Anyone who has spent more than three months at a gym has encountered it: a sudden lack of progress Be it on the bench press or the squat rack, those gains you grew used to as a gym newbie seem to have disappeared. No longer can you add 5 pounds to the bar effortlessly. Now it seems any progress at all is a Herculean task to accomplish.
But fear not, because your path to increased strength and pounds of attractive muscle mass is still long and prosperous. The key, however, is to go against the grain, and not fall into the gym-rat trap of hitting the same weights workout after workout until it ‘feels.’ like you can advance a small amount. Instead, you should employ a seldom used technique in the gym known as micro-progression to allow the weight increases to continue at a regular pace.
What is micro-progression?
Micro-progression is simply using micro-weights during weight training to ratchet up the resistance and force your body to continue to adapt, using smaller increments than is typically available at a standard commercial gym. Most gyms have plates no smaller than 5 or 2.5 pound, which creates a problem for intermediate trainees looking to continue to progress linearly. For example, to advance an overhead press weight of too pound, you’d have to add two 2.5 pound plates to the bar, a net increase of 5 pounds That’s a 5%. jump, which is all but impossible for intermediate lifters past the “newbie gains.’ phase.
As you can see, micro-progression isn’t just a novel idea, it’s a necessity for most gym goers. Here are several reasons why you should seriously consider adding micro-weights to your next workout:
Superior control of progression
When your only option to raise resistance is to add 5 pounds at a time, you don’t have many options for progression. You most either raise weight by a large amount, or stagnate at the current weight. Contrast this approach to the use of a set of quarter pound chains or wrist weights Now you have the option to advance anywhere from 1/4 pound to 2, or 3 pounds at a time. Your options are only limited by the number of micro weights you have. You could even use the feedback from your first workout set to dictate how much weight is appropriate for the second set, and so on, allowing for smooth, continuous progression for longer than otherwise possible.
According to Muscle and Fitness magazine, micro-progression is inherently safer, precisely because weight additions are more finely tuned against the body’s capabilities Nothing slows down progress like an injury that takes you out of the gym for weeks or even months. Micro-progression can be excellent protection against painful, remit slowing injuries for this reason.
It’s more suited to your body’s natural limits
A common argument against micro-progression is that it causes complacency among gym goers. The argument suggest that if you get in the habit of moving up only a pound per week on a lift, you effectively rob yourself the opportunity to push harder and achieve bigger 5 pound increases on the major compound exercises. The problem with this line of thinking is that it doesn’t line up with how the human body performs close to its limits. Sure, a new lifter can go from a 6o pound bench press to too pounds over the course of one month, thanks to rapid neuromuscular adaptations After those early, physically easy sources of strength gains dry up, however, the picture changes, and eking out even to pounds of added strength becomes a difficult endeavour.
Micro-progression acknowledges that human beings weren’t made to bench 300 pounds after a single year in the gym. The slower incremental schedule works in line with our body’s natural limit, slowing down the pace as we near the hypertrophy finish line.
Should you use micro-progression?
Any lifter who can no longer make workout to workout progress should consider using micro-progression to continue making progress in the gym. It’s the simplest, safest, most reasonable way to continue making strength gains. Best of all, it’s relatively inexpensive to implement. Just pick up a few wrist weights or chains at the local hardware store, and measure their weight using a food scale to know how long to cut the chain lengths. Your future self will thank you for having the foresight to slow down and increment your training at a realistic pace.