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Most beginners get great gains from any weight training workout, but soon after the initial gains everyone eventually hits a plateau. Experienced lifters know this and try just about everything to avoid plateaus.
Before we get to the 3 phases I am assuming you are consistent with your workouts and don't skip days, cut your sets short, or avoid doing real work. If that is the case, it won't matter at all how good of a program you are following, because you aren't in fact following it. A good program is designed to be followed exactly as it is written, right down to finishing every set and rep in the exact amount of time it says. Resting for 80 seconds when it says 60 won't do, and doing 11 reps when it says 13 isn't going to cut it either. The workout you are following will only work as well as your ability to follow it to a tee! Ok now that we got that out of the way lets get to the 3 key phases that help you avoid plateaus in both muscle gain and strength gains.
1) Maximum Strength Phase - this is a phase where you are handling the heaviest weights you can, around 80-90% of your max, in the 3-7 rep range. Take longer rest periods of about 2-3 minutes between sets. This phase will force your muscles and tendons and nevrous system to adpat to pushing maximum weight at the limit of your capacity. Every single rep should feel like a maximal effort. There is usually no burning feeling for this type of workout, just an overall muscular exhaustion.
2) Muscle Hypertrophy Phase - During this phase you are handling weight around 65-80% of your maximum and doing between 8-13 reps. Rest periods are around 1-2 minutes. These workouts usually drive alot of blood into your muscles giving you really big muscle pumps, it also stimulates expansion and growth of the muscle fibers. The sets should flow from one rep to the next building up a burn feeling towards the end and a flushing the muscles with blood.
3) Strength Endurance Phase - This is a muscle conditioning phase handling weights around 50-70% of our max, doing between 12-20 reps. Rest periods are very short between 45-90 seconds. This phase builds strength endurance, which means teaching your muscles to handle moderately heavy weights for long periods of time (This is different than cardio endurance that can lasts for hours). This phase is necessary to build up your muscles ability to deal with prolonged stress, low blood ph (that intense burn you feel), and overall muscle fatigue.
Each of these phases contributes to the effectiveness of the other. Stay on each for about 4 weeks (as your body adapts to your training very quickly) and continue to cycle through each one. I build these phases into all of the workouts I design as they are the essential building block to an effective muscle building program.
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