What Is Progressive Overload?

The science behind working out isn’t complicated, but it’s easy to get it wrong. Your body adapts to stress, if your body finds itself in a new situation, during the recovery phase your body will recover in a way best suited to the stress it has just been through.

If you do 3 sets of 10 reps at 50kg today, and tomorrow, and the day after, your body will adapt to perform 3 sets of 10 reps at 50kg in the most efficient way possible. You may see some strength, size and endurance gains short term. But long term you will plateau as your body isn’t being put under new stress, it doesn’t need to adapt to anything new.

Progressive overload is about putting your body under new stress, in small increments over time.

If you did 3x10 at 50kg today, next time or next week you increase the load: do 4 sets, or 12 reps, or 55kg.

Putting your body under this new stress means it will recover to be more efficient at the new load. For strength training this will usually mean building muscle size or strength. The rep ranges you use will influence this, but that’s a whole other story.

So, if you do the same workouts week in week out, with no changes, long term you will plateau. If you want to keep making improvements, use a program with progressive overload. But don’t expect results overnight, it takes time.

Use these three methods, without losing form, to incorporate progressive overload in to your program:

  1. Increase the weight
  2. Increase the sets and or reps
  3. Reduce your rest time


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