by Dr. Matthew Chircop
When you first start heavy resistance training there is a rapid response – you might notice that you are able to increase the resistance fairly consistently on an almost weekly basis for the first few months. In these early stages, much of the increase in “strength” is actually due to neurological adaptation. As the nervous system learns the movement pattern for each exercise, the execution of the movement becomes more efficient and fluid.
Following that initial rapid improvement phase, the rate of increase in strength between workouts decreases over time. Up until now, your strength training progression has been linear. At some point, your ability to increase the resistance used will reduce (both in magnitude and in frequency). Whatever the cause, the overall approach is the same – it’s time to periodise your training.
Break through your strength plateau by periodising your training.
Instead of increasing the intensity from each workout to the next (either by increasing the resistance or increasing the number of repetitions) – called linear periodisation or linear progression – you modulate the intensity from workout to workout. For example, a common example is to modulate training difficulty such that one session might be easy, the next one moderate, the next one hard, and back to easy again. You aim not only to modulate the difficulty of the workouts for a certain group of muscles over the course of a month, but also over the course of a week (among workouts for different muscle groups). For example, one week the shoulder session might be the most difficult, then next week, the chest, the next week the back, the next week the legs etc. You also modulate the easy and the moderate difficulty workouts for each group. Within this pattern, you keep the 1 repetition maximum (RM) the same, and you modulate the number of repetitions and the resistance accordingly over the weeks or months, until you think your muscles have adapted (and then you increase the 1 RM and repeat the pattern).
For example, in “Sport Physiology for Coaches” by Sharkey and Gaskill they use 3 levels of difficulty as follows:
Workout Difficulty Set Reps Weight
Medium 1 6 85% 1 RM
2 8 80% 1 RM
3 10 75% 1 RM
Easy 1 4 90% 1 RM
2 8 80% 1 RM
Hard 1 1 100% 1 RM
2 4 90% 1 RM
3 6 85% 1 RM
4 8 80% 1 RM
For more details about the rationale behind training periodization, read this article.
As always, don’t fight your body. Work with it. If your body is telling you that you can no longer progress linearly, then either periodise your workouts in other ways (such as the example by Gaskill and Sharkey above), or else stay at the same resistance for longer (e.g. 4 to 6 weeks if necessary). Add active recovery or deload weeks more frequently if required. Consider reducing your training frequency by one day a week.
Note that significant non-training stressors (e.g. grief, work/study assignments, illnesses etc.) can impact on your training progress. Be proactive and modulate your training accordingly – either by incorporating deload weeks around those times, changing training frequency, or substituting workouts for activities less intense (e.g. go for a walk instead of an intense gym session). At certain times in your life, “not progressing”, but also “not regressing”, is the best you can expect.
Don't forget to post pics of your body transformation journey on Facebook (@bodysculptorsaustralia) and Instagram (@bodysculptorsaustralia) and tag us - we love to see people improve their health.
Improved health through better food choices
It is not a diet, but a healthy way of life
A healthy lifestyle does not have to be boring, it is all about delicious food
You might also be interested in the following articles:
8 reasons why meal planning will ensure you lose weight and keep it off for good
Understanding portion sizes
Diet sabotage – drinking your calories
The secret to eating for weight loss
Integrated approach to long term weight loss & better health
A morning pick-me-up that will burn fat
Nut butter chocolate crackles
Skinny baked strawberry cheesecake
Healthy dessert swap – Skinny pavlova semifreddo
Consistency – The Key to Success
Diet, training & recovery
Overtraining – too much of a good thing
Leanness and muscularity
The different aspects of fitness
Transform your life, health and body today
Feel fantastic again in your own skin by learning what foods your body needs to nourish itself
Please be respectful of other participants in the conversation. We'd love you to keep your comments respectful, friendly and relevant. Differences of opinion are welcome, but trolling and abuse of other commentators and the Body Sculptors Australia team is not, and will result in blacklisting.
At Body Sculptors Australia, we believe in NOURISHING YOURSELF from the inside out! Because YOU are worth it. And good health, happiness and confidence comes from within.
Understanding your own nutritional requirements can often be confusing, especially as we age and our hormones change. I am in my 40s, a single mum to a 6yr old daughter, whom has boundless energy and I want to keep up. So I understand how difficult it can be and how time-poor we all are and therefore put ourselves last, especially as parents.
With my experience, I can help you understand your body and what nourishment it needs to feel happy, lighter, & confident in your own skin.
I am also a keen sportswoman, and have extensive knowledge of sports nutrition. So, if you are looking to up your performance to achieve your best, reach out.
Dr Megan Chircop
© COPYRIGHT 2018 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.