What is Progressive Resistance?

What is Progressive Resistance?

What is it?

Progressive resistance otherwise known as overloading is one of the most common fitness protocols. In layman’s terms, progressive resistance is increasing the weight steadily overtime with every workout or every set. By doing this, your body is never allowed to get accustomed to the weight and therefore grows bigger.


What happens?

When you constantly increase the weight either through every set or every workout, your body needs to work harder to lift the higher amount of weight. As a result, more blood is forced into that muscle which allows for more nutrient uptake and better capacity. Overtime this will lead to an increased amount of strength and size. Based on the amount of repetitions you perform, that will dictate if your body will primarily take on strength attributes or ‘bodybuilding’ attributes.

How do I achieve that body?

If you look at the image above, you will see two drastically different body types. The one on the left is less defined and more rounded in shape and the one on the right is more defined and chiseled. Depending on your goals will determine the body type you will achieve. If you do not care about how you look physically and you just want to be the strongest man or woman that you can be, you can increase progressive resistance more often. On the other hand, if you want to look like a bodybuilder, weight doesn’t matter as much.


How to look like a powerlifter/strongman?

If you do not care how you look and you just want to be the strongest person in the gym, your training protocol would be much different than that of a bodybuilder or physique competitor. As a powerlifter or strongman, you are able to use progressive resistance to increase your strength dramatically.

Work is defined as force times distance. As you lift a weight, the force needed to push the weight becomes much greater. Then as weight increases, the more force is required. Distance isn’t as much of a factor when going for strength because you are typically stronger through a shorter range of motion than if you fully extended your lifts. As a powerlifter, your primary goal is to lift the most amount of weight possible. Other factors like repetitions or distance plays a minor role in getting strong.

The image above shows the minor differences between a bodybuilding stance and a powerlifting stance for the bench press. As you can see, the expanded (powerlifting) version of the bench press, the arms are closer to the sides of the body versus being directly vertical. When the arms are closer to the body, more power is able to be generated.

You will also notice in the image above, his back is slightly elevated and his legs are tucked back closer to his body. As power is generated from the body, the power starts from the ground, moves up the legs, up the torso, through the shoulders, and finally through the arms into the bar. It is very important to keep your arms tucked close to the body and a slight arch in your back to put the downward pressure of the weight on your chest. If you have trouble visualizing tucking your arms, imagine that a rubber band is around your shoulders keeping your arms close to your body. There should not be any space between your arm and armpit. When powerlifting, your repetitions should be low, typically anywhere between 1-6 repetitions. There are many risks if you are unexperienced and want to go the route of pure strength. Your risk of injury is greatly increased with the increased if proper lifting technique is brushed to the wayside. I have personally witnessed torn triceps and dislocations. If you are attempting to become a powerlifter, please learn the proper lifting techniques and have a spotter in case you are unable to lift the weight.


How to look like a bodybuilder/physique?

If you are more concerned about how you look visually, weight is less of a factor. Form and technique are more emphasized if you really want to transform your body.

If you look at the image above, notice that the grip is much wider on the bar and his arms are almost horizontal to the rest of his body. In reality, when a bodybuilder does a bench press, there is multiple muscles recruited. Not just the chest. As he presses the weight up, the triceps and shoulders are activated. Even though most people think that the bench press is only a chest exercise, the arms, shoulders, chest, and back all play a role in the lift. With the arms spread out even further and not kept close to the body, less weight is actually able to be used. This increases hypertrophy of the muscle. Hypertrophy is defined as the enlargement of a muscle, but it has more to do with the breakdown of muscle for it to eventually be repaired bigger and stronger through protein synthesis. There are also risks to performing the bodybuilding version of the bench press as well if not done correctly. Since the arms are spread out further, there is no protection for the area of the shoulder surrounding the armpit. The majority of the downward force of the weight focuses on that area and is typically where most people will develop stretch marks.


What should I do?

Unfortunately I cannot answer this question. Whatever your goal is. Whether you want to be strong or whether you want to look good will determine the path you will go down. If you are a beginner, I would recommend the bodybuilding route. Not only is it safer, but it allows for greater fat loss and it makes you look good! Even though I used bodybuilders and powerlifters in this article, women can do either path as well. The misconception is that ‘if I lift heavy weight then I’ll get bulky’ which is the furthest from the truth. Do not be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone and lifting heavier weights. Start off slow and progressively increase the resistance. I recommend on larger body groups such as the chest, back, and legs to increase the weight either by 5 or 10 pounds per workout. On smaller body groups like shoulders, arms, and abs, increase weight by 2.5 pounds per workout. This will ensure that your body continues to change and move in a positive direction with whatever goal you may have. If you plan on going the route of a powerlifter, I would highly suggest getting a lifting belt, chalk, and lifting straps or wraps of some kind to ensure that your muscle gives out before your grip does. My recommended items are located in the shop page. But do not solely rely on these accessories too much because grip strength is also important. If you plan on going the bodybuilder route, make sure that you focus on every rep of every lift. Mind muscle connection is very important. Work the muscle, don’t annihilate the muscle.

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