Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.
And he was a clever man.
So why is it people go to the gym week after week doing the same exercises with the same weight for the same reps and expect to see change?
Or why is it that people eat the same foods everyday month after month and year after year and expect to see something different when they look in the mirror?
You might say they are perfectly happy with what they see or where they are so they’re just ‘maintaining’. But I’m not convinced.
The majority of people that go to the gym or take part in any kind of physical exercise want to improve at it, but improvement is hard and it hurts because growth isn’t a comfortable process.
The body likes homeostasis however you look at it so it will fight tooth and nail to maintain the status quo. To make changes we need to introduce the body to a level of stimulus it’s never experienced before to give it the reason necessary to adapt and grow. That’s all it boils down to – muscular growth is just the bodies’ adaptation response to a new, greater level of stress.
The most obvious way to increase this stimulus is to add weight to the bar, otherwise known as Progressive Overload.
This should be the first avenue that’s exhausted in your search for growth but there is a problem with it, improvement is not linear and can’t go on forever. If you have a 100kg bench press and add even a very small amount such as 2.5kg to the bar every week, you would be pressing 230kg after only a year, going from a relatively modest bench press to an elite level of strength in a very small space of time. Clearly this is not possible for the average human so where does that leave us?
Other ways of increasing intensity
Intensity can be defined as how hard you work. To increase your work output by increasing the weights you lift is only one way to achieve this.
Other ways of increasing intensity:
· Increasing Reps
· Increasing Sets
· Increasing frequency
· Decreasing rest periods
· Changing the exercise
It’s best to change each of these one by one and reap the most benefit from the least amount of change. That way as soon as progress stalls, you can just tweak another variable and continue to make progress.
Of course you will eventually reach a plateau with all of these methods. You’re limited by how quickly your body can recover. What else can we do to help with recovery?
To add real muscle you’re going to need to give your body all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs to recover and grow.
Just like any other external factor that your body is subjected to, it will adapt to what it’s fed. This means if you’re not gaining any weight and your training and recovery are both on point then you probably need to eat more.
Your body can only build muscle at a certain rate even in the most perfect of conditions but if you’re not adding any weight to the scales week after week then there’s a good chance you’re not building any new muscle tissue because you’re not eating enough.
As with everything else in life, it will vary from person to person but a good amount of weight to aim for is an increase of 1-2lbs bodyweight gained per month. As long as you’re lifts are progressing steadily then there is a good chance that the majority of what you’re adding is muscle.
Of course this progress won’t be linear and it won’t go on forever. As well as not physically being able to consume the sheer volume of calories you will eventually need, your insulin sensitivity will be blunted and nutrient partitioning won’t be as efficient as it once was. The mirror is usually your best guide at this point and if you have exhausted all avenues of progress and still at a sticking point, it’s probably time to diet off some of the fat and resume progress a few weeks down the line.
As with everything else, dieting should be incremental and changes made individually in small increments to ensure you get the most from the least.
Your body is smarter than you are.
Any change you make should yield some kind of adaptive response. The smaller this change is, the less your body will panic and try to restore homeostasis allowing progress to continue for longer before reaching a plateau.
Patience and consistency are everything when it comes to transforming one’s physique, remember, it’s not a sprint but a very long marathon.