AND WHY YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND IT
Progression (or Progression Overload) is the concept that makes this whole fitness thing work.
Your body is one of the most adaptable mechanisms in the word. Introduce your body to a new form of stimulus and it will adapt in a matter of days or weeks. It’s called Adaptive Response
Your body is also one of the most efficient mechanisms in the world. It will find a way to use the least energy possible for a given task.
In fitness, progression is, well, …..how you progress. Whether your goal is strength, mass, speed, stamina or weightloss.
If you’re not performing more total work compared to the last time you lifted, then you won’t produce positive physiological or neural adaptations.
In its simplest form progression means when your body reaches a certain level you have to raise the bar. Otherwise, improvement (fat loss, strength gain, muscle gain or stamina, speed) stops or even declines.
The average period it takes your body to adapt is less than 4 weeks. Longer for some (especially beginners), less for others. But, at some point, you body adapts to the stimulus and gains stop and eventually regress.
The most obvious form of progression in resistance training is adding weight to the bar. If you set/rep scheme calls for 3 sets of 10 for a given exercise and you hit that goal you increase the weight. But there are others:
· Increase the volume –More sets and/or more reps, drop sets, rest-pause sets
· Slow the tempo-increase the time lowering the weight(Eccentric phase) For example, 3 seconds instead of 1 second for each rep
· Change the angle of attack-change your grip (hand placement) or your stance
· Shorten the rest period between sets-say, from 1 minute to 30 seconds
· Change the order of you exercises within your program
There are others. But you get the idea. Anything to make the lift more difficult fights the adaptive response of your body.
So, if your goals are any of those mentioned above, progression must take place or your progress will stall. But there’s more…..
After 12 to 16 weeks (give or take) you’re going to have to do more to fight the adaptive response. Why? (1)You can only add so much weight to the bar. If you weigh 120 pounds you are not likely to be able to dead lift 300. (Though it’s not impossible-I’ve seen it done). And (2) your body begins to actually anticipate what you’re going to do! That’s how efficient your body is. When that happens you will likely start to regress. As Captain Picard says, “There is no maintenance phase”.
At 12 to 16 weeks it’s probably time to change your program. A major overhaul may be required. Not to worry, there are thousands of good, effective, workable programs.
One of the most successful methods to beat the adaptive response long term is called Periodization.
We’ll take up that subject in a future post.
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