Are you training hard and not seeing results? Do you feel like you’re trying really hard in the gym and just not getting anywhere with your physique? In this blog, I’m going to talk about how to make long term improvements to your body utilizing resistance training, without spinning your wheels or hitting plateaus.
How to make changes to your body
If you want to make long-term physical changes to your body, whether that be a change in body shape and tone, increase in lean muscle to look more athletic, or loss of body fat, the best way to get there is resistance training (also known as ‘weight training’)!
Resistance training allows your body to achieve ‘hypertrophy,’ which simply means ‘muscle growth.’ When you lift weights, your muscles are exposed to an increased workload which causes them to break down and grow back with even more muscle fibres. Your body does this to prepare itself for the next time it experiences the same level of workload, should it need it again. The result: increased lean muscle mass and body tone.
It’s important to note here that your muscles adjust to prepare for the same level of workload in the future. That means, if the workload stays the same time and time again, you won’t see many future physical changes. I often hear people say they exercise regularly but don’t see many changes in their body, this could be the reason why!
Now let’s talk about how to m
ake long-term improvements to your body…
Long-term improvements to your body
In order to achieve meaningful amounts of muscle growth without hitting plateaus, a process called ‘progressive overload’ is essential. ‘Progressive overload’ means ‘doing more over time.’
Imagine that you want to get really good at cooking something so you make the same thing over and over again without changing the recipe. Do you end up with a better result? Probably not. You just end up being able to make the same exact dish with your eyes closed. In order to improve the recipe you would add spices, switch up the cooking time, and try out new techniques (maybe even make your own pastry instead of using shop bought). Progressive overload is how you improve your fitness recipe over time; it’s when you gradually increase the weight, frequency or number of repetitions in your strength training (we’ll talk more about this in a minute) . This is how you achieve noticeable physical changes and avoid plateaus!
Why you need muscle growth
Muscle growth or ‘hypertrophy’ can be intimidating… but don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’ll be leaving the gym in 6 weeks looking like the Incredible Hulk! Something to keep in mind: yes, you may maintain or even gain weight during the process of building muscles but you will be losing body fat. If you want to improve your physique, whether that means growing your peach, dropping a couple of dress sizes, or looking a bit more athletic- the fact remains that you will need muscle growth to get there!
It takes time to grow muscle
Before I cover some of the best ways to build a more fit physique, it’s VERY important to explain that it simply isn’t possible to achieve this over a few sessions; the body just doesn’t work like that. There will be days that you feel great and your training goes well. Conversely, some days you won’t be feeling it and the weights will feel much more difficult. This is normal and can often be related to what’s going on outside of the gym (lack of sleep, not enough recovery time, stress, etc.). So remember, try not to get frustrated if you don’t feel changes session-to-session. Your main focus should be on progressing OVER TIME. If you feel stronger than you did a few months prior, then you’re doing things right! Picture your improvement like the graph below; you should experience peaks and troughs with an overall upward trend of improvement!
How to get started
- Increase the weight. Start by choosing one or two exercises to do this with. Example: if you managed to complete 8 squats with 20lbs, this week try 8 squats with 25lbs.
- Up the number of reps. Example: if you typically manage to do a bench press for 3 sets of 8 with 20lbs, start by trying to achieve 3 sets of 10 at 20lbs.
- Do more sets. Use the weight you’re comfortable with and add one set at a time. Example: last week you did 3 sets of 8 deadlifts @ 25lbs, this week try 4 sets of 8 @ 25lbs.
- Improve form and technique. Are you feeling the right muscle or muscle groups working? This will often be an indicator of good form. If you’re not feeling it in the right places, try filming yourself to see what your form looks like.
- Reduce the tempo or introduce a pause. Example: if you are doing a bench press, try to slow down the lowering of the bar or implement a pause at the bottom to increase what’s called ‘time under tension’.
- Reduce the amount of rest between sets. Example: if you traditionally have a 90 second rest between sets, reduce that to 60 seconds to increase your intensity.
- Improve your range of motion. Example: at first you may only be able to complete a box squat at a certain height, but once that becomes easy you can either lower the box or remove it completely to increase the range of motion.
- Lose body weight. If you are able to maintain the weights you can lift while reducing your overall body weight, then the relative amount that you are lifting in comparison with your body weight is higher.
- Do more workouts. Example: if you typically workout 2 days per week, increase the frequency to 3 days per week.
- Do more work in the same amount of time.
Example: On Week 1 of your program it takes you 14mins to complete 4 x 8 Deadlifts @20lbs… Then on Week 6 it takes you 12mins to complete 4 x 8 reps of Deadlifts @20lbs
The time spent lifting has reduced thus resulting in you being able to move the weight quicker, which means you have gotten stronger!!!
The best way to make lasting improvements to your body is by following a written program that gradually changes over time, while sticking to similar exercises.
If you need support, I’m here to help! Striving Transformations will provide you with structured programming, specifically designed to help you get the results you are after.