Many are looking to increase their strength and lean body mass struggle to make the meaningful gains they expect when they pursue an exercise program. There are many factors that can influence progress in both positive and negative ways. Some things to consider are:
Exercise Intensity: Intensity matters! Muscles don’t want to change and must be worked well beyond their normal capacity to force adaptive responses.
Here’s how to increase the intensity of a workout:
Work to failure – Are you pushing yourself to your failure points to force your body to change or are you coming in and doing the 8-12 reps at the same weight each week? You must test your limits if you ever want to force change. One way to keep pushing forward is by working to muscle failure. Muscle failure occurs when you reach a point where you can’t do one more clean rep without cheating or using bad form. There are many ways to leverage failure in your programs…rest/pause training, drop sets, timed rest, and negative reps to name a few. Ask a trainer.
Change your tempo – Are you so worried about getting to a number of reps that you are speeding through your sets? Give your muscles the time under tension they need to change by using the 1:3 rule, 1 second on the concentric (lifting/pulling) movement and 3 seconds on the eccentric (lowering) movement.
Increase the resistance, increase reps – As your muscles adapt, stress them more each workout by increasing resistance or adding more repetitions.
Overtraining: Overtraining often occurs when you don’t give your muscles adequate recovery time and rest between workouts prior to working the same muscles again. If you find yourself doing 35 sets for the same muscle group or working the exact same body parts hard on successive days, you might be overtraining. Building muscle and strength is an adaptive process of tearing down and allowing your body to build back up. More is not always better.
Types of exercises: Are you doing the right exercises to meet your goals? Are you neglecting entire muscle groups because don’t like doing certain exercises? Your trainers can work with you to choose key foundational exercises that are going to work big muscle groups and bring balance to your body. (Don’t skip leg day!)
Not being consistent or training infrequently – Missed workouts are the bane of anyone trying to get results. Make sure you are stressing your muscles in a frequency that is right for your body.
Nutrition (of course): To spark those gains you have to definitely eat nutrient dense foods that give your body the building blocks and recovery fuel necessary to make progress. Empty calories like sugary sodas, candy bars, and potato chips can work against your energy levels and desired body composition. Muscles also need protein in abundance to grow, so make good choices to get the protein needed. It’s not by accident that protein is a key component in post-workout smoothies. If you find it hard to get enough protein in your regular diet, invest in a quality protein powder to substitute for snacks and supplement your meals. – Personal Trainer, Ray Haddox