Muscle Progression – Ask More from Yourself To Progress


As I’ve always said, a workout that doesn’t progress, produces a body that doesn’t progress. Now, I used to believe that all sorts of things were the signs of progression or at least a workout that would work. I believed that if I got sore, became exhausted, worked up a sweat or lifted a weight until my muscles gave out, then that was a good sign that results were on the way.

Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Those measures of success didn’t get me very far. So, then I learned about “switching things up” and creating that all important aspect of muscle confusion to keep the muscles “guessing.” My workouts were so random I felt sure my muscles must be more confused than a lost tourist. Again, nadda in the results department.

Then I figured I would keep things simple. I would not seek to be sore, to push my ultimate limits or to keep my body feeling like it was trying to solve advanced math. I simply sought to do everything I was doing, better. Not different, not harder, just better.

It’s crazy how just the simplest of tactics can produce the strongest effects. Instead of trying to figure out the perfect set, rep or exercise program, I made things simple with a single white board I call my score board.

On it, I write down my best performance for everything I do. Like my fastest time for a run around the block. I also track how many pull ups and push ups I can do before having to stop. I can track what weights I lift and how many reps I do total with each weight. I don’t write down everything I do, just my best performance with each activity.

muscle-progression-trackingMy goal is simply to improve my scores. I don’t get too hung up on increasing reps vs increasing weight or if I should change out one leg exercise for another. I simply aim for better scores and when the scores improve, my body improves.

It’s kind of like that whole chicken-or-the-egg question. What comes first, the ability to perform an exercise at a higher level or the exercise that gives birth to the ability to do it?

I can’t wait for my body to get stronger or for things to become easier before I change my workout but that’s exactly what I once did. I used to wait until I was stronger before going up in weight. I used to wait until I was faster before I raced at a higher level. I was waiting a very long time. I didn’t get faster until I stepped up to the higher level. I didn’t get stronger until I added a couple more pounds to the bar.

That’s the essence of progression. Not asking more from equipment, a rep scheme, a supplement or a diet. I don’t ask anything from even a different workout program. If I want to get better, faster and stronger, I know I have only to ask it of myself. I have to ask myself to do more than 40 pull ups in 3 minutes. I have to ask myself to get a good nights sleep. I must ask it of myself to make sure I eat a good breakfast. I’m the only one who can step up and make things happen. It won’t happen because of some new gadget, gizmo, or program. Never has, never will. It will only happen because I see what I have done in the past on my score board and I ask myself to go above and beyond.

I can’t get lost in the mess of muscle confusion. If my muscles are confused then I’m confused. I could be making progress, or I could just be doing the same thing in a different way. Heck, I could even be going backwards and not even know it!

So, no more workouts that just go through the motions. No more feeling like hard work alone will bring results. No more random workout changes that just keep me guessing as to if things are improving. I know the score, I know where I stand and it’s time to step up.

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About Author

Matt Schifferle

My name is Matt Schifferle and I'm an A.C.E. Certified Personal Trainer, CrossFit Level 1 coach, underground strength coach and I'm a 5th degree black belt in Taekwon-Do. I specialize in outdoor and playground based underground and CrossFit style bootcamps. See my profile page for more information!

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