For many years, I had it ingrained in my brain that if I could lift more weight, for more reps, my body would have no choice but to get bigger and bigger.
I genuinely believed this to be true for a very long time. If I got 9 reps of 95 pounds on my barbell curl last time I did it, then I was going to get 10 this time, come hell or high water. I often did get that “10 reps” and perhaps the “number” did do a bit to appease my OCD mind. However, my way of thinking was entirely flawed, as I failed to factor in rep speeds, body mechanics, and form breakdown into the rep count.
All that mattered was the reps. Did I inherently know those factors were important? Of course I did! But I was lying to myself, living in a fantasy land of PRs and perfect form.
Today, my training is very different. I no longer keep a “log book” to beat, but instead, by utilizing Metabolic Training, I am able to focus on time under tension, drop sets, accentuated negatives, and perhaps most importantly, MUSCULAR CONTRACTIONS.
Unless you are training sheerly for strength or athletic performance (and even then, it is always good to “feel” a muscle working), then you really should be getting your “progressive overload” through more density in your training (more work in the same amount of time, or the same work in less time), intensity techniques (rest pause, drop sets, supersets, etc) that will challenge you in new ways.
As embarrassing as it is to admit for someone who has been “training” for 20 years now, I have only started focusing on muscular contractions in the last 3 years. Previously, I was simply “lifting weights,” moving iron objects from “Point A” to “Point B.”
My body has definitely responded favorably. I am 5’8” and 160 pounds; nobody will ever accuse me of being a “massive” guy, and I am ok with that. However, I can say with confidence that I feel as though emphasizing the muscular contraction, really SQUEEZING the target muscle on each rep, has allowed me to maximize my genetic potential in terms of muscular development.
If you take one thing from this blog post, I implore you to consider the notion, that maybe, just maybe “progressive overload” means more than lifting more weight for more reps over time. By focusing on the contractions, using no “body English” to lift the weight, and messing around with different tempos, you will be able to provide your body with the perfect amount of overload that it needs to grow and develop.
You do not need a log book to tell you what to do, as a major benefit of training for TUT is that your BODY will tell you what you CAN do with proper form, on that day. In this realm, the strength gains you will experience are MUCH more accurate, sustainable, and authentic. Still skeptical?
Assume the proper position for a pushup. Go on your knees if pushups are hard for you. Perform 10 reps as fast you can. Rest 1:00. Perform 10 reps by CONTROLLING the negative in 3 seconds, and SQUEEZING your pecs at the top. You WILL feel the difference here, and odds are, your muscles will too. Put those log books away, squeeze the muscle, train smart, and most of all, HAVE FUN!