The following are a few of the things that I have done and learned.
Adequate perspective and persistence, among other things, allow us to develop proper exercise performance. This, in turn, makes it possible for us to discover our personal limits regarding the amount of weight we can lift, neither a trivial nor a simple thing to do. It takes time to learn how to deploy our strength properly and fully.
Once we are pushing against our limits, however, we also find that we have hit a brick wall.
Let there be no mistake about this. Just take a look at the stack of weights on exercise machines. If, for instance, your limit on the shoulder press were 54 kilos, it would be near impossible for you to add an additional plate and lift 62 kilos. The difference of 8 kilos (nearly 20 pounds) is a massive ~15% increase. You would only be able to move the larger stack briefly, haltingly, and sacrificing proper form. In other words, you would be gaining nothing while inviting injury.
It is understandable that, once limits are reached, most gym tourists either quit or fall into a rut. Progress appears to be hopelessly out of reach.
After the honeymoon period of the quick early gains has passed, it is natural to ask: What do I need to do in order to move beyond these limits and keep on lifting heavier and heavier? Is my training protocol still appropriate? And, if so, am I implementing it correctly?
I have successfully addressed these concerns as follows:
Protocol: Infrequent, abbreviated, high intensity workouts.
- Weekly sessions means plenty of time for rest and recovery, that is, time for muscle growth.
- No more than 5 or 6 well-chosen, large-muscle, compound exercises.
- A warm-up set (at ~50%, 6 reps) followed by a set to failure (60-90 secs, 6-8 reps) per exercise.
- Develop the correct form and stick to it. Change little and only for the better.
- Always add more weight or reps, not necessarily every workout but relentlessly.
- Stop immediately if you feel pain or are about to. It makes no sense to injure yourself.
Progression at one's limit is slow and gradual. It would be ideal if it were possible to increase the weight on the stack with plates of half a kilo (or less). Unfortunately, exercise machines are not designed like this. It is one of the reasons why serious trainees eventually move on to free weights. There is no other way to have advanced/sophisticated control over lift loads.
Whatever the equipment, work on perfecting your form patiently and carry on training hard until additional muscle develops. The extra musculature and improved form will make it possible for you to increase your maximum lifts, no matter how slowly.
It is also important to keep a healthy and realistic perspective. If one were able to lift 1 extra kilo a month, that would mean a gain of 12 kilos a year, and a gain of 120 kilos (~270 pounds) in ten years. For an average person, this is would be huge achievement. In reality, this is beyond the capacity for work and dedication of most people.
As of the date of this post, I have followed a H.I.T. protocol for about 6 months. It has been during the last 3 months at the gym when I have progressed the most. Looking at my workout sheet, I have doubled (in some exercises, tripled) the amount of weight I can lift. The "awakening" of existing muscle and the improvement of performance skill probably account for 80-90% of the gains. Muscle growth accounts for the rest.
Let that sink in. I am today 2-3 times stronger than I was when I started.
The effectiveness of this protocol is far superior to anything I have ever done before. My plan is to continue with it and push on.