Tony Gentilcore Explains Progressive Overload

How Much Should I Lift At The Gym? Tony Gentilcore Explains Progressive Overload

K.I.S.S Principle of the Day: Progressive Overload

TG Note: below is a question that I received from one of my distance coaching clients yesterday after he had a chance to look over his first program. To be honest, this guy has a fair amount of lifting experience, and my response to him was really basic. That said, I do get this question quite often (with CP and distance coaching clients alike) and felt it would be pertinent to discuss it in more detail here.

Q: Weight on the bar: Do I use the same weight for all sets or adjust by percentage of 1RM? Do I increase the weight every week?

A: Short answer, yes, absolutely. Far too often, I see people using the same weight week in and week out, and then they’re left dumbfounded when they realize that they look exactly the same now as they did three years ago! It’s called progressive overload people, use it!

That said, when starting a new program (or performing a new exercise for that matter), it may take a week (or two) of tweaking before you get an idea of where you’re supposed to be. This is why I often like to give people a two-rep window when writing their programs. In other words, if I programmed something like 4×6 on the deadlift; what I’m really saying is 4×4-6.

In an ideal world, no one would ever miss a lift (and Keanu Reeves, by law, would never be able to make another movie. Ever.) – unfortunately, we all know neither are going to happen.

Nonetheless, I like simplicity, and a general rule of thumb would be to use straight weight all the way through, and once you complete ALL sets on a given week, up the load by 5-10 lbs. From there, you’d repeat the same process the following training session. This way you assure progressive overload and you’re kicking ass and taking names.

Sometimes, though, it’s easier said than done. There’s going to come a point where adding 5-10 lbs every week is going to be a limiting factor. When this happens, this is where my “two-rep” window rule comes into affect. Here’s an example:

Goal: 5×5 Bench Press at 225 lbs

Week 1

Set 1: 225×5

Set 2: 225×5

Set 3: 225×4

Set 4: 225×4

Set 5: 225×3

As you can see, by set #3, this person was cutting their set short. All told, I’d rather someone stop short than perform 1-2 crappy reps. In this case, their “progressive overload” would be trying to hit those reps they left in the tank the following training session. So it may look something like this:

Week 2:

Set 1: 225×5

Set 2: 225×5

Set 3: 225×5 – Holy shit, I feel like a ninja today

Set 4: 225×5

Set 5: 225×4

In this scenario, they did three extra reps compared to the previous week – to the tune of 675 additional pounds (225 x 3). That’s 675 more lbs they lifted compared to the previous week. Progressive overload. Simple. Moving forward, they would continue to use this weight until they completed ALL reps successfully. From there, up the weight and start all over again.

Before closing, I will say that there are other ways to approach this – for instance, I’m not opposed to increasing/decreasing weight in a given training session depending on how one feels that particular day – but I’ve found that for the bulk of people, the above scenario works best. Again, keep it simple.


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Tony Gentilcore On Buns

Tony Gentilcore On Glutes and Hamstrings

A 200 metres run at the 2005 Athletics World C...
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Q and A: Cliff Notes Guide to Hamstring Strains

Q: Tony,

I am a D3 sprinter and my coach has us doing almost 150 crunches everyday. After seeing your post on why crunches are terrible for you, I was wondering what some good core exercises are?

Also, I pulled my hamstring what are some strengthening exercises? Yes, my flexibility is sub-par.

A: For starters, there are plenty of great articles you can read that not only showcase, but go into extensive detail on why crunches are about as useful as a one-legged man at an ass kicking contest. Namely, click here, here, here, and here.

In addition, I’ve written my fair share of blog posts on the topic (see above), but you can also go to my youtube page and find plenty of videos which demonstrate the whole concept of ANTI-rotational (rotary) training.

Moving on, as far as the hamstring is concerned, anytime I see or hear the word “strain” or “I pulled a muscle,” typically it’s indicative of a weak or inhibited synergist more than anything else. Put another way, it’s not so much you have weak hamstrings (although that certainly shouldn’t be ruled out); rather, you probably have weak glutes!

For those who are more visual learners – and still having a hard time figuring out where the glutes are located – this should help:

Simply put, the glutes are the body’s most powerful hip extensor – and, given that the posterior chain is fairly important in a sport such as sprinting – it only makes sense that we want to make sure the glutes fire optimally. Much like a co-worker who goes on a break and you’re left to pick up the slack (and getting pissed as a result), the hamstrings act much the same way.

When the glutes are weak and/or inhibited, the hamstrings (again, a synergist in hip extension) are essentially forced to work overtime. As a result, eventually, you’ll have yourself a chronic hamstring strain.

My suggestion would be to, first and foremost, focus on tissue quality. I still have no clue why people still fail to understand how important foam rolling is, but I’ll say it again – do your freakin foam rolling!

Far too often, we tell people to go “stretch,” but that’s not going to do any bit of good if their tissue quality sucks. You can stretch till you’re blue in the face, but until you break down all those knots, adhesions, and scar tissue bounding up the muscle in the first place, you’re never going to get full length.

More importantly, though, it’s about stretching what actually needs to be stretched. It’s no secret that we prefer to do things that are easy – stretching is no different. We like to stretch what “feels good” and what we’re good at. Oftentimes, due to a concept known as reciprocal inhibition, the glutes are inhibited because the hip flexors are tighter than a duck’s ass. People often make the mistake of stretching the hamstrings (feels good, easy), when in all actuality, they should be focusing on the hip flexors (ouch, not so easy).

As well, and this should go without saying, you need to include a lot of glute activation drills, either as part of your warm-up, or as fillers in between sets.

Additionally, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to include more exercises that emphasize the glutes: pull-throughs, glute ham raises, hip thrusters, etc.

Also – and I think this is something that a lot of people tend to neglect – you need to be cognizant of actually “finishing” your squats and deadlifts. Namely, getting those hips through and squeezing the glutes at the top of each rep. People oftentimes get a little lazy, and technique falls to the wayside.

Anyways, while this isn’t an exhaustive list, I think it hits on many of the big nuggets that most people need to focus on when dealing with hamstring strains. Hope it helps!



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