In this article I’m going to define and explain progressive overload and talk you through why it is one of the most important components of weight training. 

“Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training.” 

But what does that mean? 

Well a key measure of resistance training is volume, volume = sets x reps x load

So progressive overload is the increase of volume over time. 

As you can see, the key variables here that we can control are;

  1. Load
  2. Number of sets
  3. Number of reps

There’s only so many sets of a given exercise or for a given body part that you can complete and increasing the total number of sets will only get you so far. 

So what we look to do is to add load over time, while increasing the reps we’re able to place tension on the desired muscle group for, for the maximum number of sets that we’re able to recover from. 

This means that we’re constantly placing ourselves under a novel stimulus and our body will essentially be forced to repair and grow to cope with that stimulus. 

Simply put, let’s say if you’re benching 60kg for 8 reps, then in a years time, you’re then doing 100kg for 8 reps, with the same form, you’re going to have accrued some notable muscle mass changes over time to help you cope with that increase in load and ultimately volume. 

This is why progressive overload is one of the key components of weight training, it’s quite simple really but here’s some tips to keep you on track;

  1. Make sure that you use loads you’re able to control and progress those, go up when you hit the top end of your rep range, with every rep looking the same. Progressive overload will lead to growth, but only with consistent form. 
  2. Attempt to beat your log book in every session
  3. Find your maximum recoverable volume/frequency and work with that, the more frequently you can load a muscle, the more opportunities you have for growth. 
  4. Try to control 1 variable at a time, attempting to increase both reps and load (unless you’re new to training and jumping massively), won’t be helpful and you may get hurt/stuck under a bar. 

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