Signs of training progress doesn’t always have to come in the form of more weight on the barbell.
There are a number of other variables to look at, which may change your focus during training to look less towards outcomes, and more towards process-oriented training.
During your next cycle of training, even if your strength doesn’t improve based on the gross amount of weight lifted, track other measures such as training volume, rest periods, movement velocity, movement execution and form, or rating of perceived exertion.
Strength has a tendency to vary based on responsiveness to that training cycle, type of training, stress, nutrition, sleep and overall recovery.
The same training cycle can produce progress for multiple cycles, but eventually your responsiveness and sensitivity to those movements and level of stimulus may change, making your progress slow down.
Hypertrophy-based training cycles have an inherent tendency to reduce overall strength, due to focus on movement quality and training volume with the intended goal of increasing muscle size.
In this case, tracking strength would cause some to be discouraged and change their training program due to apparent lack of progress, even though other metrics such as training volume, movement execution, and ability to recover during training have improved.
If you’re someone who has been following the same training cycle, and hasn’t seen much improvement in muscle strength, consider either changing the training stimulus to focus on muscle hypertrophy for a cycle or two, or consider looking at other metrics such as RPE, movement velocity, length of rest periods between sets, or movement execution.
For example, using the same weight while squatting, deadlifting, or clean and jerk but with a lower RPE or faster speed this week, compared to the last, still demonstrates improvement in strength without increases in weight lifted.
Oftentimes, demonstrating patience when following a plan and not attaching too much emotion to a given target weight will produce greater long-term outcomes in the end.
Written by: Jeff Tremblay
Jeff is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Performance Coach, and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.
He is actively treating patients and coaching athletes of all disciplines, ranging from youth to high level athletes.
Jeff is an active member of the E26 community and lives by the motto: "Destroy Your PR's, Not Your Body."
To reach Jeff or any member of the Element 26 Team, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will respond to you ASAP!