Can We Progress Indefinitely At The Gym?
According to popular legend, Milo de Crotone began by carrying a young calf on his shoulders every day. He took this young calf every day and walked to a stadium. As the calf grew, Milo also became more massive. Finally, he managed to carry an adult bull.
I seriously doubt that this happened. Why ? Because a fully developed bull usually weighs over a ton. But, this probably illustrates the most obvious method for making progress at the gym, adding weight to the barbell while keeping a number of repetitions similar to each session. For example, if you are able to squat with 50 kilos for up to 5 repetitions, add 5 kilos each month and you will be able to lift 110 kilos in a year. Apply this process for 5 years and the weight you can lift will be 350 kilos.
Of course, you’ve probably already realized that this kind of continuous progress does not happen, no matter how hard you train, how many supplements you ingest, or the power of your motivation.
Beginners may be able to add weight on the bar at each session. But when you get stronger, the speed at which you gain strength slows down. This means that every time you add weight, it will be less important. In addition, it will happen less often.
Many athletes will then use small discs that can increase very slightly the weight you lift, 1 kilo, 500 g or less. This is called “microloading” and it can lift a little more weight than you did in your last session.
Another popular method to progress is to keep the same loads by increasing the number of repetitions. Again, that sounds good on paper, but it’s not as easy to achieve.
Imagine that you can lift 50 pounds in 5 repetitions. While increasing a repetition does not seem a huge change, it still represents an increase in performance of 20%. Such an increase is not impossible in the early stages of a training program, but you will not be able to repeat this progression to infinity.
In comparison, adding 1 kilo to a 50 kilogram load represents only a 2% gain in your performance. And this is much easier to repeat in the long run.
Beginners will surely improve from sessions to sessions for months at first. But once they have passed the beginner stage, progress will only be weeks to weeks, then month to month. So be prepared for the fact that your progress will slow down over time and that is normal.
Even the best bodybuilding program will not change the fact that every step towards a more impressive physique will be done more and more slowly and more and more difficult than the previous one.