Training places stress on your body. But what happens when your body adapts to this load? Doing the same resistance training regime every time you head in to the gym will eventually lead to a plateau. As will not increasing the weights you lift over time. This is where progressive overload comes in to the picture.
Progressive overload is the gradual increase in stress or demand which is placed on your body during training. Overload is an essential concept in resistance training and important to consider for both athletes and the general population.
Whether you want to build muscle, increase strength or improve muscular endurance, you need to use progressive overload. The same concept of progressive overload can be applied to cardiovascular training, where your aim is to increase aerobic capacity.
The most important thing to know about progressive overload is that the word PROGRESSIVE is there for a reason. Increasing load to quickly, lifting weights too heavy and overtraining all increase the risk of injury, so it’s important to make sure to progress your training in a slow and safe way.
Ways to increase your load include:
Increase in the weight lifted
The most obvious way to increase your load is by increasing the weight you are lifting. Say for example you normally back squat 50kg, which you do for 10 reps each time you train. Are the last 2 reps really difficult, or could you easily push out more than 10 reps at this weight? If so, it might be time to increase your weight. As this is progressive overload and we want to avoid injury, only add weight in small increments. Try adding 2.5kg to each side. As there is an inverse relationship between weight and reps, you may find that you can only do 8 reps with this weight to start with, which is perfectly ok!
Increase in volume (the number of sets or reps).
Increasing the amount of sets or reps you perform is another way to increase your load. Going back to our example of the squat, where you normally do 3 sets of 10 at 50kg, try doing 4 sets of 10, or 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
Increase in the number of training sessions
Although this option may be harder to fit in, you can increase your load by training more, although you have to be careful not to over train. If you have been resistance training 3 times a week for some time, increasing to 4 sessions will increase your overall training load.
Change the rest interval
Decreasing the rest interval between your sets will increase the intensity of your workout, making it more challenging. You can also try using supersets, where you perform 2 exercises back to back with little rest in between.
Variation of exercises during training is also important to consider, as different modes of exercises can add challenge to your workouts and avoid plateaus with common exercises.
Overall, the best way to go about progressive overload Is to use a mix all of the above strategies to get the best results.
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Disclaimer: The information on this page is for informational purposes only. Do not start new exercises without the recommendation of a professional.
Kavanaugh, A. The role of progressive overload in athlete conditioning. NSCA Performance Training Journal 6(1).