The real reason you’re not building lean muscle 💪 and the 1 change I made that changed everything
From my observations, resistance training has become a lot more popular now than it previously was. Before, it was deemed just for athletes, bodybuilders and for those who wanted to look “huge” and “manly”. Although some of those connotations still exist, it has become a lot more recognised for its health-related benefits for everyone.
But effective resistance training can’t exist without a good program that’s designed to help with technique, strength, progressive overload, and periodisation. That’s where Train With Soph comes in (I'm not biased at all), whether your goal is to build lean muscle or drop body fat, TWS programs are designed with progressive overload principles to help you achieve your goals!
What is progressive overload and why is it important?
If there’s one thing I can attribute the greatest change in my physique to, it’s focussing on training closer to failure. That’s the simple way to put it, now let’s chat about the scientific reason my body changed so much:
Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed on the body during resistance training to stimulate muscle growth. This can come in many forms, not just increasing the weight we’re lifting which we’ll discuss shortly. Progressively overloading over the duration of our program, will make sure that we’re constantly putting “stress” on our muscles when we resistance train.. To put it simply, in order to build lean muscle mass, we need to be working our muscles harder than the week before to reap the benefits. It doesn’t need to be major changes, it’s been suggested anything between 2.5%-5% is suitable in helping you build lean muscle.
How can I be progressively overloading to build lean muscle?
- Increased resistance: Aka getting stronger! Gradually increasing our weight or load that we’re lifting. Make sure when you’re increasing load that you're still focusing on perfect technique to avoid injuries
- Time under tension: remember, muscles don't count reps, they respond to time under tension - the amount of time we're trying to resist against the force being applied. This is where the aforementioned 'training to failure' comes in. So often we get stuck in rep ranges and stop when we've hit the allocated number. But this is where we're losing progress. Our mind stops before our body does - if you're not challenging your body, then you're not going to change it. It's those last few reps, those hard ones we're grinding out that feel like we're not going to complete them that have more of an impact on our progress than anything else. Note time under tension can be increased by using paused reps, slow eccentrics and 1& ¼ reps
- Rest periods: Insufficient rest periods means slower recovery from muscle damage and more overall fatigue which hinders our ability to lift what we're capable of lifting - and as you now know, our ability to progressively overload. Rest periods are essential in making sure we can perform well between each set, as our muscles recover better.
- Volume: Upping our sets and reps overtime is another way to periodise our training and achieve progressive overload. If you think you’ve got one more set you could do or if you could do a couple more reps this will still help you build lean muscle. This is a particularly good method if putting more load on is just not an option. Keep in mind that there's only so far we can increase our sets + reps, if we're not recovering from training volume, we're doing more harm than good (programming is an art, which is why it's worth getting someone who knows their sh*t to do it for you).
- Exercises per session (as compared to gym sessions): Depending on the individual, you can increase how many exercises you do in a session or add another day in your training program (frequency). This will increase the frequency in which you target a particular muscle group hence increasing overload for muscle growth. With all that said, some of the best results myself and my clients have experienced have been from less frequency and volume - we have to look at this on an individual level.
- Technique: Greater range of motion, proper form and technique will also contribute to greater muscle gaining outcomes. Couldn’t get as deep in your squat one week with 50kg on your back, but get a few cm deeper the following week? This counts too!
- Recoverability: The forgotten and hard to measure factor is our ability to recover. If you’re not recovering between sessions you’ll hinder your ability to continue to progress. Don’t feel guilty when you rest - it’s KEY if your goal is building sexy shape and strength!
Essentially in order to create muscle growth and build “lean” muscle which most of our community wants to achieve, we need to be progressively working harder each week using one or some of these methods and following a program that’s designed with the right exercises for progressive overload. If you’re struggling and you need some help, become a TWS member today and I’ll do the heavy (mental) lifting for you!