Every single successful workout program shares three qualities:
#1 It is INTENSE – The workouts push the muscle beyond what it is capable of to induce growth, or, in other words, give the muscle a reason to improve.
#2 It is CONSISTENT – Without continually working out intensely, we cannot expect to make any gains over the long term. The muscle, if given the chance, will revert back to its original size and strength.
The third and final factor is what ties the first two together:
#3 It is PROGRESSIVE – Meaning, Given we are working out with intensity, and working out consistently, the last piece of the puzzle is to ensure that we are improving our lifts/exercise in one way or another…That can be either doing more weight, more reps, longer time under tension, a quick time in a sprint, etc etc.
So many lifters work out incredibly intense, and they do so every week, week after week…..While they often look great…..they are also stagnant. Continually lifting lot of weight, if that weight is the same, and the reps are performed the same, gives the muscle no motivation to grow.
Humans are creatures of habit like no other. It is incredibly easy to come into the gym day after day and get into a rhythm of doing the same exercises with the same weight for the same rep count. The single biggest factor I employ to break this monotony is to keep a detailed log of your workout. This will allow you to reflect back each workout on exactly what weight and what rep count you did on the prior weeks workout. If you did 100lbs for 10 reps last week, you had better do 105lbs for 10 reps or 100lbs for 11 reps this week. I have found this to be a fool proof method for those who have hit a plateau. It creates a do-or-die situation in the gym, where you are either going to progress, or you are going to have to go back to the drawing board strategy wise to make adjustments to improve.
I recommend Keeping track of the following:
Your weight that day and what time of day it is you are training (if you are 5lbs lighter due to dehydration you can’t expect to be as strong)
Every set, including warmup sets, the weight as well as the rep count for each. Also note any variations in tempo, pauses etc, as these can play a factor in muscle output.
Note any soreness or special circumstances that may be affecting your performance (i.e., missed a meal, only got 4 hours of sleep, had a cheat meal yesterday)
Finally, note partial reps, that is, the repetition in which you failed.
Personally, I worked out for three years in my youth with not a ton of success, it wasn’t until I began to log my workouts to in effect force the issue that I began to see gains.(see picture of my log from a week in 1997) Every workout, I reviewed what I did last session and by no means would I not improve in SOME factor that day. If perhaps I couldn’t beat my weight or rep count that day, I would compensate by increasing volume at the end of the workout…SOMETHING was going to improve
Anyone that has hit a plateau, or just wants to gain should give this a try for 8 weeks and I can guarantee results :)