It is widely considered now by many of the smartest people in the fitness industry that the most important part and number one priority for any natural weightlifter trying to stimulate maximum muscle growth is progressive tension overload.
This means progressively increasing tension levels in the muscle fibres over time. When we are training this is done by lifting progressively heavier loads (weights) over time. If your not adding weight to the bar over time, you wont be maximising muscle growth. If your bench pressing the same weight you benched a year ago, you can bet you wont be growing. The biggest natural bodybuilders you come across are always going to be the strongest.
Your goal should be to lift slightly heavier weights each and every workout to ensure you continue stimulating growth. Of course this wont be possible every workout but you get the idea. Once you complete the required amount of reps with a certain weight, you want to add around 2.5kg/5lb to the bar and then try to achieve the required amount of reps with that new weight. Here’s how a load progression might look like for the bench press over two workouts, we will use 3 sets of 4-6 reps only increasing the weight when you hit the top of the rep range:
- Set 1. 80kg x 6
- Set 2. 82.5kg x 6
- Set 3. 85kg x 5
- Set 1. 85kg x 6
- Set 2. 87.5kg x 5
- Set 3. 87.5kg x 4
Like I said, increasing the weight each and every workout wont always be possible, the new weight might knock you down a rep or two but that’s ok you can build up your strength from there. If you have access to smaller weight plates you could even try adding smaller loads to the bar.
So now you know that the key to stimulating long term muscle growth means getting stronger over time, you might be thinking why cant I just train for maximum strength in the lower rep ranges to build muscle?
The reason this doesn’t work is because pure strength training using loads above 85% of your 1 Rep Max will increase strength but will not necessarily lead to muscle growth. This is mostly because of adaptations in the central nervous system. It maximises neural efficiency of a lift which helps you get more coordinated at a movement, greater coordination leads to more efficiency of a lift. For most people 85-100% of a persons maximum is 1-4 reps. So to get the long term muscle growth benefits from progressive tension overload, you need to be using around 75-85% of your one Rep Max, this is roughly 4-10 reps.
Pure strength training however does also have some benefits when trying to build more muscle. By spending some time training in the 1-4 rep range you will increase your neuromuscular strength. This will mean you will be able to use heavier weights training in higher rep ranges. Using heavier weights in higher rep ranges can lead to more progressive tension overload. Which will eventually lead to more muscle growth. This rep range will also target pure myofibrillar hypertrophy allowing your muscles to look rock hard or more flexed even at rest.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post if you have any questions I am more than happy to answer them.