What is progressive overload? To keep it simple, it is a trackable increase of stress on the body to generate a goal-oriented adaptation. Without this trackable stress on the body you can expect to hit a plateau with your results and not see any changes. This is because you are not giving the body a reason to change or adapt. I will give you an example, let’s say you go into the gym and do the same workout with the same weights for months. You might have seen some results in the first month with some muscle and strength gains, maybe fat loss. Unfortunately, results stopped and you are left puzzled because you are working hard. Without giving the body a new stimulus, the body will not adapt. You need to provide the body enough intensity that overloads the body just enough to provide an adaptation. What this means is that you do not have to go so intense that you are sore for days. You also do not have to change the stimulus everytime, meaning you do not need a new workout every week. You need to stick with a program for 4-6 weeks to see adaptations, this gives the body a chance to learn the movements and be able to push it week after week. You can not do that if you are doing something different all the time. It’s a balance of sticking with a program and changing stimulus often enough to see results.
So how do you go about progressively overloading your training?
There are many ways you can incorporate progressions into your training. One of the most common ways is to increase the weight you are lifting. Keep in mind, you will not be able to increase your weight each time. If this was the case, a 25 year experienced lifter would be able to lift 1,000 lbs on the bench press for reps. The body can handle so much stress before it breaks down. Luckily there are other ways to progressively overload the body during your training.
First, you should start with whatever you are able to do with good, technical form. Having good form is most important when it comes to training, and improving your training form is a way to progressive overload.
Here are other ways to progressive overload:
- Increasing your range of motion
- Less rest time
- More speed/acceleration work
- More sets
- Increase frequency (number of times lifting)
- Time under tension (slowing down and/or pausing under load)
- Increasing reps
- Changing the position of center of mass
- Base of support, points of contact
As you can see, there are many ways you can overload the body that doesn’t include adding weight. A good program will incorporate these methods that will help you progress without hitting a plateau. You can easily make an exercise harder without adding weight simply by going slower on the descent of the lift. Great example is squatting, by simply squatting down with a 5 second count will make 135 lbs so much harder even though you can do much more. As you progress with these methods, adding weight to your lift will feel easier and more stable.
If you are in the middle of a plateau with strength, hypertrophy, or even fat loss take a look at your workouts. Ask yourself this: Am I making changes in my workout? Am I following a program or am I just working out with new exercises all the time? Am I tracking my workouts?
I want you to ask yourself this because your answers might be an indicator that you need something structured or something new.
I know it can be overwhelming on how to make these changes in your training and how to progress. It is a lot to think about and that is one of the many highlights of having a trainer to do it for you. If you are interested in some help with your training, go to this link Online Training and I will go over a few options and if you have questions just email me.