The following 3 protocols are essential in order to build size and strength :
1. Training Intensity
In order to build size and strength you must train with sufficient intensity. Hypertrophy is a function of human physiology – a response of high intensity muscular overload.
The muscles of the human body respond to the intensity of overload in a similar fashion to how skin responds to sunlight. As the skin darkens in response to increased intensity of sunlight, similarly muscles adapt to the stress of intensity overload by getting larger and stronger.
Nature has provided us with this survival response in order for the body to build size and strength so that it is able to adapt to withstand outside forces. Muscles are accustomed to operating at a certain level of output during normal daily activities. In order to create an increase in size and strength our muscles must be made to operate beyond their normal level of output. Increasing your workout intensity for example, will illicit this adaptation.
This process is repeated every time that the intensity of our workouts is increased until we reach the limit determined by our genetics. It is not quite this simplistic and progress will never be linear. Additionally workouts will inevitably be punctuated by periods of illness and overtraining – a condition produced by the body’s inability to adapt to the stress level applied to it.
The closer the body gets to its genetic limit, the more likely it is to be overtrained. Elite athletes especially walk a fine line between adaptation and overtraining.
Nevertheless training with high intensity is paramount if you wish to build size and strength.
2. Progressive Overload
There are a number of ways to progressively increase workout intensity. The same work can be accomplished in less time (by reducing rest time between sets of exercise), or doing more work can be performed in the same time, by increasing load, for example. Other variables can also be utilised.
Why is progressive overload important to build size and strength?
Say for example bench press work sets are performed with five sets of eight repititions using 70kg resistance. If this is sustained with no attempt to increase resistance then the body hasn’t been given a reason to adapt by getting bigger, or stronger. The body subsequently becomes accustomed to this level of intensity, and unless the resistance is increased there will be no adaptation, and therefore zero growth.
This may seem obvious to most, but you might be surprised at the number of trainees who expect to get bigger by continuing to employ the same routine, with the same weights, each workout.
If your body is challenged it will adapt, and if it isn’t it wont.
In order to be effective and continue to build size and strength overload must be progressive. This is one of the most overlooked elements of training. I personally know people who have done basically the same workout month after month. They may alter their routine slightly, but they don’t progressively increase the intensity. Consequently their physique does not improve, they look the same year after year, and their strength does not increase.
Unless you are merely training to maintain current levels of muscle mass, to be productive, every exercise in your workout should be designed to deliver at least slightly higher intensity than the previous one. Each workout session should have a definite, achievable goal – either an increase in training load in terms of weight lifted, or some other parameter based on the previous workout.
Otherwise you are wasting your time, as many do. There is absolutely no point in training to build size and strength if you are going to neglect to utilise progressive resistance.
Building muscle if you’re a natural trainee is hard, damn hard. It is one of the reasons people get despondent and give up on their dreams. Every workout however, is assisting you to build size and strength, and moving you measurably closer to your goal.
And you can get measurable results from it every time – if you train rationally and effectively. To begin with, this usually means adding more weight to work sets, whenever you train, until you are unable to do this anymore. How long you are able to do this will be dependent on your genetics, diet and recuperation.
High intensity and progressive overload, are necessary if you wish to continue to build size and strength. They are not the full picture however, because as your body adapts so the workout routine must also adapt, to reflect these physical adaptations. As your training career progresses the program will need to become more complex as a result of your body’s changing adaptive response. Therefore fixed routines are impractical and they won’t work for long. As you build size and strength, your capacity to generate intensity increases, but your recuperative ability doesn’t. You become more susceptible to overtraining.
Fairly advanced trainees for example might be unable to recuperate from the intensity required to elicit adaptation, in the time available, between successive workouts. Elite athletes particularly are a hair’s breadth away from their genetic limit and must take care to ensure sufficient variety of exercise and intensity is employed to prevent overtraining.
The less experienced the trainee the simpler the training program should be.
Are you able to build size and strength utilising a fixed schedule? Yes you can, but only for as long as your fixed training days are far enough apart to enable effective recuperation. For example, when you first start training, the intensity of your workouts might only require, maybe, twenty hours to recover. As long as your workouts are more than twenty hours apart, you’re OK. But very soon you’ll need thirty hours rest between workouts then two days and so on….
Frequency of training is a commonly misunderstood element of productive bodybuilding and strength training. You cannot have both progressive overload and a fixed training schedule forever. The two are incompatible and your body will not tolerate it for long. The stronger you get, the more time is required for recuperation, and so the more rest you need between workouts. Fixed schedules are a big reason why trainees quit the gym, get injured or become ill after training for a relatively short time.
A consistently productive program requires a variable training frequency.
The training frequency of an effective program will ensure sufficient recovery before your next workout.
Some trainees prefer to workout as frequently as possible whilst others desire maximum efficiency. (i.e. less frequent training) Fortunately, after the completion of a workout there is a range of time during which your next productive workout can occur. The limits of this range are this : The first day you can resume working out without overtraining, and the last day you can return to the gym without losing previous adaptive gains.
Remember that without a variable training frequency program to build size and strength, you will eventually reach the point where you do not fully recover.
Now you know three of the most important training principles to build size and strength.
You need to research and design a training program that delivers high intensity overload, on a progressive basis, using a schedule of variable frequency.
Get to it,