What is progressive overload?
Have you heard of progressive overload? Do you know why it’s important to you and your fitness journey? If you’re not seeing results in the gym, progressive overload (or not implementing progressive overload) could be a major factor.
Progressive overload is used in weight lifting to increase the demand of exercises over a period of time to increase both strength and muscle growth.
In basic terms, progressive overload means doing more over time. The methods to implement progressive overload challenge your muscles so you can continue to see improvements as you advance.
Key components of progressive overload
To help us understand the impact of progressive overload, I want to highlight a couple of things:
- Muscle growth is optimized in strength training programs when we are working hard. Ideally, the last few reps in a set should be difficult to complete with a chosen weight.
- Working close to failure is less important the earlier on you are in your fitness routine. If you’re completely new to working out or the gym, making progress and building muscle will be easier.
I’ll give you an example to illustrate this:
Let’s say you started a strength training program and you were able to complete 12 goblet squats with 15lbs for 3 sets.
In the first couple of weeks of performing that exercise, it was difficult to complete all 12 reps. But, in week 3, you notice that completing 12 reps is much easier. At this point, you feel like you could do a few more reps.
This is because your body has adapted as your strength improves and your muscles grow. Instead of continuing to use the same weight for the same number of reps, which wouldn’t be as demanding as it was in weeks 1-2, you want to continue to challenge your body to see improvements.
This is where progressive overload comes in!
Ways to implement progressive overload
You could implement progressive overload and do more by implementing any of the following:
- Improve your form
- Increase the load
- Increase reps performed
- Modify your tempo (slowing, pause reps, speeding up)
- Increasing overall volume (or sets completed)
There are other more advanced and complex ways to implement progressive overload, but these are the primary ones you should know about.
I challenge you to follow a program for 4-12 weeks at a time and implement progressive overload, and I promise you that you will notice changes in your body.
No, you do not need to switch things up and “confuse” your muscles from workout to workout. You need to complete the same exercises over and over again and implement progressive overload, and you’ll finally get the results you’re after.