Muscle needs “incentive” to grow. Asking it to do the same work it’s successfully done before won’t cut it.
You gotta ask for more — lift more weight, do more reps with a given weight, do more (productive) sets — for your muscles to wake up and lay down some new tissue.
Adding weight/reps at the expense of technique isn’t progression.
Improving technique with no increase in weight/reps IS progression.
A solid muscle building rule is:
First nail technique with a given weight
Then add reps til you hit the top of the rep range
THEN add weight.
— Bryan Krahn (@BryanKrahn) June 5, 2021
Otherwise, your triceps are perfectly content to sit back and watch The Real Housewives while you fart around in front of the dumbbell rack, doing eight sets of kickbacks with five reps in reserve.
However, there’s more to progression than just, well… MORE.
And this is important to grasp, because adding weight or reps or work sets every workout might be possible for a beginner, but very quickly becomes an exercise in futility, otherwise every lifter with 20 years under the bar would be benching 800 pounds for 12 reps.
These other forms of progression include doing the same work in a shorter period of time, extending the time under tension, or adding intensity techniques.
But a forgotten yet VERY useful one is just doing the damn work better. And it can even extend your lifting career in the process.
Let’s say you can curl 100 pounds for 8 reps and your goal is to reach 12 reps before increasing the weight.
If your form is okay at 8 reps but you say “screw it, I’mma getting 12 reps even if I gotta recruit my butt and calves to get there,” you WILL eventually reach 12, whereupon you are then “allowed” to increase the weight.
But now what? You’re curling 110 pounds for 6-8, but with form that looks like you just traded liver shots with Mike Tyson.
Are you even challenging the biceps effectively? A calf pump after curls ain’t a good sign. How do you make progress now, add a Bosu ball and pyrotechnics?
That’s why making good technique progression goal #1 is such a smart long-term play.
It’s not only more challenging, it lays the groundwork so the more standard progressions (weight, reps) are “honest” not to mention much safer.
My friend coach Tony Gentilcore refers to this as improving the feel of a set.
“If a set feels easier, that’s another measure of progress.”
So save the calf pumps for calf raises.
Before you go for more, go for better.
– Coach Bryan