Both groups increasing weight and increasing the number of reps each week had similar increases in muscle growth. Still, the increased reps per set group had a small advantage in greater muscle growth of the rectus femoris. Increasing the weight had a better strength increase than increasing the reps.
CAN YOU BUILD MUSCLE WITHOUT PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD? RESEARCH SUMMARY
- Both groups increasing weight and increasing the number of reps each week had similar increases to build muscle. Still, the increased reps per set group had a small advantage in greater muscle growth of the rectus femoris.
- Increasing the weight had a better strength increase than increasing the reps.
WHAT DOES OVERLOADING YOUR MUSCLES ACCOMPLISH?
One of the basic tenets of muscle growth is that there needs to be progressive overload for muscles to get bigger. What is progressive overload? Progressive overload is the concept that muscles must be exposed to increased tension to keep making muscle gains. The easiest way to increase tension is to add more weight (i.e., lift heavy).
The classic story of strength training to gain muscle is the famous Greek athlete Milos of Croton, who carried a baby calf on his back. This is a classic example of progressive overload. As the calf gained weight every day, the weight he had to carry was heavier each day, and Milos gained strength. The classic linear periodization program utilizes this principle in which intensity is increased, whereas volume is reduced over time.
This is how most people design their resistance training program; they add weight to the bar. Progressive overload gradually increases the demands on your body to get bigger muscles.
HOW TO TRACK PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD
There are ways to increase muscle size without adding weight each time you go to the gym. These are some of the other ways of increasing muscle overload without adding weights:
- Increasing Sets or Reps: Keeping the same weight but training with a higher number of reps than the previous session increases the tension on the muscle.
- Using a full range of motion: Using a lighter weight with a full range of motion or training at longer lengths is more difficult and results in greater muscle hypertrophy than training with a heavier weight at short muscle lengths (i.e., partial reps).
- Lifting a weight slower: Lifting the weight at a slower rate will increase the time under tension in which the muscle is placed under tension for a greater time.
- Training Frequency: Training a muscle group more often results in a greater training volume conducive to muscle growth. A greater training frequency results in a greater amount of reps per week, resulting in greater total stress on the muscle.
- Increasing Density Training: Increasing the amount of work performed in a shorter time elicits a greater training stressor in a shorter time frame. Dropsets, Supersets, and Rest-Pause are all examples of increasing training density.