One of the biggest reasons, if not the biggest, that you will never gain the size and strength you wish, is because you are not training properly, and your training is not ‘periodised’. You may have noticed some good short-term gains when you first started training, maybe a 5-10kg increase in weight, doubling the weight you can lift from when you first started etc., but you have hit a plateau and are nowhere near the size and shape you desire, and definitely not as strong as you want to be. The reason behind this is because you are not developing the way in which you train correctly, and your training is not periodised well, or maybe not even at all.
Let’s look at a simple example; you have been training for a couple of years, and you’re now planning out your next 12 months of training so you can achieve the most strength and size gains possible. The number one thing you should be focusing on is setting up your training program accordingly throughout the year. Just going to the gym and training hard for the next 12 months, going to failure every set and eating big is not enough and will not work, you must go with a very clear intention every week, and progress your training every month. This means that you would transition between ‘strength’ and ‘hypertrophy’ phases throughout the year.
How do you achieve this? You set out a specific frame of time (anywhere between 4-10 weeks) within which you dedicate 90% of your attention to either strength or hypertrophy. So you may go the first eight weeks of this year focusing on just strength – lower reps with heavier weight – of course you will still hit some sets in the 8 – 12 rep range (10% of the time), but majority will be between 2-8, and even some one-rep-max’s. During this ‘period’, your sole focus is to gain as much strength as possible across all muscle groups by increasing weight as often as possible, ensuring correct form is maintained. Then after this eight week training block, you may move into a hypertrophy phase for the next eight weeks, and now your sole focus is to lift within an 8 – 12 rep range majority of the time, and then with some lower rep strength work where you see fit (10% of the time).
The outcome of ‘periodising’ your training like this is that after that initial strength phase, the weight you can lift will be heavier during your subsequent hypertrophy phase, and thus will lead to an increase in muscle mass. Then you can continue this trend of oscillating between strength and hypotrophy throughout the year, and by the end of that 12 month training period, you will no doubt be the strongest you have been, and definitely have more muscle than ever before, as your body has been constantly forced to adapt in a very effective way. Regardless of your training ‘period’, whether it be strength or hypertrophy or endurance or power or whatever, your top priority should always be to train for strength and to develop strength. If you train to get stronger, you will be strong, it is that simple, but most of us train to remain the same or even worse, remain weak. When strength is the main focus, size will result, shape will result, speed will result, power will result, and no doubt you will become very strong, and that will keep you focused and hungry to always want to get stronger, so you will never plateau.
Periodise your training correctly and watch what happens to your body and its performance output – you will be shocked at how much more enjoyable your training is and how strong you really are and can become.