Your body is an amazing machine and it adapts very rapidly to whatever challenges you put it through. That means that with the right technique you can use progressive overload to make sure you’re continuing to get stronger and fitter. However, it also means that if you do the same number of reps and use the same weights each time you workout you’ll stunt your progress.
Your skeletal muscle grows bigger and stronger in response to the training you put it through. In simple terms, your body will not change unless you force your muscles to do more than they’re accustomed to. That’s why it’s so important to never get complacent with your training.
What is Progressive Overload?
You now know that in order to get stronger and fitter, you must continue to make your muscles work harder than they’re used to. The most common way to do this is to increase your resistance, but as you’re about to discover, there are other methods you can use.
Remember, progressive overload doesn’t just apply to lifting weights to increase muscle growth. It can also be applied to your cardiovascular fitness in order to create physiological changes that will affect your cardiorespiratory system.
Here are 5 ways you can add progressive overload to your training
1. Increase your resistance
The most obvious way to increase the demands you place on your muscles is to increase the weight. For example, if you find an 15 lb dumbbell is too easy when performing a bicep curl, try adding a bit more weight to make it more challenging! Remember, you’re unlikely to be able to perform as many reps when you add more weight, but that’s ok. You’ll soon get stronger with that resistance and be able to increase your weight again.
2. Increase your reps
You don’t necessarily have to add weight to benefit from progressive overload. As you get stronger, you can simply do more repetitions, which is considered another means of increasing the overload. Never stop a movement when you reach an arbitrary rep count; keep going until you can’t complete any more on your own with good form.
3. Increase your volume
In this case, volume is simply the number of sets multiplied by reps multiplied by resistance. By adding more sets (i.e. by adding another set to your existing exercises), you’re making progressively greater demands on your muscle tissue. For example, that may mean that you do 3 sets instead of 2 for all the exercises in your routine.
4. Increase training frequency
Increasing the frequency you train a muscle group is another good way to increase the overload. The traditional approach to training a muscle group is once over the course of the training split, but training it more frequently may help improve it even further, especially when used as a short-term strategy.
5. Decrease rest between sets
The final way you can increase overload in your training is to reduce your rest between-sets. This essentially means doing the same amount of work in less time. Reducing your rest time requires your body to become more metabolically efficient and adapt more quickly.
So how can you incorporate progressive overload into my program?
If you’re following my workout program, either at home or at the gym you should incorporate the methods you have just learned on your Lower Body day and your Upper Body day. Focus on overloading your muscles when performing the core exercises like squats, thrusters, deadlifts, pull downs, presses, pull ups, chest press and push ups. One way to do this in the gym is to increase your weight. If you workout at home, you can increase your weight or increase the resistance by adding resistance bands along with your weights
If you want to take it a step further, you can also turn one of your Full Body days into a progressive overload day substituting the timed circuits for a number of reps. You can do this by increasing your weight with each round while decreasing the number of reps. Be sure to choose a weight and number reps that make it challenging to complete. A good rep range to start with is about 12 reps.
In order to get long lasting results it’s important to build exercise and healthy routines into your life for the long run. Progressive overload is a great technique to use to ensure you’re continuing to challenge your body and achieve your goals. But remember, you should always be aware of what your body is telling you and make sure to give your body enough time for rest and recovery. If you have any questions please email me. I love hearing from you and always answer your messages personally. Send me an email anytime at