?
Now back to volume because I used to be that ‘volume guy’, but now I see volume as the dose of the stimulus, which will be beneficial to a point. I have found that people who claim to need such a high dose (a lot of volume) usually aren’t training very hard. Doing a lot of sets will come at the expense of effort. This is so important because your effort needs to be hard enough to disrupt homeostasis if you want to make physical and strength changes. Implement the right recovery protocols and this will create the need for adaption (muscle growth) to occur, then rinse and repeat.
Hard training vs unproductive training
There is big difference between doing hard training and training a lot, you simply can’t do both. Being someone who loves very hard training, there is only a certain amount of volume that I can tolerate and going way over this in the past hindered my progress.
It’s important to find the dose that works for you but still allows you to continue increasing the load over time. If you are new to training, I highly recommend you get the most out of doing few exercises. This will allow you to drive up effort through a select few movements, leading to productive training.
You won’t get caught in the trap of doing copious amount of junk volume and as a bonus you will reduce your chance of injury. As you become more experienced your rate of progress will slow down, the body simply becomes better at adapting to stress (sucks I know). Then you can option to add more sets, but like I said before this should be at the expense of adding more weight to the bar over time.
There are of course other aspects which I could touch base on, but in the grand scheme of things there are the concepts I have applied to my clients and myself for the past 10 years. I really hope you got something valuable out of this article, there is so much important information out there and I’m really trying to make things easy and practical for you guys. As a coach, I’m so adamant that people focus on their training performance, because making progress in your training is fun and so addictive.