3 ways to ensure progression in the gym
February 17, 2020 | Evolistic Health
Progression is defined as the gradual increase in stress on the body. Unfortunately, doing the same workout again and again, means your muscle strength and size won’t improve. Progression can involve a number of things in your program, and it does not have to be complex in any way! A general rule of thumb is, the less experienced (no. of years you have been training) you are, the easier it is to achieve progression.
I am going to walk you through three methods you can use within the gym to ensure you keep achieving the results you want, no matter if they are health, physique or performance-oriented.
Log your sessions
This is a bit of a cop-out. I can’t guarantee this will help you progress, as logging your sessions may not directly change what you do in the gym. However, hear me out. We are all forgetful at times, especially when we are stressed. And lets be real, who really cares enough about their training to memorise exactly what they have done in the gym each and every day. Unless you are an athlete, this won’t happen, and you are almost certainly going to forget what weight you lifted and for how many reps on the bench press last week. Although on a week to week basis this does not seem like a big deal, if you play it out over a year, it becomes a very big deal.
For example, let's say you perform 3 sets of 10 reps of 60kg on the bench press today. Next week you go to do the same, but you can’t remember whether you did 8 or 10 reps, so you go with 8. Then the week after that you do the same, 8 reps. You eventually are finding it too easy so you go to 10 reps. Great! You keep this up for a month, 3x10 @ 60kg, going strong. However, life gets in the way and you have to take 2 weeks off of the gym. That doesn’t stop you though, and after those 2 weeks you are back in bench pressing, but you forget what weight you were doing before the 2-week break, so you just do 3x10 @ 50kg, without even realising you have reduced the weight. You keep this up for the next month, and the month after that you then increase it to 60kg. You think you have progressed, however, 4 months ago, you were benching 60kg for 10 reps…oops.
Keeping a log of exactly what weights you lifted and when is so critical to prevent this from happening, and to be honest, if you are not ready to take that step, then stop reading here, as progression relies heavily on keeping track.
I am going to be honest, I have been training for almost 8 years now, and I still do this sometimes. But I promise you, I have seen my best results when I log everything, and I can say the same for many other health and fitness professionals as well as athletes. This is why at Evolistic Health, we have all of our clients track their gym sessions through their phone or written down.
Improve your technique
Before you look at the fancy stuff, like increasing sets, reps and tempo, we recommend looking to improve your technique.
When building muscle or strength, we want to look to get the maximum amount of results, with the least amount of volume (total work). This can be said for many things in life, too, and is often termed the “minimum effective dose”. Unfortunately, our muscles can not tell what weight is on the bar. All they can sense is force. This is where technique comes into play, if you think about it, you can apply a varying amount of force on the muscle with the same weight by using different techniques.
For example, three sets of 10 reps of 100kg leg press done with poor technique will apply less force on the muscle, and therefore achieve less muscle growth compared to 3x10 of 100kg leg press with good technique.
I think it is beyond the scope of this article to get into what “good” and “poor” technique is, and it is certainly a very subjective definition. So if you would like to know more about technique, please consider getting in contact with us and we will happily help you out!
To sum up this section, before you look to “do more”, whether that is through adding more weight or reps etc, focus on nailing your technique. This is a much safer and efficient method of progression.
Once you are logging your sessions consistently and are confident your technique is as good as it needs to be, then you can start to look at manipulating some other variables. There are many things you can increase, including how many reps and sets you are doing. However, I feel increasing weight is quite a good method for people who don’t classify themselves as advanced. As I mentioned, our muscles grow because of an increase in the force applied to the muscle. Provided that technique is okay, one of the best methods to ensure this force is increasing is to increase the weight you are lifting.
One popular and effective way of doing this is to leave sets and reps equal each week, but add a small amount of weight. E.g You could do 3 sets of 5 reps of 100kg in leg press in week 1, followed by 102.5kg in week 2 and 105 kg in week 3, and so on. This is obviously limited as you will not be able to increase the weight forever.
Again I feel it is out of the scope of this article to go further into different progressions you can use as there literally thousands! However, as I mentioned, please get in contact with us if you would like further help!
I hope you have enjoyed reading this, and I think the most important thing is to just ensure you are consistently logging your sessions and being conscious of your technique in the gym. Once you are doing this, you will have a fantastic base to work from.