Have your strength gains ever come to a halt? If you have been lifting weights for any length of time, you most likely have had this frustration. I used to reach sticking points all the time, because of my constant use of a spotter or forcing reps that I couldn’t lift myself. I figured that if I forced up a few more reps with the use of a spotter, I would have to get stronger. Wrong! This is a terrible approach and will give you short term results at best. I am going to outline a much better approach to gaining strength for years to come with very few sticking points.
[An amazing view of the Aegean Sea from a balcony in Santorini Greece. The whole city is white and looks amazing in contrast to the deep blue Aegean Sea. These are the sort of pictures that inspire me to stay healthy and fit…not some guy doing a “most muscular” pose!]
The Longest Route to Your Goals is the Shortcut
The idea behind doing “forced reps” and “negatives” is that it is allowing your body to get used to handling more weight for more reps. Doing a negative lift, where the spotter lifts the weight and you control it on the way down is a way of inducing a bit of muscle damage. This is a great mass gaining technique and it even increases strength in the short term, the problem is that a strength gain sticking point is inevitable using this type of lifting technique.
Yes, You Can Gain Strength By Pushing Past Failure
Obviously you can gain strength by doing negatives and forced reps. The weight does feel a bit lighter your next workout and strength gains can come quickly. Things look great until the dreaded sticking point hits. Normally this is the time when many people will add sets and do more negatives and forced reps. The problem is that this soon creates extreme muscle soreness and the body will quickly reach a fatigued and overtrained state. The muscles eventually get obliterated by this type of bombardment.
Why Does This Sticking Point Occur?
If you really think about it, the strength gained from doing negatives is more about gaining tendon strength and a bit of strength due to the added mass. This method is more about creating better leverage for a lift…not actually training your nervous system to fire the muscles harder, which is true strength training. The sticking point happens because the strength gain using negatives is a bit like “fool’s gold”…true strength was never increased…heavier weights can be lifted due to the limiting factors of the leverage created.
[I had to throw in a sunset picture from Santorini as well. Can you just feel the warm breeze and smell of the ocean? I must visit this place soon!]
Getting Stronger vs Just Lifting Heavier Weights
Let’s say you normally curl with 40 pound dumbbells for 5 reps. You do these curls at a medium pace, generating tension in the muscle as you lift and lower the weight. If you suddenly grabbed 60 pound dumbbells and heaved them up quickly for 5 reps…did you gain strength or are you just lifting heavier weights? It is easy to lift heavier weights and fool yourself into thinking that you are gaining true strength.
Rushing to the Next Weight Too Quickly…Another Mistake
Take that dumbbell curl example…let’s say you are doing 4 sets of 5 reps with 40 pounds with the goal of gaining strength and increasing muscle definition in your biceps. If you do all 4 sets with 40 pounds and can get 5 reps in each set (even the last set), then you increase weight the next time you work biceps. This does work well, but it also creates an inevitable sticking point…just not as quickly as doing forced reps and negatives. The problem is that you are rushing the weight faster than your body can adapt to that weight.
Mastering the Weight Before Going Heavier…
Let your body fully adapt to a weight, before deciding to go a bit heavier on a certain lift. You can use the same weight for dozens of workouts and train your target muscles to contract harder each workout. Get the most out of a weight, before increasing that weight. For some muscle groups, you may want to stick with a weight for months before moving on…other lifts you may only want to stick with a weight for a couple of weeks.
Patience is Your Best Friend For Longterm Strength Gains
The longer you let your body adapt to a weight, the less likely you will encounter sticking points in the future. I’m not saying that you will gain strength forever or that you will never reach a sticking point…I’m just saying that you will make positive progress for a much longer period of time if you understand the principle of letting your body “master a weight” before moving on.
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Thanks for reading all these years!