You’ve probably heard your favourite fitness influences using what is starting to become a buzz word, “progressive overload”, and thinking, “what the heck does that actually mean?! And how do I actually achieve it?”
The world of fitness can be a confusing place, especially for young women looking to get started with their training journey. With a multitude of fitness influencers online offering advice, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. One of the essential concepts to grasp is “progressive overload,” and in this blog post, we’ll delve deeper into what it means and provide actionable steps on how to incorporate it into your training program.
Understanding Progressive Overload
Progressive overload is the cornerstone of effective training. It involves gradually increasing the stress or demand on your body during workouts over time. By doing so, you challenge your muscles to adapt and grow stronger, leading to improved strength, endurance, and overall fitness.
Here’s a more in-depth look at how to achieve progressive overload in your training program:
- Increase Weight
One of the most straightforward ways to implement progressive overload is by increasing the amount of weight you lift. As you become more proficient with an exercise, add more weight to the bar or dumbbells. This added resistance makes your muscles work harder and adapt to the new challenge.
- Add Repetitions
Another way to progressively overload is to increase the number of repetitions you perform for a given exercise. For example, if you were doing three sets of 8-10 reps, aim to perform 10-12 reps with the same weight. This additional workload pushes your muscles beyond their comfort zone.
- Reduce Rest Time
Shortening the rest intervals between sets can intensify your workouts. Cutting down on rest forces your body to recover more quickly and adapt to the stress. Try reducing rest periods from 60 seconds to 45 seconds or even 30 seconds as you progress.
- Change Tempo
The tempo at which you perform an exercise can impact muscle engagement. A simple way to progress is by controlling the eccentric (lowering) phase of a lift. For example, lower the weight slowly during a squat or bench press. Slowing down specific portions of an exercise increases time under tension and enhances muscle activation.
- Adjust Set and Rep Schemes
Mix up your set and repetition schemes. For instance, if you’ve been doing 3 sets of 10 reps, switch to 4 sets of 8 reps or 5 sets of 5 reps. Changing these variables regularly challenges your muscles in new ways and prevents plateaus.
- Incorporate Advanced Techniques
Once you’ve built a strong foundation, you can introduce more advanced techniques such as drop sets, supersets, or pyramid sets. These techniques add intensity to your workouts and can help you continually progress.
- Prioritise Progression in Compound Movements
Compound exercises that engage multiple muscle groups (e.g., squats, deadlifts, pull-ups) are excellent for progressive overload. Make them a central part of your program, and focus on increasing weight, reps, or sets in these fundamental movements.
Progressive overload is the secret to a successful training program. By strategically increasing the weight, adding repetitions, reducing rest times, adjusting tempos, and incorporating various advanced techniques, you can ensure consistent and sustainable progress in your fitness journey. The key is to stay committed, track your progress, and enjoy the journey as you build a strong, healthy, and confident body. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the abundance of information online; instead, focus on mastering the principles of progressive overload, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your fitness goals.