Why Add More?

Muscular endurance can be increased by performing more repetitions with a given resistance, while maximizing strength development require muscles to be subject to progressively heavier training loads. The process of gradually adding more exercise resistance than the muscles have previously encountered is referred to as overload.

Increasing Load

Adding resistance training intensity based on an absolute or relative weight. This can include a percentage of a one rep maximum or a one rep maximum. For example, 70% of a one rep maximum would be a weight lifted for 12 repetitions to failure. Failure is defined as failure to properly lift the weight with good form or full range of motion.

Completing more repetitions at the same level of exercise intensity. If you are completing 10 repetitions of a weight, a progression may be completing 12 repetitions with the same weight. A repetition is a single, individual action of the muscles responsible for creating movement at a joint or series of joints. A repetition involves three phases of muscle action: eccentric lengthening, which is a momentary isometric pause and concentric shortening. The number of repetitions assigned for an exercise indicates the number of times an individual should perform that particular movement. As mentioned above, to create the necessary overload to promote specific adaptations, repetitions should be performed until momentary muscle fatigue occurs.

Alternating the speed or tempo of the repetitions. This can increase intensity by taking gravity and momentum out of the picture. Time under tension shows promise in helping to develop certain goals, especially hypertrophy. As a general rule of thumb, more speed during movement on power and strength movements and less speed during movement on hypertrophy and endurance lifts.

Changing the rest periods between multiple sets when strength training. By increasing the time of rest, an individual can shoot for the original repetition performed on the first set, or they can perform drop sets by decreasing rest time and performing a set before full recovery. Time for rest for each type of goal will be covered in another section.

Gradually increasing the training volume. During each resistance-training session, a certain amount of work is performed. The cumulative work completed is referred to as the training volume. Training volume is calculated in several ways:

Repetition-Volume Calculation: Volume=Sets x Repetitions (for either the muscle group or the session).

Load-Volume Calculation: Volume = Exercise Weight load x Repetitions x Sets (summing the total for each muscle group or the entire session).

It’s important to emphasize that the best progressions will involve variations in intensity and volume. Later, we will discuss periodization, and the different forms of periodization that allow the framework for implementing progressive overload over a certain time span to complete certain specific goals.

When muscles are stressed beyond their normal demands, they respond in some way to the imposed stress. If the training stress is much greater than normal, the muscles react negatively to high levels of tissue micro trauma. The resulting (large-scale) cell damage requires several days of muscle repair and rebuilding to regain pre-training strength and functional abilities. Weight lifters should allow 48-72 hours of rest between training the same body part and performing the same movements with load.

On the other hand, when muscles are systematically stressed in a progressive manner, they gradually increase in size and strength. That is, if the training stress is slightly greater than normal, the muscles respond positively to low levels of tissue micro trauma. The resulting (small-scale) cell damage elicits muscle-remodeling processes that lead to larger and stronger muscles. Research indicates that muscular strength increases significantly above baseline levels 72 to 96 hours after an appropriately stressful series of resistance training.

When the training program no longer produces gains in muscular strength or size, the exercise protocol should be changed in some way to again elicit the desired neuromuscular adaptations. This is where a well-designed periodization model helps keep results coming.

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