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What is 'progressive overload'?


progressive overload

You may hear this phrase spoken about often but what does it really mean and why is there so much hype around it?


Progressive overload is a method used to gradually increase the stress put on the body requiring it to adapt and therefore be able to handle a higher workload. If you do not give the body any reason to adapt and grow you will no longer see any improvement. Exercise classes can often fall into this bracket because despite gaining initial progress, the random nature of the programs require no structure or consistent demand for the body to improve.


It is most commonly spoken about and used in strength training but it can also be applied to cardiovascular training.


How to apply progressive overload to strength training:

To achieve optimal results from your training, avoid plateaus and injuries it is important to follow a structured training programme. Only look to implement one of the following techniques at a time and always aim to progress slowly. As the old cliché goes, 'slow and steady wins the race'.


  • Increase weight - Aim to gradually increase the amount of weight you use for a particular exercise each week

Example:

Week 1: 3 x 10reps 10kg

Week 2: 3 x 10 reps 12kg

Week 3: 3 x 10 reps 14kg

Week 4: 3 x 10 reps 16kg


  • Increase repetitions - Aim to gradually increase the amount of repetitions you perform for a particular exercise.

Example:

Week 1: 3 x 8 reps 10kg

Week 2: 3 x 9 reps 10kg

Week 3: 3 x 10 reps 10kg

Week 4: 3 x 11 reps 10kg


  • Increase sets - Aim to gradually increase the amount of sets you perform for a particular exercise.

Example:

Week 1-4: 2 x 10reps

Week 5-8: 3 x 10 reps

Week 9-12: 4 x 10 reps

Week 13-16: 5 x 10 reps


  • Increase exercises - Another way to increase your training volume is by increasing the amount of exercises you perform for a particular muscle across a training week.

Example:

Week 1-4 : 1) Bench Press

2) Incline Bench Press

Week 5-8: 1) Bench Press

2) Incline Bench Press

3) Dumbbell Chest Press

Week 9-12: 1) Bench Press

2) Incline Bench Press

3) Dumbbell Chest Press

4) Incline Dumbbell Chest Press

Week 13-16: 1) Bench Press

2) Incline Bench Press

3) Dumbbell Chest Press

4) Incline Dumbbell Chest Press

5) Dumbbell Chest Fly


  • Increase TUT - Time under tension (TUT) is when you keep them muscle under stress for a longer period of time. Common methods for this are slowing down your lifting speed and pause repetitions.

Example a) Eccentric Squat - 5 second slow controlled descend to bottom of squat x 5 reps


Example b) Pause Squat - 2 second pause at bottom of squat x 5 reps




How to apply progressive overload to cardiovascular training:


running

  • Increase duration - Gradually increase the length of your workouts.

Example:

Week 1: Run 10mins

Week 2: Run 12mins

Week 3: Run 14mins

Week 4: Run 16mins

  • Increase frequency - Gradually increase the amount of cardiovascular workouts you do a week.

Example:

Week 1-4: Monday: Run

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Run

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Rest

Week 5-8: Monday: Run

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Run

Friday: Rest

Saturday: Run

Sunday: Rest


Week 9-12: Monday: Run

Tuesday: Rest

Wednesday: Run

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Run

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Run


Week 13-16 Monday: Run

Tuesday: Run

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Run

Friday: Run

Saturday: Rest

Sunday: Run

  • Increase intensity - Another way you can progressively overload your cardiovascular training is by increasing your workout intensity. This can be done by increasing your speed or implementing hills.

Example:

Week 1: Walk 4mins - Run 1min x4

Week 2: Walk 3mins - Run 2min x4

Week 3: Walk 2mins - Run 3min x4

Week 4: Walk 1mins - Run 4min x4



Common training mistakes:

  • On repeat - Doing the same strength workout, with the same weights, same repetitions and same amount of sets. This can also be said for cardiovascular training, for example if you do every run at the same pace, for the same time and the same distance.

  • Random - The complete opposite to repeat training. This normally refers to having no structure to your training. Doing random exercises each time you train with no way of knowing if you are progressing.

  • No training diary - Along with a structured training programme it is also important to record your training. This way you can see exactly what you did on the previous session and what is required to better yourself this session.

  • Overtraining - Recovery is just as important as training sessions themselves. By consistently pushing yourself to hard you are increasing the risk of burning out. Common symptoms of overtraining are; lack of muscle growth, poor recovery between training sessions, poor sleep quality, loss of enthusiasm and injuries.


Conclusion:

Exercise is great for your health but if you want to see consistent improvements in your training, performance and physique, you need to implement progressive overload into your training.


If you would like help with your progressive overload programming just drop me an email and I will be happy to help!




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