There are many different training philosophies that proponents swear by for getting an edge in the gym and ultimately, the best results. However, the one training goal that most people acknowledge is a must for muscular and fitness gains, is progressive overload.
Whether you train with free weights or machines, train using high reps or low reps, heavy weights or light weights, progressive overload is the concept that should underpin everything you do in the gym. It applies to all aspects of the fitness game. Want to put on size? Get stronger? Become more explosive? Run faster? Run further?Progressive overload is the key.
Put simply, progressive overload is increasing your workload in the gym over time, putting your body under increasing stress from week to week and month to month.
Your body doesn’t want to change. Muscle tissue is very costly — it burns more energy at rest and the body wants to remain as efficient as possible, so if you don’t force your body to change, it simply won’t.
How do we implement progressive overload? By tweaking the different training variables so that your body is forced to change. One way to do this is to gradually increase the weight you lift over time. If you can lift heavier, you’re getting stronger. You’re forcing your muscles to adapt to the stress of the heavier weight.
Another way is increase the number of reps you perform per set. Can’t lift a heavier dumbbell at a given workout? Instead, try to squeeze one or two extra reps in the set. If you can perform more reps this workout then you’re progressing. And then after a few sessions, you can then try to increase the weight.
Other training variables that you can manipulate include volume (number of overall sets), intensity (as a percentage of your one-rep maximum), frequency of training and rest time between sets. Ultimately, the aim is to get better from workout to workout, week to week, month to month and year to year.
Remember, change will probably come slowly and incrementally. However, even a small change in the right direction is a good thing. Adding a small weight plate to the barbell. Moving the pin on the weight stack. If the numbers are changing, you’re moving forward.