Progressive Resistance – What is it and Why use it?

In bodybuilding, just about everyone should know that resistance training is important.  But as a beginner, if your primary goal is to build size, and you have not been able to, a great method to try is progressive resistance training.

Say you’re in the gym every single arm day using 75 pounds for 10 reps on barbell curls.  Every arm day for a month, or maybe even a year.  You may see growth at first as your biceps respond to the weight, but after not too long, the growth will stop.  This is where progressive resistance comes in.  Progressive resistance is basically the method of increasing the amount of weight that you’re lifting in order to promote further muscle growth.  In this case, you could raise the weight up to 80 pounds, or add 1-2 reps to the set to increase the muscle stimulus.

Progressive resistance works on just about any exercise.  For example, the other day in my post on The Best Exercise for Lower Back, I mentioned how I have been raising the weight on my deadlifts by about 5 pounds each week.  This is an example of progressive resistance.  If I hit a plateau in my deadlift, rather than sticking with the same weight for the same reps for a long time, I may just add one more rep each week in order to add muscle stimulus.

Another thing you could do when you hit a plateau in an exercise despite using progressive resistance is to use different shocking methods.  For example, drop sets, forced reps, forced negatives, etc.  These shocking methods were used by Arnold Schwarzenegger many times and they helped him to build a beast of a physique.  His progressive resistance training included some powerlifting with deadlifts, heavy squats, bench press, and overhead press.  He didn’t come into the game able to squat 545 pounds.  That took time and patience, and constantly adding weight.

So, if you have been stuck at a certain weight for over a month, try adding 2 1/2 to 5 pounds to the exercise next time you do it.  If you cannot do as many reps, that’s okay, but the next time you do that exercise, try to increase either the weight or the reps.  This is the best method for progressively building muscle.


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