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Increasing Strength Without Getting Bulky

This is not a problem for most people! Most bodybuilders and even average guys want to get big and intimidating through bodybuilding. But there is a class of people who want to get stronger and faster without getting all beefed up – competitive athletes. This class includes gymnasts, marathoners, swimmers, cricketers, footballers just to name a few. The most obvious thing to do to increase an athlete’s strength would be to increase the load in every workout. But then that will result in quick burnout especially when one considers the fact that athletes in this category are already training hard for their chosen sport. Load and speed progressions are a great way to obtain this goal.

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If you read my previous article here – http://www.wellintra.com/how-to-get-more-performance-from-your-workouts/ you will see a big difference. The total volume of workout in each set is much lesser. Lifting higher volumes of weight is great to battle hypertrophy but it is limited in terms of pure strength. Since the stated goal here is to limit hypertrophy and maximize strength, you will be doing better with less work and performing the same at a much higher intensity.  Lets discuss speed progression in a bit more detail. The idea of timing the duration of your sets might be something new to you. But how does one do it? Ideally, our personal trainers would be timing your sets with a stopwatch and you could keep precise records of your progress. Your training partner could also be doing this. It is hard to see one second decreases in the time durations as you move from 4 seconds to 3 seconds to 2 seconds. You are more likely to improve by fractions of a second. But that is still progress!

For those who wish to train alone and have some disposable income, you could check out the Tendo Power Analysers to monitor your progress. It’s a mircrocomputer device with a cable that attaches to the barbell and measures the velocity in metres/second that the barbell is moving. Additionally, it also measures peak velocity, average power and peak power along with some other cool and impressive data figures that you can either show off to your buddies or do mini power competitions with others.

Lets do a summary of the five methods that one can use to improve performance:

1. Rep Progression: Add a repetition to each set using the same load as the previous workout.

2. Set Progression: Add a set to each exercise while using the same load as the previous workout.

3. Rest Progression: Decrease the rest period between each set using the same training load.

4. Speed Progression: Complete each set in less time that the previous workouts.

5. Load Progression: Increase the training load with subsequent sessions.

Periodization

Even if you take away nothing from this and the previous articles, I hope you will remember that – Regardless of your training goals you must use atleast two different progression methods in each week’s workouts. The main aspect of any periodized system of exercise is the manner in which it anticipates your body’s adaptation and changes the training variables before your body gets a chance to stagnate with those exercises. There are two main types of periodization:

Undulating Periodization

This can be described as a constant change in sets, reps and sometimes weights with each subsequent workout. Let us assume that your next four workouts are based on the following set-rep configurations: 3 x 8 (three sets of eight reps), 8 x 3, 4 x 6 and 6 x 4. This can be considered as an undulating periodization system.

Conjugate Periodization

This was a system that was popularized by Russian strength coaches. It involves training multiple motor abilities (speed, strength, endurance) in the same phase of a workout program. Both undulating and conjugate periodization systems work extremely well. The undulating system has worked very well for bodybuilders while the conjugate system is great for power athletes. It is difficult to go wrong with either systems. The linear periodization system on the other hand which most average fitness enthusiasts fall prey to has a great drawback. When you focus all your efforts on improving strength you can be sure you will fall behind in the other qualities.

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