When I was a kid, I would do a lot of push-ups. I’d do 20 one day for a max set, then aim for 21 the next day. I was good at maths, and my 4th grade maths skills lead me to believe that with this 1 repetition increase, I would be able to do 365 more push-ups by next year if I could just stick to the program. Easy. Shows like Dragonball Z only made me believe it more 💪.
Fast-forward to almost 20 years later and I’m not quite there yet. I am such a failure. Why did I not succeed? Wasn’t this the perfect plan on paper?
Enter training science 📈. When you start off with strength training, the majority of the initial improvements are neural. You get better coordination in the exercise, learn better what muscles to use, your central nervous system gets triggered to work harder, … This can lead to quick boosts in strength, but they are limited in their potential. True muscle-building takes a little longer to get going. When your neural adaptations don’t give you that weekly strength increase anymore, it’s time for your muscles to actually get stronger. This is a process that’s a lot slower than those first few weeks but has a much higher ceiling.
In short: it wasn’t my fault after all: it was a little more complicated than I first thought aged 12.
(photo credit from research by Moritani and DeVries)
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