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9 Ways to Keep Getting Better by Christian Thibaudeau The secret to building muscle and strength is to progress.

You must challenge your body on a consistent basis and find ways to progressively ask more of it. If you do the same thing over and over again, you'll end up looking the same as you do now in a month, a year, or ten years. Progress is the name of the game, not program design, not tempo or other small details. Find a way to progress and you'll gain size and strength. Now, there's more than one way to progress. Basically what we're looking for are ways to make our bodies work harder. This is progress and this is what will lead to growth. Here are a few ways to make your body work harder: 1. Increase the load: You can challenge your body by adding weight to the bar and performing the same number of reps per set. For example, if you did 225 pounds for 10 reps on the bench press last week and put up 230 for 10 this week, you've forced your body to work harder. Obviously, this method of progression has its limits: you can't add weight to the bar every week. If this were possible, you'd increase your bench press by 260 pounds a year simply by adding five pounds per week to the bar. 2. Increase the reps: Another way to make your body work harder is to do more reps per set with the same weight. For example, if last week you did 225 for 10 reps and this week you do 225 for 12 reps, you've progressed. Just like with method one, you can't add reps like this every week. 3. Increase the average weight lifted for an exercise: This is very similar to the first method; however, the first method refers to lifting more weight on your max set. This one refers to lifting more weight on average for an exercise. For example, let's say that you perform 4 sets of 10 reps on the bench press: Week 1 Set no.1: 200lbs x 10 (2000lbs) Set no.2: 210lbs x 10 (2100lbs) Set no.3: 220lbs x 10 (2200lbs) Set no.4: 225lbs x 10 (2250lbs) Total weight lifted = 8550lbs Average weight per set = 2137lbs Average weight per rep = 213.7lbs (214lbs) Week 2 Set no.1: 210lbs x 10 (2100lbs) Set no.2: 215lbs x 10 (2150lbs) Set no.3: 225lbs x 10 (2250lbs) Set no.4: 225lbs x 10 (2250lbs) Total weight lifted = 8750lbs Average weight per set = 2187lbs Average weight per rep = 218.7lbs (219lbs) As you can see, even though the same top weight was reached during both workouts, on week two you lifted five pounds more on average. This is progression! 4. Increase training density: You can also progress by increasing the amount of work you perform per unit of time. This basically refers to decreasing the rest between sets while keeping the weight used the same (or not decreasing it too much). By reducing rest intervals your body is forced to work harder and recruit more muscle fibers due to the cumulative fatigue phenomenon. 5. Increase training volume: This is probably the simplest progression method. If you want to make your body do more work, well, do more work! This means adding sets for each muscle group.

For example, on week one you might perform 9 work sets for a muscle group and bump it to 12 on week two and 14 on week three. While this can work, it shouldn't be abused as it can lead to overtraining. Most trainees should stick to no more than 12 total sets per muscle groups 90% of the time. 6. Use intensive training methods: The occasional inclusion of methods such as drop sets, rest/pause sets, tempo contrast, iso-dynamic contrast, supersets, and compound sets is another way of making your body work harder. It also shouldn't be abused as it represents a tremendous stress on the muscle and nervous system. 7. Use more challenging exercises: If you're used to doing all your training on machines then move up to free weights. You'll force your body to work harder because you have to stabilize the load. If you use only isolation exercises and start including compound/multi-joint movements, you'll also make your body work harder because of the intermuscular coordination factor. 8. Produce more tension in the targeted muscle group: It's one thing to lift the weight; it's another thing to lift it correctly in order to build size! As I often say, when training to build muscle you're not lifting weights; you're contracting your muscles against a resistance. You can improve the quality of your sets, and thus make your body work harder, by always trying to flex the target muscle as hard as possible during the whole duration of each rep. 9. Increase the time under tension by lowering the weight under control: I'm not a huge fan of precise tempo recommendations; I find that they can interfere with training intensity. However, I do acknowledge that when a muscle is under constant tension for a relatively longer period of time (up to 45-70 seconds) more hypertrophy can be stimulated. The best way to do this without having to use less weight is to lower the weight more slowly, still focusing on tensing the muscles as hard as possible the whole time. These are just a few ways of progressing. You don't have to use them all at the same time, but knowing that each of these represents a progression will allow you to constantly challenge your body. You can't lift more weight today? No problem, try one of the other eight methods. The key is progression. Find a way to progress every week and you're sure to grow.