Why do you suppose, when you start out in the beginning of your training, you're only able to lift minimal weight; only able to perform minimal reps and sets before becoming winded and tired? Then months, or sometimes just weeks later, that minimal ability, endurance and weight, seem so small compared to how you now feel? Well, you are becoming stronger because your body is being conditioned to a new routine. Within that routine, you're developing power through the energy you exert. That energy allows you to push through an exercise with force, in turn, causing you to get stronger. However, this is a gradual progression. You cannot expect to start something new and be as versed in it as someone who has been doing it for years, it's just not likely. It is a step-by-step process, built in increments and developed over time.
With time, everything hard seems a bit easier if you are consistent. In training, when you place new stress on a muscle, the body's first reaction is weakness. However, when you consistently place that same amount of stress on the muscle, it will eventually lead to increased strength because the body learns to adapt to the level of stress placed upon it. This works in the same way when you get off track. When consistency breaks down, the body's adaptation to your routine begins to break down as well. So when you return to training, after being away for a number of weeks, or months, you may find yourself at "ground zero" which can be a bit frustrating when you realize how far you'd come just to have to start at the beginning all over again. Even though starting over may seem like a negative, it can be a huge positive when you approach it the right manner. There is a term known as "muscle memory". It's when a trained muscle ceases from training; then when the muscle is trained again, it quickly adapts to new stress placed upon it because it's been there before. This is the memory. The muscle rapidly picks up where it left off, and carries on with its growth from that point forward.
There are three different ways to increase strength in your muscles but one main theory. It's known as periodization. This term simply involves repeating a method over and over again until your body becomes used to it. Such as:
- Increasing the weights while decreasing your reps;
- Decreasing the weights while increasing your reps; and
- Sporadically increasing and decreasing weights and reps.
Studies have proven that these methods are best for making continuous gains without hitting a plateau. The reason? You are challenging the body through the process of changing your approach which causes the muscles to respond to stress levels in three different ways, enabling a reaction of strength and power, as well as growth. Does this mean that the weights get easier? Actually, the weights stay the same. If you lift 10 lbs on day one, on day 30, it's still the same 10 lbs you started out with. The difference in the feel of the 10 lbs, is your body's adaptation to the weights simply because you have become stronger. Therefore, 10 lbs begin to feel like 5 lbs since your strength has adapted. This is a really good way to know it's time to step up the weights.
The ultimate goal is to become as strong as you can which will aid in the development and transformation of your body overall. When you get there, you will find yourself at a point where you are basically "running the rack". This would be the ultimate testament of strength and endurance, a job well done in your training.