Marta Montenegro: Try These Exercise Tweaks to Maximize Gains

After a couple of months squatting you probably increased how much you can lift. However, after the initial spike, some people can’t maintain the rate of strength gains you experienced in the beginning. Even worse, you now may be experiencing nagging joint pains.

When you lift weights you are putting your muscles and soft tissue – ligaments, tendons and fascia – under a mechanical load that will make them grow.  For this to happen, protein breakdown and collagen degradation should occur first, followed by a greater protein synthesis and collagen turnover to support the changes.

At the gym, you’re basically breaking down the muscles and surrounding tissue. At rest is when adaptation occurs. This is what makes resting and eating the right food – particularly before and after exercise – such a critical part of an exercise program.

Soft tissue exercise

While you try to focus on how to make your muscles leaner, bigger or stronger, you may forget about taking care of the soft tissue.

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These tendons, ligaments and fascia must change to hold up the muscle adaptations. But soft tissue takes longer to adapt to the mechanical load than muscles. This explains why you are stronger after a few sessions but can easily get injured because the soft tissue structures haven’t adjusted at the same pace.

It’s not just that the time for the knee joint to get stronger than the muscle of the legs is longer but also, the direction of the force imposed on the joint matters.

In the short-term, the tissue will be stronger just in the direction where the move occurs, explains Derrick Price, MS, in the article “Whole Body Strength Training Using Myofascial Lines,” published in the IDEA Fitness Journal.

Equally, the author writes: “In the long-term, repetition can make the fascia stiffer along the line of the stress, but weaker in other directions, resulting in disrupting patterns when moving in different directions.”

You may have a strong knee joint when doing squats but not the same when doing forward lunges. This change of direction after repetitive stress in one angle may set the conditions for an injury to take place.

Studies show that the greatest adaptations in tendons and bones show when doing multi-joint exercises and using a moderate-heavy workload – eight to 10 reps at 80 percent of you one-rep maximum.

Good change workout

This workout will tweak some of the most common resistance exercises to modify the stress that you’ve been imposing on the muscles and the joints for a while. Beware that change is advisable as long as you have performed an exercise for three weeks or so regularly. Otherwise, neither the muscles nor the soft tissue will have enough time to adapt and to remodel.

The reason why you are not seeing results or even having some joint pain may be because of too many changes or the absence of the right tweak. Changes that occur so fast without the proper time for the body to adjust or no change at all, can explain deficiencies in your exercise program.

Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning coach and master trainer, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website,, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.

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