OK, so in this post, I’m going to be talking about the MOST important training principle that you should be applying in your training for consistently making strength and muscle gains. And that training principle is – you guessed it – Progressive Overload!
So what does progressive overload mean? Progressive Overload means that in order for physical adaptations to occur (e.g muscle growth) there needs to be an incremental increase in stress put on the body over time. Simply put, it means that you need to be mindfully making an effort to get stronger session to session, week to week.
It doesn’t matter what style of training you’re doing – it could be calisthenics/bodyweight training, powerlifting, CrossFit, bodybuilding, what have you – Progressive Overload is and is always going to be KING.
If you’re doing the same exercises at the same intensity week in week out, you are simply not going to be seeing good results. That’s just how the human body works. You need to be striving to improve each and every session.
If you’re a beginner you’ll notice that you’ll usually be able to get stronger almost with every session but if you’re a bit more advanced this could mean you’re ‘only’ getting a stronger week to week, and that’s just how it is.
As long as you’re applying that sweet progressive overload and making a conscious effort to get stronger over time, you’re going to be making great gains for years to come!
What Does Progressive Overload Mean – How To Apply It
There are many ways in which you can increase the intensity of a given exercise. Here are some examples:
- More Reps;
- More Sets;
- More Weight;
- Harder Exercise Progression;
- Increased Range Of Motion;
- More Time Under Tension;
- Shorter Rest Times.
For example, if on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays we start our workout by doing pull-ups and if on Monday you can do 6 Pull Ups then on Wednesday you wanna push for 7 and on Friday you wanna finish off the week by hitting those 8 Pull-Ups.
This is a very linear example and most likely you’ll be able to do more but even just that 1 more rep is what you should have in mind. Just one more rep session to session and week to week.
If you can do more that’s great, if not that’s A-OK too, the important thing is to always push yourself and try your hardest.
Setting Exercise Goals
It’s important to set clear goals for each exercise so you know when to make it harder. If in my workout plan I’m doing Dips (which everyone should be doing, in my opinion) I’ll set some goals for it and when I hit my goal, I’ll apply some form of progressive overload using the methods above.
For example, Day 1 of Week 1 my goal for my Dips are 5-12 reps for 3-4 sets with 2 minutes’ rest in between sets. If by Day 1 of Week 3 I’ve hit my 12 reps for 3 sets, next training session I’ll aim for 12 reps of 4 sets.
Another good way of increasing the intensity of my Dips could also be to increase the Time Under Tension, so the tempo or speed in which the exercise is performed, or I could simply add weight to the movement. Do what you think is best.
So always have a goal in mind for each and every exercise of your training program and make it happen. I recommend that you write down in your journal or notebook what you did every session and that way it is very easy to track your progress and ensure you’re getting stronger!
Mistakes People Tend To Make
Some of the most common mistakes I see people making when it comes to their training is:
- Either they’re too lazy to write down their training sessions or don’t know the value of doing so and they don’t really know what they did the previous session or;
- They vary their training up WAY too much.
People in category #1 won’t write down what they did each training session so they kind of just go with the flow and just try to remember it. Except that it’s hard to always know everything you did in your training and ultimately this is not a good approach to training for making the best progress you can possibly make.
Don’t be lazy, don’t get complacent, don’t be one of these people. Write your workouts down, get goals for every exercise, and put your mind to hitting them. This way you can be 100% certain that you’re making gains and getting stronger, over time.
People in category #2 are those who are constantly changing up their routines or programs, constantly changing exercises and this is a BIG illusion of Progressive Overload and is not the best way to get strong. Don’t get me wrong, I like having fun with my workouts as much as the next guy – what’s the point if you’re not having fun? – but to me, the most fun and gratifying way of training are by making sure I’m getting stronger and hitting my goals over time.
So if you can’t stick to a routine or program for more than 2 weeks and are constantly changing the way you train, you’re most likely not going to be seeing good results. Give it at least a good 4 to 5 weeks to any routine you take on and always think of continuity and progressing with your training.
Key Points to Take Away
Here are some Key Points I want you to take away from this article:
- You should be making a conscious effort to get stronger session to session, week to week;
- Write down your workouts to make it easy to track your progress;
- Set exercise goals;
- Train hard! 😉
I hope that this article has been helpful and you understand what Progressive Overload is all about. It’s great to know all about something but what is even better is going out there and actually applying what you’ve learned and put it into practice!
A lot of people know this training principle in theory but they don’t really do it. Don’t be like everyone else, apply the principle and reap the rewards!
If you have any questions or feedback just leave them in the comment section below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.
Happy training everyone!