Incremental Adjustments for Weight Training By Mo Mendez
The "magic" in weight training, the factor that allows the use of iron to increase muscle size, is positive incremental adjustment. The body responds to each new and difficult challenge by building itself back up just a bit more with each successive challenge (provided correct nutrition is followed). For example, if you were to curl 70 pounds for five repetitions then the body would respond by making the muscles strong enough and large enough to handle that weight fairly easily. The five repetitions which were difficult at the initial stage would be easier to lift after a few training sessions.
If you increased your repetition range to 10 the body would respond again by adding a little more strength and size to overcome the new stimulation of the added weight. This would continue until you began to get into the area of diminishing returns (for the upper body this generally occurs around 12 to 15 repetitions; for the lower body it generally takes effect beyond 20 repetitions. Occasionally a high-rep workout acts like a "shock" routine, but results are usually shortlived beyond a couple of workouts). At the point of diminishing returns it is better to increase the amount of the weight rather than the repetition count.
If you were to stay at the 70-pound weight for 10 repetitions indefinitely, your body would cease to respond with new muscular growth. It would provide only what is necessary to get the job done and no more. The same principle applies to free-hand workouts - a very minimal amount of gain would accompany each similar workout - only enough to hold the muscle and strength in a static state. When you want to move ahead, you have to present the body with a reason to do so - a new and more difficult challenge. The increase in the amount of weight used will provide that challenge. In this example the amount on the barbell for curls would be increased to perhaps 80 pounds.
You would not be able to get as many repetitions with the new and heavier weight in the beginning, but once your body spent some time working with the heavier weight it would again respond with new strength and muscle size so that your progression would again be evident. The muscle-building formula is quite simple: The progressive increase in the amount of poundage used in a training program is shortly followed by a progressive increase in the strength of the body and then the size of the muscle, provided sufficient rest and nutrition are obtained.
This formula provides exactly what you want, real muscle size. There are no super "shortcuts" to become massive - there is only the simple application of this formula. With constant application it will bring about a real change in your body size - massive muscularity.
Power bodybuilder and natural champion Brooks Kubik points out that "the key to any successful training program for an advanced man is progression. To continue to add size and strength to an already well-developed body, you need to continue to increase your ability in the bench press, the squat, and the deadlift. If you stagnate - if you become satisfied with your current lifts - you can kiss your gaining days goodbye. To get big you have to train heavy. To get bigger, you have to train heavier. It is really that simple."
This is a simple but powerful formula. Too often the only problem some people make in their weight-training program is getting away from this formula. Even professionals can make the mistake of moving away from the all-important basics of correct training. Rich Gaspari recently told Porter Cottrell that he had made the mistake of not controlling the weight in his back-training exercises and had lost some of his back development due to that factor. Learn the basics of bodybuilding, and stick with them. Don't make the mistake of getting too fancy. The fancy moves and tricks won't put near as much muscle mass on your body as will the basic movements and adherence to the basic principles.
Easy on Paper
Use of positive incremental adjustment is easy on paper but more difficult in the gym. It is hard to use heavier weight - it usually hurts more. But it also pays off more. Positive incremental adjustment is quite necessary to move forward. Lee Haney says, "Forget the 'secrets' offering you an easy life in the gym; if you want to make it in bodybuilding you've got to be prepared to sweat blood." So push yourself to slowly climb "up the rack" of weights and use progressively more heavy weights. The use of heavy iron brings about heavy muscularity. Big John Caldarelli (5'10", 300 lbs., 22-inch arms, bench press 600+ pounds., squat 900 lbs.) says, "For me the greatest indication of a size gain is a strength gain, whether for weight or reps. If I do something in the gym that I've never done before, I know I've gained muscle mass."
Building a big body is not easy. It takes high intensity and heavy weights to force your muscles to a new level of size development. But it can be done if you are willing to pay the price in pain.