In bodybuilding, measuring your progress is an essential source of motivation for every athlete. For some, it is synonymous with strength gain while for others it is measured in muscle mass gain. As it is not always easy to measure one's progress, some athletes tend to increase the number of repetitions of their exercises, or lift heavier loads to convince themselves that they are progressing. However, this is often not the right method.
The two phases of muscular progress
There are two important and distinct stages of muscle gain. In the beginning there is a learning period where the trainee learns his or her basic movements and begins to gain strength and muscle mass. The duration of this phase varies according to the pace and physiology of the individual.
It can last between one and two years. This period is primarily aimed at increasing physical strength. Towards the end of this period, an athlete may go from an empty barbell on the bench to squat up to 100kg on both bars.
Once a certain level is passed, the physical strength progress begins to slow down and almost stagnates. This is where the second phase of strength training begins.
At this stage, muscle mass gain begins to accelerate. Each person has an optimal load which, once reached, causes the muscle gain to accelerate. Each person can therefore juggle with different intensification protocols in order to vary the constraints and not stagnate.
The problem of ego in bodybuilding progress
It's always good for the mood to lift heavier than your neighbour or to see the bar bend in the deadlift or squat. Unfortunately, by pushing your limits too often, you don't recover as quickly on the nervous level and on the contrary to what you want, the weight training sessions won't be able to follow each other in a constant way.
An example of a healthier habit to adopt would be to dedicate the work in the gym to building muscle mass. Regarding other performance skills such as cardio, gymnastics, or weightlifting techniques, they can be integrated with a second activity once or twice a week. This more balanced lifestyle promotes motivation and performance. In short, being methodical in strength training is more effective than always wanting to lift more weight and push your body to its limits.