Resistance training is a pillar in how effectively anyone achieves fitness and/or wellness goals. From fat loss to improved function, the increase in gravity through which we stress our bodies is one of the best ways to achieve better physical performance. At Accelerated Fitness our trainers carefully select each superset and tri-set (pairing of exercises) to bring about the correct stimulus. In English that means whichever goal our clients choose, combined with certain limitations, forces our trainers to choose the best way to activate a specific muscle or muscles. Once the exercise is chosen then we can move onto how progression takes place. This is where many theories and philosophies take hold, but here are two ways our trainers can change an exercise without increasing the proverbial weight on the bar.
The first is instead of stacking on more weight for a bench press, the position of the body can change instead. This is very common with dumbbell and barbell bench press where the bench can change the angle of the body. Most know these changes as either “incline or decline.” Incline bench press will increase the load on the deltoids, whereas decline bench press will increase the load on the Latissimus Dorsi (lats for short). This change in body position will also change which section of the pectoralis major is most stressed. We are all surprised when we find out it is much easier to lift a heavier load while in a decline bench press position rather than an incline bench press. It’s not just you, believe me! By changing the body position we can change how the load affects you.
The second is changing the stability of the stimulus or load. This is most common in the application of tools which have an unstable center of gravity, such as a sandbag or a BOSU ball (with the BOSU your body would count as the load). Dynamic Variable Resistance Training (DVRT) founder Josh Henkin has founded many of his strength and fitness philosophies around this provisation of an unstable load though re-popularizing sandbag training (if you ever want to see DVRT sandbag training feel free to stop by our Glastonbury location). With the use of an unstable load our body has to work many times harder to control the implement. For example, when performing a bent over row with a sandbag instead of a barbell, the body is forced to seek stability where very little exists. Barbells shift very little whereas the sandbag has almost constant undulation while moving, which forces the sand inside to shift as it moves up and down. As Henkin teaches, by pulling the sandbag apart the instability shrinks and the load becomes easier to manipulate. Pull the bag apart and it operates closer to a barbell. This pulling apart motion forces the lats to fire along with the upper back stabilizers. Another way our trainers at Accelerated Fitness can trick you into the correct form while rowing any implement!
The wrap things up, our trainers will select exercises and most likely increase the weight on certain exercises. Do not be dismayed though if no changes to your weights are made. Body positions can be changed along with how unstable an implement such as a barbell or a dumbbell is to make an exercise more challenging. Despite two twenty-pound dumbbells sticking to each calloused hand like a teenager’s cellphone through every set of forward lunge, look out for subtle changes in the exercise. An Airex pad can find its way underneath your foot. A sandbag of equal weight could be replacing those dumbbells and rest unforgivingly on your shoulder. These changes can allow our trainers to overall progress you to a heavier load in the end (possibly thirties or forties?). At Accelerated Fitness we constantly explore and apply proven methods of increasing difficulty to most effectively achieve goals. Be on the lookout for those changes. It could mean you are that much closer to succeeding in your training!
A special thanks to DVRT Founder Josh Henkin C.S.C.S. His DVRT programming is implemented in the majority of our clients’ programming at our Accelerated Fitness Glastonbury location.