When we train, what are we doing? Are we training for the sake of training or are we aiming for a target, a goal, a progression?

We all train for a reason

That reason will vary from person to person, however we all train to advance our health, body and mind. We aim to get stronger, run faster, feel better.

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Over the past few articles I have discussed goal specificity and understanding the individual steps it takes to meet fitness goals and deadlines. In this article I aim to discuss progressive resistance training and the physiological adaptions obtained throughout the training process.

Our bodies are made to adapt to changes

When our body is put through a certain amount of stress, i.e., from high intensity training, our muscles and skeletal system adapt and change to keep up and manage the stresses placed on it during training.

Our heart starts pumping, our muscle fibres contract and our blood flow increases, all to manage and build physiological adaptations and build a stronger, more efficient body.

The key element in an effective strength routine is progression

Introducing the right exercises at the right time into your programme means a more effective workout and a progressive strength adaptation as you work through your program.

Starting with fundamental exercises focusing on larger muscle groups and then progressing on to more area specific exercises enables strength and the hypotrophy of your muscles.  The progressive nature limits injury risk and allows for your body to be placed in a manageable place of stress.  The factors which influence this form of progressive training are overload, specificity, individuality, reversibility and recovery.

Overload

Progressive overload refers to the rate of stress placed on the body to ensure strength and muscle adaption.  Slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibres are recruited differently and the amount of tension placed on a muscle during exercise affects amino acid transport and thus the ability for your muscles to adapt, strengthen or hypertrophy.

Muscle tension must then develop through an appropriate amount of stress, intensity and duration to develop strength adaptations. Rest is also important as lack of recovery limits the muscles ability to recover, adapt and repair after a training session.

For consistent muscles gains, overload must be progressive.  It’s important to note that raising the weight constantly maybe counterproductive and so it is worth understanding the concept of periodization and when your body needs a new challenge.

Specificity

Why are you training? What are the short term and long term goals associated with your training and how does your programme reflect progression towards these goals?

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As mentioned before, muscle fibres are recruited depending on the type of training and exercises it performs.

Slow twitch fibres fatigue slowly but have a lower contraction rate whereas fast twitch fibres can contract rapidly but fatigue faster.  Slow twitch fibres are generally recruited in lower intensity or endurance based training and compared to fast twitch fibres which are generally recruited in weight lifting activities.

Low rep but high intensity promotes hypertrophy of fast twitch fibres and so exercises and training structure must be functional and specific to the goal and desired outcome.

It’s important to note that the exercises should be functional and relevant to the goal, whether that be hypertrophy of the arms, leg and quad strength or endurance based such as a 15km run or sports specific training which mimics movements, speed and reaction needed for greater performance in the sport.

Individuality

Everyone is different and so having an effective training program is a matter of individuality. Although most people start on the same fundamentals and basics of training, the program eventually must reflect your own progress and so a stock standard routine may not work for everyone.

It’s important to understand your own goals in relation to your strength training, the area you want to work on, the muscles involved and other aspects such as nutrition and lifestyle are all independent factors based on yourself.

Some knowledge of your body type and how different bodies respond to training is very helpful. You may respond to shorter, high intensity sessions as opposed to longer sessions.

Reversibility

Whilst training leads to adaptation, a lack of training or consistency leads to reversibility. Most people have experienced this where they take a holiday or a few days off and then find they have lost strength or seem to be fatiguing earlier.

If not used, your muscles with atrophy and your muscular adaptations will reverse.  It’s worth understanding the idea of exercise maintenance, particularly for those who play sport or compete with regard to off season training.

Recovery

Believe it or not, it is actually recommended to have a rest day. Over training will limit the rate of progression and muscle adaptation so training different body parts on alternate days or a day of rest is the best thing in order for your body to recover and repair.

Recovery also refers to getting the recommended sleep requirements for your training as cell repair and hormones regulate during your sleep along with adequate food intake to aid muscle recovery. adaptations resistance training

Read more from Expert Lisa Dunn.

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