Today’s topic is progression when it comes to strength training. How to do it safely, how quickly you should progress and how it happens.
How does strength progression happen?
For every lifter, from beginner to advanced, progression is achieved by providing enough stimulus to achieve a compensatory effect. For n00bs, this isn’t much stimulus. You’ll achieve progressions in strength just by practicing technique. This is because strength increases are a combination of increased neuromuscular efficiency (your brain, your muscles and your joint movements making special friends) and physiological strength gains (your muscles and tendons getting bigger, stronger and…haha…stiffer). Working on either of these will see improvement at the start, and over the short term will continue to work synergistically to allow you to make constant, and roughly linear progress. You’ll be able to add a little bit of weight each week or so, and keep moving up.
What if my progress has stalled or slowed?
Once you’ve been at it for a while (‘a while’ is an indeterminate time frame, depending on how quickly you learn skills) it’s time for you to start thinking about programming. Most programs are designed to progress you from lower weights to higher weights over a period of time, typically 8-16 weeks, with 12 weeks usually being the norm. This is because progress eventually stops being linear, and the giddy heights of strength you achieve at the end of a program can’t be maintained indefinitely. The body cannot continue to work with loads nearing your max for too long. It taxes your connective tissue, your nervous system and eventually you’ll get sad, or injured, or both. At this point we usually deload, test or both. It takes time for techniques to embed themselves, it takes time for muscle to grow and develop and it takes a lot of practice to make sure you’re performing your movements optimally, which encompasses safety and efficiency.
Why are programs necessary for strength progression?
At Below Parallel, everyone has a program, either ours, or their individual coaches’ program. This is because it’s the safest and most efficient way to ensure everyone is doing the right type of work, at the right intensity, for the right amount of time. The speed of progression is measured, the loads are appropriate for your level of strength, and someone’s there to hold your hand as much as you need it.
Is powerlifting right for me?
When it comes to progression in any sort of strength training, powerlifting or otherwise, understanding the fundamentals of proper technique and assessing how to progress your weights appropriately is a non-negotiable. Unfortunately, short of doing a professional course (and even then – looking at you express PT courses) it isn’t always easy to determine this for yourself. If you need help, come to Below Parallel and we’ll provide.
We do offer a free week with coached sessions for anyone looking to start down the strength training path, or refine their technique and, most importantly, we always have lollies in the gym. You can pop in your details below if that floats your boat.