April 11, 2024 2 min read

By Shane Robert

I’ve always found that I have to fight very hard to not make massive overhauls in my training. When things in training don’t go exactly as planned it’s very easy to want to ditch what you’ve been doing (even if it worked up until this point) and do something extreme to try and get to the results that you were striving for. Though a changemightjust be what you need, too often that change is too extreme to maintain long-term. Long-term, as everyone has heard more than enough times to have learned by now, is what the name of this strength training game is all about. 

Little changes, over time, can have big results.

Take hypertrophy as an example. Let’s pretend that, in addition to a few other pressing movements, you do some dumbbell pressing twice per week for 2 sets of 10. That’s a good, classic set and rep scheme to build some size, however you’ve become a bit dissatisfied with the results you are getting from that. As I said I’m the type of guy who overreacts and says to myself, “eff this, I’ll do 8 sets!” For a week or two this will feel great. I will have a great pump, think I put on some more size and feel accomplished. 

After a few weeks, things start to go south. 

Shoulder. Elbow. Tendon. Something will start to hurt. Time will become an issue and I will be less consistent with doing dumbbell pressing. 

If, on the other hand, I had added ONE additional set, or switched from 10 reps to 12, I wouldn’t have departed too far from the original time and recovery constraints. Though this seems insignificant, if I continued this over the course of a year, I would have added between 500 and 1000 (ish) extra reps of dumbbell pressing. I don’t know anyone who would argue that that wouldn’t at least have a minor impact on size. 

This is a reason that I like the triple progression so much as a training tool. I’ve written about it in the past, but briefly, a triple progression is taking a weight and sticking with it until you can increase the reps and the sets. Only increase the weight when you reach a predetermined goal. For example, if I did 2 sets of 10, I would try to build the reps to 12 or 15, then start to add sets until I am doing 4 or 5 sets. When I can complete all of the sets for 15 reps, I add weight and start back at 2x10. This is a long-term plan with little changes, over time that leads to massive gains. All of the changes come subtly and slowly, so there is constant stimulus to the muscles, without the risk of burning out.

It can be very frustrating to work hard and hit a plateau. Rather than overreact, see where you can make a small change. One extra set or an extra rep or two per set might be all it takes to get you over the hump and into new progress.

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