Decline Dumbbell Press

I love the term “resistance progression”.

I mean, really, think about it. Without any resistance, there would be no progression. Whether it’s in the weight room or in our own lives, facing resistance is how we make progress.

And at the very core of this term lies a simple message: if we continue to do things the way we have always done them before, we’ll always continue to see the same results we’ve seen before. New results come with new actions.

Without deviation, progress is not possible

-Frank Zappa

In order to continue our weight lifting progress, we must find ways to increase the resistance placed on our muscles. As promised, here are 10 ways to achieve resistance progression:

  1. Poundage- This is the most obvious one. Add just 5 more pounds to your lift. Continue to add small amounts that accumulate to big increases over time. Of course, this is more difficult if you’re doing side laterals with 15 lb dumbbells and 20 is your next option (a 33% increase). Good thing we have 9 other ways…
  2. Reps- This is my personal favorite. Ask yourself, could I have done just one more rep? You’d be surprised how often the answer is yes. Try to increase your reps, and when they reach a certain point, increase the weight and drop the reps back down.  Good lifting routines guide you through this.
  3. Volume- If you’re doing 2 sets of a particular exercise, you might kick it up to 3 at some point.  Again, a good routine will already have guidelines around this.  This approach is better for newbies than for intermediates.
  4. Intensity- Going through intensity cycles can help you to avoid hitting a plateau. Going 100% on your exercises all the time and for every workout might not always work. For example, once you get to the intermediate stage and beyond, you are unlikely to set personal records on every exercise every week.  Depending on what routine I’m on, I may only pick one exercise per workout to try to set a record on.
  5. Exercises- Switching to new exercises can help to keep your muscles off guard. If your muscles have adapted to your current exercises, a new movement can feel more intense. Also, some exercises are simply more intense than others.
  6. Rest Intervals- Your body needs some rest between each set that you do. If you’re resting too long, or if your body can handle another set a bit sooner, resting a little less can take it up a notch. Of course, you’ll probably need more rest between the larger exercises (squats) than the smaller ones (curls).
  7. Combinations- Training your shoulders and chest on the same day makes for a more difficult triceps workout. On the flip side, if your triceps are getting tired before your shoulders when you press, doing shoulders and chest on separate days can give you a more intense shoulder workout. You’ll need to think about how this principle affects your current situation.
  8. Order of Exercises- In general, you probably will want to do your larger exercises earlier in your workout since they require more energy. But you can also increase the intensity on a certain muscle group by moving it up earlier in your routine when you have that energy. Just avoid making mistakes like working your forearms or biceps before your back, your triceps before your chest, or leg extensions before squats. If you need that muscle for a bigger exercise, do the bigger exercise first.
  9. Training Frequency- At some point, you’ll be ready for this. If you are training your legs 3 times every 2 weeks, you might move to twice a week.  But you have to be careful about muscle recovery time.
  10. Going Past Failure- There are a number of techniques available. You might have a spotter help you get one more rep, maybe you strip enough weight off the barbell so that you can keep going at the end of the workout, etc.

The most important thing, plain and simple, is that you make some form of progress during each of your workouts. You don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) be increasing the intensity on every exercise every time over the long haul. But when you go for your workout, set a goal to make at least some sort of progress on even just one exercise.

It might be just one more rep, five more pounds… but this will help to keep you motivated. You will go in with the attitude of getting better and not just going through the motions. Also, keep a journal so that you can track yourself and see how much you progress over time.

Another Title for this Post

The title of this post is “10 Ways to Achieve Resistance Progression”. Guess what else I could have named this post… I could have just as easily called this post “10 Great Ways to Overtrain Yourself”.

Don’t burst into the gym like a bat out of hell and try to do all 10 of these in a single workout. Slow and steady progress is key to giving your body the increases that it can handle. Don’t go running down the wrong road just for the sake of increasing the intensity.

I think this quote from C.S. Lewis sums it up the best:

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back the soonest is the most progressive.

-C.S. Lewis

Do you have other suggestions?  Share a comment!

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