Five Ways to Get Bigger and Stronger

Do you know what the fundamental principle of resistance training is?

It is to increase the stress you put on your muscles, and thus stimulate them to grow bigger and stronger. It doesn’t matter if you train primarily for strength or muscle growth: you cannot avoid the fundamental principle of placing progressively higher demands on your muscle, often called progressive overload. It is the most important factor in successful training.

Today, I’m going to share with you five different methods to progress your training. Or if you will: five ways to get bigger and stronger.

I share them in the video below, but if you prefer to read rather than watch, just skip to the transcript below.

All right – let’s go over five ways in which you can progress your training, from the most obvious ones, to the more uncommon and less obvious.

1. Increase the Weight

The most obvious method is to simply increase the weight you are using, for the same number of sets and reps.

For example, if you do five sets of five, you increase the weight with 2.5 kilos or 5 pounds from the last workout.

This is probably the strategy that you should be employing for the majority of your training, and keep as your main goal. However, you will not always be able to increase the weight for the same number of reps and sets, but you might be able to improve in some other way. Such as …

2. Increase the Reps You Do on the Same Weight

If you did 5 sets x 5 reps of squats with 100 kg last week, that’s 25 reps in total over five sets. Today, you could try and get at least 26 reps over those five sets, at the same weight.

This strategy works great in conjunction with number one, by using rep goals. For instance, every time you manage to get 3 sets x 10 reps, you increase the weight one small step. Then you train with that weight, for several workouts if necessary, until you get 3 sets x 10 reps again.

But what if you can’t do either? Or maybe you simply can’t muster up the motivation to try and beat your last grueling workout?

Well, that brings us to strategy number three.

3. Increase the Sets You Do on the Same Weight

Use volume as your method of progression instead. If you did 5 sets x 5 reps in your last workout, you could do 6 sets x 5 reps at the same weight in today’s workout. Maybe in a few weeks when you get eight sets of five on the same weight, you could increase the weight and go back to 5 sets x 5 reps, or even 3 sets x 5 reps, so as to give yourself something of a deload, and then work yourself up again.

But what if you want to use volume as your method of progression, but you still don’t want your workouts to expand too much in time?

4. Increase the Reps You Do in a Given Time

For this strategy, you use the same weight, but you try to do more reps in a given amount of time. For instance, you could use a hundred kilos in the bench press and set your time constraint at ten minutes. Then, using as many sets as you feel like, try to do more reps in those ten minutes than you did last time.

When you reach a target number of reps, say 50 reps in ten minutes, you increase the weight and start over.

Would you rather keep the number of reps constant? Well, then you could …

5. Do the Same Number of Reps, in a Shorter Time

The last strategy for today is similar to number four, but you keep the number of reps constant and instead try to complete all reps in a shorter amount of time. For example, you might set a goal to complete fifty reps with a given weight, and each workout you try to improve on your time, even if only by a few seconds.

To get bigger and stronger, you will have to improve your performance over time. There are no shortcuts. However, it is not an easy task, which is why it might be useful to have different methods of progression available to you. That way, you can move between different strategies, milk them for as long as possible, and when it runs dry, you switch to another approach.

Getting bigger and stronger happens by adding one pound or one rep at a time, and it takes consistent, difficult, disciplined work, that never ceases. And isn’t that what we all love about training?

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Daniel Richter

Daniel has a decade of experience in powerlifting, is a certified personal trainer, and has a Master of Science degree in engineering. Besides competing in powerlifting himself, he coaches both beginners and international-level lifters. Daniel regularly shares tips about strength training on Instagram, and you can follow him here.