What is the most important factor from your training in terms of stimulating new muscle growth? People argue it is the pump or training to failure but let’s look at what is actually important.
For this topic, I’m not going to get into recovery, nutrition or any of that because none of that has to do with the stimulation of new muscle growth. Those are things that matter after the fact.
Is it important to train to failure? Is it important to get a good pump? And no, these factors are not that critical. Now, the pump itself can be indicative of metabolic fatigue but it’s not really the best judge if you’re stimulating new muscle growth.
The number one key is progressive overload. Which means:
You are subjecting the muscles that you want to grow, or all the muscles in your body preferably, to additional overload.
This can be done in the form of either additional mechanical tension which means more weight or lifting the same weight faster because that recruits more motor units, OR through metabolic fatigue which is accomplished through increasing the workload (volume).
I understand this is an oversimplification but the truth is, you have to either be increasing the amount of weight on the bar while maintaining the same technique, form and range of motion or you have to be increasing the number of reps that you can do with the same weight with again the same technique, form and range of motion or just increasing the overall volume.
The thing is, the latter is going to produce the least results. By adding 5 more sets of deadlifts or bench press to a single session you’re not going to stimulate large amounts of new muscle growth over what you got with a smaller workload (less sets). But it is a good way to break through a plateau. Because at the end of the day, if you are not getting stronger, you’re not stimulating new muscle growth.
”I’m Not Training To Get Stronger, I’m Training To Get Bigger”
And so when people say things like ”I’m not training to get stronger, I’m training to get bigger”. It’s really a silly statement because the two go hand in hand. And I don’t mean your 1-rep-max because even a lot of powerlifters don’t do 1-rep-maxes outside of a competition.
If you’re doing 10-rep sets, you’re going to have to add weight to the bar to grow. You’re not going to build a massive chest doing 95 pounds on the bench press for 10 reps for the next 10 years. You have to eventually get 200 pounds on the bar, 300 pounds on the bar if you want to get bigger doing 10-rep sets.
Here’s the way to look at that: At one time when you were training, your max bench was probably 135 pounds (60kg). Even though you’re not training for a max, at some point you’re probably going to bench press 225 pounds (100kg) for 10 reps. So at that points, it’s fair to say that your 1-rep-max has gone up substantially because you need progressive overload.
‘Shocking’ The Muscle
This is far more important than things like ‘shocking the muscle’ or doing a lot of these techniques that people talk about that are supposedly going to shock a muscle into new growth. All you actually need to ‘shock’ a muscle and stimulate new growth is increasing the workload.
If you can do a certain weight for 6 reps and you go to 7 reps, you’ve increased workload. If you can add 5 or 10 pounds to the bar, you’ve increased workload.
You don’t have to change exercises, you don’t have to do special methods like drop sets or forced negatives. You simply have to use a system that allows you to continually progress and it doesn’t mean every single session but as long as your general trend is upward then your muscles are going to receive new growth stimulation.
- The number one key is progressive overload
- Progressive overload can be done through mechanical tension or metabolic fatique (increase the amount of weight, reps or sets)
- Muscle growth and strength go hand in hand. Aim for more strength to increase new growth
- Don’t waste your time with special methods like: dropsets, forced negatives, etc.
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