Making progress on a consistent basis is the key to any good training program. Of course, there are people that are fine with maintaining their level of fitness, but at some point they had been focused on making progress, and more than likely they would like to make progress again in the future. Making progress involves continuing to push yourself harder and in different ways. There is a very important law in physiology which is called the Law of Adaptation. It states that your body will adapt to whatever stress is being applied. The Law of Adaptation can also work in the other direction. If you don’t put your body through enough stress then you will regress your level of fitness. Your body is very good at adjusting to exercise, food, sleep, stress, and many other factors. It can adjust to being sedentary by adding fat and deconditioning the body or it can adjust to higher demands of exercise and activity by progressing your level of fitness.
If you are always exercising the same way you will not progress. Your body will only build the necessary amount of muscle and conditioning as it needs. Building muscle takes a lot of energy. The body is very efficient at conserving energy so it will not build muscle unless it is necessary. In that same sense the body also loves to hold onto fat because it is stored energy. Your body will not change unless you change what you are doing with it. There are many different aspects of your routine that you can adjust to get a desired effect. Knowing which one to use to get the best result can be tricky, but usually doing anything will help.
It can be very easy to get caught in a rut with your training. It is easy to get comfortable doing the same exercises or not push yourself hard enough. You will underestimate how powerful doing something different can be on your progress. Think of a time when you worked out with someone else and just by doing that you did something different. Remember how you felt those deep down muscles that you so often neglect? That is what progress should feel like! It should give you a new feeling in your body and a sense of accomplishment. To consistently make progress you need to constantly change your methods and exercises in order to target different muscle fibers and energy systems.
One easy way that you can achieve this is by switching the plane of motion of your exercises. Most people will rely too heavily on the front to back plane of motion. Doing exercises like squats, bicep curls, and crunches. All of these exercises are working in the sagittal plane. Think about any exercise where you are just pushing, pulling, moving forward or backwards, or up and down. It is a lot of your main exercises. You are probably neglecting exercises in the side to side and the rotational planes. These planes are called the frontal and transverse planes. Exercises like side lunges, core twists, lateral resistance band walks, and rows with a rotation. These exercises will take you out of the sagittal plane and force you to work different muscle groups. These exercises can be very important because they will help you to stabilize your body.
Making a new program or routine should also include increasing the intensity by adjusting sets, reps, or weight. Knowing the proper set and rep ranges can also be important if you have specific goals. For example, if you are training for strength you need more sets with less reps and heavier weight, or if you are working for muscular endurance you need more reps with a lighter weight. You should also know that if you would like to make overall progress that you should switch programs between various goals. That is a way to make continued progress because you are constantly training new modalities.
Having better form can help you progress. When you do an exercise with better form you are targeting that muscle in a more effective way. By stabilizing the rest of your body and concentrating on targeting the main moving muscle of an exercise you will be able to put more load on that muscle. It will cause greater time that the muscle is under tension which will make the muscle grow. You also won’t rely on other muscle groups as much that may cause injury. If you are doing an exercise wrong then you risk injury because too much of a load on the wrong movement pathway can be damaging to your joints and muscles. Adjusting your form can also help just for the fact that it will help you switch how you do an exercise so that you target different muscle fibers. However, that does mean you need to be switching to better form and not worse.
At the end of the day making progress will come down to one of the factors that I just talked about. Of course, there are other ways but these are the most available and fundamental methods to progress. It is all about switching up what you are exercising to target different muscle fibers and adjusting your intensity. Get out of what feels comfortable! Making or getting a new program that takes into account where you are starting is very important. If it is a good program it will properly integrate all of the factors I just mentioned. It will help you focus on switching up your movement pathways and using proper intensity. Just remember that making progress is definitely something that can happen with just a few well-focused changes.