Progressive Overload: Explained

Progressive Overload is the process in which you gradually increase the “load” over your body so that it has an incentive to grow stronger than it currently is. The concept of progressive overload can be easily understood by the story of “Milo of Croton”.

Progressive Overload

Although progressive overload primarily applies to strength training, it is also implemented in other exercises like running or swimming which train the cardiovascular system.

What Is Progressive Overload?

This principle involves continually increasing the demands on the musculoskeletal system to continually make gains in muscle size, strength, and endurance. In simple words, you’ll have to continuously increase the load you put on your muscles while working out in order to grow bigger and stronger.

If you fail to correctly overload your muscles from time to time, it may lead to plateau or in some cases atrophy where you’ll lose muscle and strength.

Benefits Of Progressive Overload

Doing the same workout routine over and over again may feel good for sometime but you’ll arrive at a situation where you’ll notice yourself not making any substantial gains in your progress. You may be able to easily lift a weight that once was challenging, and you likely don’t notice any soreness — or any progress being made.

Progressive overload benefits your training because you’ll avoid a plateau. By changing or progressing in your workouts, you’ll keep your muscles challenged and you’ll get stronger.

If you were able to perform 10-12 reps of 20 kgs weight on a bench press then as you progress, you should be able to lift 30-35 kg of weight for 10-12 reps depending upon your progress.

How To Progressively Overload?

There are majorly five ways by which you can progressively overload your workouts. Starting with:

1)Increase Resistance

In this method, you increase the amount of weight you lift after a period of time. Generally, people increase the weight on weekly basis but a good rule of thumb is to increase your weight when you can do about 10-12 reps comfortably on the current weight if you’re training for hypertrophy.

If you’re someone who is training for strength, then you should increase your weight if you can comfortably do 5-7 reps on your current weight comfortably.

The new weight should let you complete the first 10 reps(if you’re training for hypertrophy) or the first 3-4 reps(if you’re training for strength) relatively easily but make you struggle with the last 2-3 reps.

Get at ease with the new weight and then repeat the above process to continue progressing.

2)Increase Intensity

In this method, you increase the intensity of your workout. There are many ways to do it, You can do this by working out at a quicker pace or with less rest time in between sets.

You can also progress to a more difficult variation of a particular exercise which will in turn put more stress on your body with the very same weight and hence you’ll be able to progress.

Many people resort to this method due to lack of weight which is absolutely fine if you know or have a personal trainer who knows how to work with weights, exercise variations, and tempo.

3)Increase The Repetitions

In this method, you continue doing the repetitions until you hit failure and the next time you’ll observe you can do more repetitions before reaching failure.

One thing to note about this method is that it’ll work more on your endurance rather than strength and hypertrophy. So, if you’re someone who’s training for strength and hypertrophy then should follow the first method.

4)Decrease Rest Intervals

It is a pretty straightforward method, in this, you just have to decrease the amount of time you rest between sets. Doing this will increase the overall stress on your muscles which will in turn lead to muscle growth and strength.

This method can be coupled with other methods in order to further increase the intensity of your workout but you’ll have to be confident with the weight that you’re lifting so as to not cause any harm while working out.

The Takeaway

What you should takeaway from this article is the significance of progressive overload and the ways you can do it. Simple, right?

Also, you should stick to only one method of progressive overload depending upon your goals so as not to over-overload your body. As you advance further in your fitness journey and start to know more about your body, you can customize a plan for youself or get in touch with a personal trainer who can do it for you.

For beginners, there’s no need to apply all sorts of methods you find on the internet, just stick to one simple overloading method and you’ll be good to go.


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Thank you for mentioning the different approaches someone building muscles, endurance or strength should take. It makes this whole thing a lot accessible.

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