Many clients come to me with the goal of getting a stronger, better-toned, better-muscled body. These are all outcomes you can see from regular strength training — it can build muscle strength and bone density, and even improve your metabolism. But, strength training shouldn’t be limited to just increase the amount of weight. If you want a well-rounded routine — that enables you to see full benefits — I recommend additional resistance training progression techniques, too.
Resistance training includes any exercise that causes your muscles to contract against an external resistance, whether that’s a weighted bar, dumbbell, band, or even gravity or your own body weight. If done right, these movements can tone your muscles, increase your muscle mass, and improve your endurance. However, many people don’t realize they’re not using all the different ways to progress they could — this means your muscles won’t be optimally stimulated, and therefore will respond in a way that usually leads to poor results, or worse, injury.
I want to help you avoid those negative effects, and get the results you want to see. That’s why I’ve included three types of resistance training progression techniques I add in my client’s regimens, as well as ways to incorporate them into your own workout plan. Before we begin, I would like to give credit where credit is due and thank Resistance Training Expert Brad Schoefeld for the research he has provided on the topic and where the techniques discussed in this article came from.
1. Muscular Tension:
Muscular tension training refers to lifting heavier resistance. This can help make your muscle fibers thicker, thus causing your muscles to become larger. Heavier weights can also force the nervous system to activate more muscle fibers, which helps build muscle, too. I suggest adding these types of exercises to your workout at least every couple of months, including them in the following rep schemes: (1-5) or (6-15) or (15+). If you’re an experienced lifter, I’d suggest going with more focus on the first scheme.
Muscular Tension Exercises:
|Chest||Upper Back||Shoulders||Lower Body||Total Body|
|-Barbell flat chest press|
-Barbell incline chest press
|-Chin up variations|
-Chest supported row
-Barbell push press
|-Barbell conventional deadlift|
-Barbell sumo deadlift
-Barbell back squat
-Barbell front squat
-Barbell glute bridge
|-Barbell power clean|
-Barbell hang clean
-Barbell clean and jerk
2. Muscular Damage:
Muscular damage training causes, as you may have guessed, damage to the muscle fibers. If done right and included with proper recovery, this can be a good thing as those fibers then rebuild themselves to be better able to handle future workouts. You can typically notice that you’re experiencing this if you feel sore either immediately after your workout or 1-2 days later.
I recommend rotating these types of exercise — typically on a monthly basis — to help stimulate your muscles from multiple angles. You’ll want to use a level of resistance that’s comfortable for you to do 8-15 reps in good form. Proper form is key, so look to get that down with increased reps before you try to up your resistance. Lastly, when doing these exercises, try to use tempo. For example, in the downward motion of your squat, make sure the transition period lasts 2-4 seconds on each rep before standing up again. You can also incorporate short 1-3 second pauses on the top or bottom range of the motion on each exercise if you’d like.
Muscular Damage Exercises to Choose From:
|-Dumbbell chest press|
-Machine chest press
|-Machine leg press|
|-Barbell hip thrust|
-Cable pull through
3. Metabolic Stress:
Metabolic stress if often referred to as “feeling the burn” when you’re lifting. This sensation happens because blood and other metabolites rush into the muscle as you’re doing the movement. To get the most out of this form of training, you’ll want to mentally focus on the muscle you’re working as it should feel like it’s under constant tension or stress.
Another way to cause this stress is to take short rest periods (30-45 seconds or less) between sets. You can also perform single-joint exercises for a higher number of reps, such as 15+. I recommend the total time your muscles are under tension — or, the length of your set — to be at least 40 seconds. If you do a higher number of reps, it’ll help with this.
Metabolic Stress Exercises to Choose From:
|-Dumbbell side raise|
|-Barbell hip thrust|
-Cable pull through
Ways to add Resistance Training Into Your Routine:
To get the most of your resistance training, I recommend adding muscular tension, muscular damage and metabolic stress exercises into your regimen in one of three ways:
1. Include an exercise from either two or all three categories in one of your workouts per week. This is typically best if you’re using a split schedule, meaning, taking one day to train a specific muscle group, such as your back.
2. Lift one muscle group selecting from the exercises above twice per week. For example, if you’re focusing on your back muscles, you could do a barbell deadlift to focus on the lower back and a pull-up one day focusing more on the upper back muscles (both muscular tension exercises), then later in the week — I’d suggest 2-3 days later — pick muscular damage and metabolic stress exercises also targeting the back.
3. Perform exercises for one muscle group three times a week. This is a great option for people who want increased attention on a specific muscle group. For example, you could pick a muscular tension exercise to do your first workout, a muscular damage one for your second and a metabolic stress one for your third. Ideally, you should give yourself 1-2 days in between each of those workouts.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to incorporate resistance training into your routine — mix it up and keep your routine feeling fresh by focusing on different muscle groups or trying different exercises.
If you still feel unsure about where to start, or simply want some added motivation or guidance, we’ve got a team of Personal Trainers here at Life Time who can work one-on-one with you to ensure you’re training safely and doing so in a way that’ll maximize the benefits. Or if you prefer training in class settings, Life Time has a variety of small group training programs that incorporate these types of movements into the workouts.