Progressive Resistance For Lagging Body Parts
by Nick Nilsson Brink Zone
The idea for this new version of Daily Specialization Training came to me as I was re-reading the famous story of Milos of Crotona in ancient Greece, who lifted a calf (a baby cow…not the calf muscle!) every day until that calf grew into a bull. I’m sure you’ve heard this one! This is an elegant example of the power of long-term, progressive resistance.
What IS Daily Specialization?
Daily Specialization is a very simple training technique…basically, you take one exercise and do ONE set of that exercise TWICE a day, EVERY day.
And then you KEEP doing it…
So, for example, if you chose push-ups for your Specialization exercise, first thing every single morning you would do one set of as many push-ups as you could. Then, every single evening, you would do another single set of as many push-ups as you could.
And you do this EVERY day. Because you’re doing just one set of one exercise, your body is fully capable of recovering from this training and getting stronger from it. It’s very similar in concept to a technique from Pavel Tsatsouline he calls “Greasing the Groove”.
Many people worry that they have to wait two days before they train a bodypart again. This is a total myth.
If you train an exercise with high volume (i.e. lots of sets) you SHOULD wait before training it again. But because this program only hits you with one set at a time, you can train a lot more frequently and see some incredible long-term strength gains.
The example I like to use is myself…the first time I used this Daily Specialization program, I used handstand push-ups. I went from being unable to do 1 full rep to being able to do 40 full reps in a matter of only a few months.
THAT is the power of Daily Specialization.
In the first version of the Daily Specialization routine, I recommended using a bodyweight exercise and adding more reps as you get stronger (which is the most practical way to do it with bodyweight exercises). This is an extremely effective technique and I and many others have used it with great results.
With THIS new version, you will use an exercise that allows you to increase the resistance by small amounts on a regular basis.
And, of course, I thought to myself, “lifting a growing calf every day is certainly not practical. But why not mimic the exact same principle with weights instead?”
You will still do an exercise to failure for one set twice a day, but rather than using the same resistance every time (as with bodyweight exercises), we will force even greater adaptation by increasing the resistance slowly but steadily.
Ideally, you’ll want to have a way to increase the resistance easily, such as using a barbell or dumbells. If you don’t have barbells or dumbells at home, you still have options for increasing resistance while using bodyweight exercises, such as:
1. You can change body positions in ways that make the exercise harder. For example, if you’re using Bench Dips and you start with your knees bent 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor, you will move your feet further away from the bench, then set them up on a chair/bench, then place them on something that is higher than what your hands are setting on.
2. The other way to easily add resistance to a bodyweight exercise is to get yourself a sturdy backpack and gradually load it with heavy objects such as books or water bottles filled with sand. The more heavy things you put in the pack, the more resistance you’ll get.
For the first 4 days, start with a resistance that allows you to get around 10 to 15 reps for your one set. Your body will rapidly start adapting to this new stress. You may experience some initial soreness from working your muscles far more frequently than they’re used to. Four days should be enough time to allow your body to effectively start adapting.
Now we’re going to start letting Milos’ calf grow, realizing the full power of progressive resistance. Increase the resistance by the smallest amount you can and keep the twice-daily schedule going.
•Add 2 1/2 lb plates to your barbells/dumbells. Shift your body position a small amount if using a bodyweight exercise. Add one heavy book to your backpack, etc.
•Use this resistance for at least 2 days to allow your body time to adapt to the slightly higher workload.
•After 2 days on this resistance level, note how many reps you’re able to do with that weight.
•If your reps are 5 or less on this resistance, stay at that weight for one more day. This will be your rule of thumb for increasing resistance levels.
•From this point on, your goal is to increase the resistance you are using very slightly every 2 days.
•Follow the 5 rep rule of thumb where if your reps are 5 or less, use that resistance for one more day.
•As well, continue to stay at that resistance for as long as your reps stay below 5 or less.
•Don’t reduce the weight, just add days on until you can do more than 5 reps with it.
Over the course of weeks and months, you are going to force some serious adaptation in your target muscle group.
This small but continuous increase in resistance, which allows your body a chance to adapt and focus on it, can result in extremely large strength increases and add plenty of muscle mass to your target muscle group.
The best exercises to use with this type of training are the basics – the exercises that use the most muscle for your target bodypart. This could be barbell curls, weighted dips, bench presses, deadlifts, rows, shoulder presses, etc. Good bodyweight exercises include pull-ups, dips, bench dips, push-ups, etc.
I’m a big fan of having some basic training equipment at home, even if it’s just a set of adjustable dumbells, and I highly recommend investing in those if you’d like to try this program. Sporting goods stores or garage sales are your best bets for free weights (don’t order online as you will be hit with HUGE shipping charges). Weights at home are not absolutely necessary but they definitely help!
If and when you do try this program, be sure to keep track of your resistance levels and bodypart measurements so you can gauge exactly how effective the program is for you.