If you want to make progress during physical training, you need to get outside of your comfort zone.
Here are a few variations you can add into your programme each month and in progression.
Go heavier: This is my all-time favourite. It’s certainly the most straightforward approach to make progress, but many lifters overdo heavy lifting. Remember, the real priority for you is to get bigger, stronger, faster, and more athletic, not to satisfy one’s ego.
Increase range of motion: This is highly effective when used appropriately. However, if it is done incorrectly, you can end up injuring yourself.
I love utilising this strategy with such unilateral leg exercises as reverse lunges, Bulgarian split squats, and lateral step-ups. It is a great way not only to adapt to the general training stimulus but also to increase both the range of motion and the stability within that new range of motion.
Shrink the base of support: Exercising with a wide base of support will always be easier to accomplish than one with a restricted base of support.
Stability and balance are not the same thing. Stability constantly changes as per the positioning of the centre of gravity. Stability describes the correlation between your body, the ground, and movement. Balance, on the other hand, has to do with your capacity to maintain a given level of stability.
Your stability changes whenever you transpose yourself, or when you enter a different basic environment such as a slippery or unstable surface. But your balance changes appreciably when you increase or decrease strength, kinesthetics awareness, coordination, and proprioception. A simple example would be bilateral squat, which has a much narrower base than a single-leg squat.
Raise the centre of mass: If you lower to the ground your centre of mass during exercise, it gets easier to exercise. While doing weights training wherein we are attempting to get bigger and stronger, we need to seek inefficiency through instability with our exercises by increasing the centre of gravity when apt to do so. For example, moving from a dumbbell lunge to a barbell lunge and raising the bar overhead increases the centre of gravity.
Move the centre of mass further from the axis of rotation: This method can be a little tough to comprehend.
Think of this scenario. A sprinter is coming out of the blocks. Leaning forward helps generate momentum, and in so doing, the sprinter sacrifices his or her stability. It’s the only way sprinters can move faster in a given direction and absorb an impact.
Apply this principle to strength training. Switch from basic front squat to the Zercher squat by rolling the bar forward from the shoulders to the arms. When the load has been moved forward, the centre of gravity has been shifted further away from the axis of rotation and from the base of support. This makes the movement a lot harder and challenging.
Make the training surface unstable: Unstable surface training is often misused or misunderstood. It can be beneficial when done under the right circumstances.
It is understood that unstable surface training is rarely appropriate for the lower body. Except for the rehabilitation of functional ankle instability, it doesn’t have much merit.
It is important to note that the instability must be applied at the midsection/torso or upper body extremities. Push-ups with the hands on stability balls and pressing exercises while positioned atop a stability ball are some examples. These movements have significant benefits, enhancing shoulder proprioception and deloading joints without hurting muscle stimulation.
One can introduce instability in certain scenarios to make an exercise harder, mostly for upper body exercises.
Dynamically change surface contact: With the introduction of a dynamic element, the body under tension responds to a new stimulus. The moment one starts moving explosively and approaching a plyometric level, the stability aspect of the exercise routine gets challenging. For example, back squats versus jump squats, or push-ups versus rotating push-ups.
Lower-body engagements, particularly unilateral leg exercises, are very much compatible to an added dynamic challenge.
Decrease the contact point of stability: We are more stable when we have more points of contact to the ground. One is more stable while performing a bilateral squat than while performing a single-leg squat. Similarly, one is more stable during flat bench presses than during Swiss ball bench presses.
It’s not rocket science to reverse-engineer the process in order to increase the difficulty of an exercise.
Increase the decelerative force: Unilateral leg movements can be accelerative or decelerative. Decelerative exercises are much more challenging. Forward and lateral lunges are some decelerative exercises, while reverse lunges and step-ups are some accelerative exercises. Let us understand the exercise continuum (accelerative to decelerative) better with the help of this example: Sled Push –> Step-up –> Reverse Lunge –> glide board Reverse Lunge –> Walking Lunge –> Forward Lunge.
The eccentric stress on a sled push is really low. The eccentric stress on step-ups is slightly more, but it is less than that for reverse lunges. Adding a glide board to reverse lunges makes it harder to control the eccentric component.
Use asymmetrical loading: People have been working on the machines for decades. The major thrust nowadays is to work on free weight with asymmetrical loading to seek the stability benefits for the long run.
Symmetrical loading is understandably very important for both strength development and muscle building where muscular tension and mind-muscle connection are mandatory. However, if the aim is to make training more challenging and to derive the maximum functional carryover to real sport or life, having some asymmetrical loading is ideal.
Here are some ideas
One point dumbbell rows
One arm farmer’s walks or overhead dumbbell lunge walk
One-arm, and leg dumbbell Romanian deadlifts
Single leg and arm row pulls and press
One-arm overhead dumbbell Bulgarian split squats
Dumbbell or kettlebell Turkish get-ups
The goal is to maintain a symmetrical posture in spite of the destabilising torques with an asymmetrical load.
Does tempo play a role?
Altering the tempo of a rep by increasing or decreasing the positive or negative does not make an exercise tougher. It makes it more distinctive.
By increasing the time under tension of each rep, the reduction of the load is inevitable. So it’s a trade-off, even if the eccentric phase is one principal way to kickstart muscle growth.
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Publish date: 2023-02-18 09:00:00
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