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Small Change – Big Payoff

I’ve always found that I have to fight myself very hard to not make massive overhauls in my training. When things in training don’t go exactly as planned it’s very easy to want to ditch what you’ve been doing (even if it worked up until this point) and do something extreme to try and get to the results that you were striving for. Though a change might just be what you need, it’s often too extreme of a change to maintain long term. Long term, as everyone has heard more than enough times to have learned by now, is what the name of this strength training game is all about.

Little changes, over time, can have big results.

Take hypertrophy as an example. Let’s pretend that, in addition to a few other pressing movements, you do some dumbbell pressing twice per week for 4 sets of 10. That’s a good, classic set and rep scheme to build some size, however you’ve become a bit dissatisfied with the results you are getting from that. As I said I’m the type of guy who overreacts and says to myself, “eff this, I’ll do 8 sets!” For a week of two this will feel great. I will have a great pump, think I put on some more size and feel accomplished.

After a few weeks things start to go south.

Shoulder. Elbow. Tendon. Something will start to hurt. Time will become an issue and I will be less consistent with doing dumbbell pressing.

If, on the other hand, I had kept my 4 sets but switched form 10 reps to 12 I wouldn’t have departed too far from the original time and recovery constraints. Though this seems insignificant, over the course of a year I will have added 832 extra reps of dumbbell pressing. I don’t know anyone who would argue that that wouldn’t at least have a minor impact on size.

It can be very frustrating to work hard and hit a plateau. Rather than jump ship and make wholesale changes to your training, see where you can make a small change. One extra set or an extra rep or two per set might be all it takes to get you over the hump and into new progress.

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