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Why am I not getting stronger? The Art of Manipulation: 4 variables you need to be aware of now!

We’ve all been there! You follow a ‘program’. It seemed legit (you found it on Google, not Yahoo). But for some weird reason, you didn’t get stronger? You tell your teammates and coach that you’ve been hitting the gym all summer and are ready for a big season, but in reality, you’re not really that much stronger than you were 12 weeks ago when you started this ‘program’. What the f’ is going on!?

This is an all too common situation amateur athletes and recreational gym goers find themselves in. There is an abundance of strength training programs out there freely available on the internet, and even some written by personal trainers, that claim you’ll get stronger, leaner, fitter, etc, but fail to deliver. Why might you ask? The short and simple answer is monotony.

The short and simple answer is monotony.

Think about it. You get your 12-week program. All you see is 3 sets of 10 reps for every exercise. FOR 12 WEEKS! Now please note, I’ve got nothing against doing 3 sets of 10 reps. It’s a solid rep range and volume to start strength training. But for 12 weeks? Seriously.

What’s the solution? How can you get stronger/bigger/leaner? It’s called Manipulation.

4 simple and effective ways you can progress and manipulate your strength sessions to make those incremental gains are outlined below:

1. Intensity (Load) – E.g. 100kg à 105kg

A nice and easy one to kick you off. Pushing yourself to lifting that extra 5kg will put an added stress and stimulus on your body/muscles, and therefore forcing your body to adapt to the new weight. The majority of the time, if you increase intensity, volume usually decreases to allow the body to adapt, then you can slowly inch back up to the original volume with the new weight.

Example of how to increase intensity (load) over a 4 week period.

2. Volume (Reps/Sets) – E.g. 10 reps to 12 reps, or 10 reps to 8 reps (at higher intensity)

Decreasing or increasing the volume of your training will have an effect on your results. Decreasing volume (reps) usually goes hand-in-hand with increasing intensity (load). Whereas, if you’re not able to increase the intensity just yet (for example, a 2.5kg increase each on DBs), increasing your sets by 1 or 2 reps will give you the incremental gains you are searching for.

Example of how to increase volume (reps) over a 4 week period.

3. Tempo – Speed of the movement

The slower the movement, the harder it will be for you to execute. A strength movement is broken into 3 phases; the eccentric phase (down), isometric phase (hold between down and up), and concentric phase (up). Increasing the time across one or all 3 of these phases, will make the lift more difficult, and result in greater physiological adaptations to your training. Handy tip, if you’re struggling with Pull Ups, try slowing down the eccentric phase of the lift first.

Tempo- 2:1:2
These can all be adjusted accordingly; e.g.
Fast tempo - 1:0:1
Controlled eccentric - 3:0:1
Slow tempo - 3:3:2

4. Frequency – How often you train (session and/or exercise)

There is a minimum frequency you need to train to see meaningful changes. Once every 2 weeks is not enough. Twice a day, 7 days a week is too much. The same goes for exercises. Bench press once every 2 weeks will not result in fast (if any) increases. Whereas benching twice a week separated with adequate rest, will result in greater gains. Each individual is different and as you progress through your training, you’ll quickly find out how much your body can tolerate on a weekly basis. As a general rule, you should give yourself 24hrs+ rest between strength sessions.

Example of a poor training frequency
Example of a much better frequency (note - Friday's strength should be very light)

We (coaches and gym users) always need to be manipulating something in the gym. What I mean by that is, we always need to be changing something in a planned and progressed way.

If you take the above example of 3 sets of 10 reps for 12 weeks. You squat 100kg for 10 reps over 3 sets for 12 weeks straight; Did you get stronger over the 12 weeks? Did you better yourself each and every gym session? No and No.

This is why there is such a strong need to alter/change/manipulate something in each session. If nothing changes, you don’t change!

Take these simple variables and apply them throughout your next performance program to see those incremental gains skyrocket! Recording your workout each session is a great way to keep on top of manipulating these variables, plus you get to see the increases in your results at the conclusion of the program. Please be mindful to not apply too many of these variables at the one time. Adjust one thing, see how your body adapts, then go from there.

If you want to get in contact or start training with our coaches and let them worry about all these variables for you get in contact with the ACE Performance team here.

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