If you are struggling to see results or find yourself stuck in a plateau it may be because you’re no longer challenging yourself.
Your body’s main goal is to keep you alive, healthy and functioning to the best of its ability. And so, your body will consistently adapt to its environment in order to do this. Therefore, to change and improve you’ll need to create an environment that proves to your body that these changes and improvements must be made to continue functioning optimally.
By applying progressive overload to your training routine you’ll be able to push your body to consistently advance and adapt.
What is progressive overload?
This principle involves continually increasing the demands on your body to grow muscle, gain strength, improve endurance and boost performance. Your body must be forced to adapt to pressure that is above and beyond what it has previously experienced.
For example, if you lift the same weights, for the same number of reps and sets using the same technique for 10 years nothing will ever happen… Your body will only continue to maintain its current state. However, if you increase the demands you are placing on your body by increasing the amount of weight being lifted, amount of reps/sets performed, or the intensity of your technique, then your body will have no other choice but to make the necessary changes and improvements in order to adapt to this new environment .
How to apply progressive overload
There are several ways in which you can progressively overload your workouts. Use any of the below methods, either combined or on their own, to increase your workout intensity and step up your performance.
Progressive overload methods for resistance training:
- Increased resistance– Lift heavier weights, add weight to body weight exercises or use stronger resistance bands.
- Increased number of reps– Perform more reps of a specific exercise. For example, if you usually do 10 reps of squat in a set and you find that this isn’t challenging your body anymore, try increasing the reps to 12 for your next workout (and so on… as your body adapts)
- Increased number of sets– Complete more sets of a specific exercise (e.g. if you usually perform 3 sets of 10 squats, now you will do 4 sets of 10 squats).
- Decreased rest periods– A great way to increase the intensity of your workout is by reducing your rest period. So if you are resting for 60 seconds between sets, try lowering your rest period to 30 seconds.
- Increased training frequency– Add more resistance training sessions to your workout program.
- Increased technique intensity– Boost the intensity of an exercise by using techniques such as paused reps, 1 + ¼ reps, and by increasing your time under tension (TUT).
- Increased variation difficulty– You can add intensity to an exercise by using a more difficult alternative. For example, instead of performing
Progressive overload methods for cardio training:
- Increase distance– Cover more distance than you usually do. For example, if you commonly run 5 km, try completing an extra 500 meters to a kilometre at your next workout.
- Increase speed– For cardio workouts completed using gym equipment such as a treadmill or stationary bike you can easily track and increase your speed using the speed adjuster. If you complete your cardio outside, on the road for example, you can increase and track your speed i by covering the same amount of distance that you usually do but in less time.
- Increase volume– This method can be used in workouts such as HIIT sprints (cycling or running). For example, if your standard cardio HIIT session involves x5 intervals, try performing and extra interval (so x6) during your next session.
- Increase training frequency– Add more cardio training sessions to your workout program.
When and how often to apply progressive overload
It’s not likely that you’ll be able to increase the intensity with every workout session. It does take some time for your body to adjust and adapt to its environment and this period can differ for each individual.
In order to progress it’s important to consistently challenge yourself by increasing the demands being placed on your body and of course maintaining proper form and exercise safety while doing so.
With that said, it’s also extremely important to listen to your body! Focus on understanding how exercise makes you feel and knowing when your body is strong enough to move forward. Ramp-up the intensity of your workouts gradually, because if you try to rush the process you will greatly increase your risk of injury. A common rule of thumb would be to incorporate one or more progressive overload method/s after 3 to 4 weeks of training. This is the amount of time, on average, that it takes for your body to adapt.
A Final Note
As long as you’re practising progressive overload in some form or another, then your body will continue to become stronger, fitter, faster and fearless!
All of our BRAEVE BODY PROGRAMS utilise progressive overload to ensure that you consistently reach your goals! Follow this link to start your BRAEVE journey now:
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