Today, I will be discussing fundamental differences in the structure and outlook of one’s hypertrophy focussed training, depending on their experience level. By experience level, I am referring to the length of time they have been training consistently with quality.
I will be doing an overview for beginner, intermediate and advanced trainees. Let’s get to it!
As a beginner trainee, we need to take advantage of this time period, since this is when we will best be able to lay the foundation for our training.
So instead of jumping right into the maximum weight you can lift, and taking every set to failure for way too many sets, consider this instead:
Realize that it takes very little for you to make gains at this stage. Doing too much will actually inhibit your progress due to poor recovery and not leaving room for growth.
Rather, take this time to focus on building proper technique (especially on the primary lifts), learn to control the movements you are executing and develop a strong mind-muscle connection with them. Don’t jump in with a ton of volume, get your body used to handling tension and stress to build its ability to recover, gradually.
This is the perfect time to do these things because you can focus on a lot of things that for a more advanced trainee, wouldn’t be optimal for hypertrophy. Since you are a beginner, you can focus on these things, lay a great foundation for future training, and still make incredible gains.
One big difference with this experience level is how it is more difficult to progress. This means you won’t be able to simply add a rep to your lifts every week for 12 weeks. You won’t be able to add 5-10 pounds onto the bar every week for 12 weeks, etc. This is when a “cycle-style” approach to training can be beneficial. Allow me to explain what I mean by this:
Let’s use a standard 12-week hypertrophy program. If you are a beginner, you can likely add reps or weight in some way, for that entire 12 weeks, without reducing or resetting how much you are doing in any of the training variable categories (the primary variables are reps, sets and weight). An example would be increasing the weight on the bar by 5-10 pounds every week for 12 weeks.
This style likely won’t work with intermediate level trainees since progressing from week to week isn’t nearly as easy. Instead, a program might look like this:
Week 1: 4×8 @225 Pounds
Week 2: 4×9@225 Pounds
Week 3: 4×10 @225 Pounds
Week 4: 4×11 @225 Pounds
Week 5: 4×8 @235 Pounds
Week 6: 4×9 @235 Pounds
Week 7: 4×10 @235 Pounds
Week 8: 4×11 @235 Pounds
Week 9: 5×8 @235 Pounds
Week 10: 5×9 @235 Pounds
Week 11: 5×10 @235 Pounds
Week 12: 5×11 @235 Pounds
Notice how we weren’t able to continually add for 12 weeks straight, without periodically resetting some variable (reps, in this case). In each 4 week block, we ended up doing more than we did in the last block, each respective week. But we weren’t able to add each week without resetting some variable at the start of each new block. At the start, we were doing 4×8 with 225 pounds, and in the end, we were doing an extra set, 3 extra reps and 10 extra pounds.
We had to lower one variable back to the starting point of the previous 4-week block to increase another variable. With that being said, we never lowered a variable beyond where we started at the previous block. This is what allowed us to progress. In this case, we used reps to transition between a weight or set increase. When we lowered our reps at the start of each 4-week block, they never lowered past 8 reps, which is where we started in the previous 4-week block. This is just one example of a progression scheme. The general principle applies to all configurations of this progression style, however.
At this experience level, you are still in a great spot to be growing muscle. However, it will take a little more. This includes the progression method shown above (or something similar to it), pushing sets closer to failure, maybe increasing volume a bit and trying some new exercises (this could include focussing a bit more on isolation exercises), are all likely good ideas.
This is because your body has progressed its tolerance to the training stimulus you are giving it, mainly because it has grown bigger and stronger. So to continue progression, you need to push yourself a little harder so more tension is produced within the muscles, for a continued muscle growth stimulus!
This is why it is super important to lay a strong foundation, so you can kick things up a notch safely and effectively.
Now, there isn’t a specific point where you have been training for, say, 14 months and you are now an intermediate and you need to step it up. This gradually happens, but eventually, you will notice that you need to increase the overall difficulty of your training to continue seeing progress.
By now, you will likely need to focus on adding some more volume and focus on consistent progression. This is likely a good time to incorporate more intensity techniques such as supersets, drop sets and giant sets. These are all great ways to accumulate fatigue within the muscle to ensure a continued stimulus for muscle growth.
I would still suggest focusing on standard progressive overload in straight sets. However, intensity techniques can be a great incorporation to your program!
I would also argue that it is important to train a bit more specific to your goal. For example, if you had a goal of hypertrophy when you were starting, you might have been incorporating strength and power training, since those adaptations also contribute to how well we can grow muscle.
As you become more advanced, I would suggest that a more dedicated/specific approach to hypertrophy training is important since we already have strength and power built up, but training more aligned to our goals gives us even more ability to stimulate specifically for our goal of muscle growth.
This isn’t to say you can never do other styles of training. It is important to maintain and at times, improve those other adaptations. Or, if you are just looking to make some general progress and don’t want to be specific to one type of goal, it makes total sense to incorporate different training styles more equally.
To describe this concept at the absolute fundamental level; the more experience you have means a greater level of effort and thought needs to be put into your training.
If you have any questions on the information within this article, please do leave them in the comment section, where I will be sure to reply! Or, if you just want to leave your thoughts on the article, that would be awesome, too!
Take care, everyone!
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Until Next Time,
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