Come into the gym. Pick things up. Put them down. Let the gains follow. Seems easy enough, right? If you’re a beginner then yes, to a certain extent that mindset will get results for a small period of time.
But what do you do once the dreaded plateau hits and your gains come screeching to a halt?
The answer? A good program. A good workout program will help keep you on track towards hitting your goals and will ensure you avoid the dreaded plateau. This will ensure that there is a plan every time you walk into the gym instead of just doing whatever random exercises you feel like that day. And as the weeks go by, you’ll continue to get leaner, stronger, more functionally fit, and feel more confident in yourself – both in and out of the gym.
For some of you, this blog post may be the supercharged information you need to take your workout plan to the next level. But for some of you, this information may seem overwhelming. And that’s okay – Iron Orr Fitness Personal Trainers master this information so that you don’t have to. So whether or not you notice the intricacies of your workout plan, you will notice the results!
In this blog:
The Importance of Progressive Overload
What is progressive overload? It is the gradual increase in stress that is put on the body during training. There are multiple factors that play into stress. Volume and intensity are the biggest ones when referring to resistance training. A good program will keep the stress gradually increasing over the course of your training cycle, and set you up for continuous PR’s!
You’re probably thinking, “So all I need to do is keep adding weight every week to keep overloading, right?” Not exactly. If that were the case, you could keep adding five pounds every week to the bar and you would be benching five hundred pounds in no time. I can tell you right now for multiple reasons, that will not work. As you get closer to your genetic strength potential, the amount of weight you can add on the bar will slow down. This is where a good program will keep adjusting the variables to keep the body adapting.
Undulating Vs. Linear Progressions
A linear program is what we talked about earlier. A week to week progression of increasing volume and intensity. For a beginner, a linear program is the best type of program because beginner and intermediate lifters are generally nowhere close to reaching their strength potential in the gym. 5,10, and even 20 lb jumps are in the realm of possibility for a total beginner!!
For someone who has 6 months to a year or more of lifting experience, they do not have the luxury of running a linear progression indefinitely.
What options are this person left with?
That is where the undulating program is the superior choice. Undulating is to move with a rhythm, rising and falling. In this case, volume and intensity will be the factors that are undulating.
To really understand how an undulating program works, you need to understand that there is an inverse relationship between volume and intensity. Unless you are in an overreaching phase — getting ready to peak for a competition, volume and intensity cannot both be elevated. The idea is that while some training session intensities might be high, the volume for that day will be low. This will still allow for a good amount of stimulus, but without fatiguing the central nervous system to the point that compromises training sessions for the rest of the week. The next training session would be a lower intensity day to let the body recover while still receiving enough stimulus from a higher volume workload to keep getting stronger.
Benefits of an Undulating Program
Coming into the gym and lifting heavy every training session can be physically and mentally daunting. An undulating program gives you some “easier” workouts throughout the week where you can focus more on form or speed. The “easier” days also allow the central nervous system to recover for your next higher intensity training session — where the need for strong and powerful muscle contractions are more crucial. Without these built-in recover days, you might notice your performance in the gym will start to suffer.
This one is huge. If you are hurt, you cannot train. Plain and simple. All the gains and progress you made will now be in the rear-view mirror as you focus on recovery and rehab. If your training program is asking you to push to the maximum effort week after week without allowing for proper recovery time, then you are increasing your risk of injury. You cannot coordinate a heavy movement effectively if you are beat down and worn out.
How to Know if a Program is Right for You
Choosing the right program for your specifics needs will depend on your goals and your capabilities. The program for an elite strength athlete will look different than a sixty-year-old female just wanting to get healthier. The problem with online programs, while some of them are very good templates to follow, is that most online programs are written in a cookie-cutter way so that they can be somewhat effective for 90% of the population. Online programs do not account for an individual’s particular strengths and weaknesses, nor do they provide optimal efficiency for your time in the gym. Sure, online programs may work for a while, but ultimately more is needed to become your best. Solution? Get a coach, — and a good one!!
Working with a good coach relieves the pressure to design good workout plans on your own, and puts that responsibility in the hands of a professional. Trust the process and give it your all, and the results will follow!
If you are truly trying to make your time in the gym count, a customized program with a professional personal training coach is your best bet. The only thing left to ask is: What are you waiting for?
-by Paul Inga