Progressive Overload 101 – Why It’s Crucial for Effective Training
The human body is a well-oiled machine, and it can adapt to almost anything you throw at it. That is important when it comes to your training, whether you’re trying to improve strength, build muscle or increase cardiovascular fitness, and it’s also where the concept of progressive overload comes into play. If you want to keep making progress and continually improving, you’ll need to make some changes to your exercise routine. This article explains what progressive overload is, why it’s important, and how you can use this information to improve your training methods and see serious results.
What Is Progressive Overload?
Progressive overload is of particular importance to strength training athletes, but it’s relevant to anyone who lives an active lifestyle and wants to make progress. Simply put, it refers to the gradual increase in stress placed on the body during exercise. Your body naturally adapts to stress. When you train for mass or strength, this stimulates your body into action, and muscles are broken down and built back up again bigger and stronger than before. Other effects include stronger and denser bones and soft tissue, as well as increased blood flow.
Why Do You Need to Do This
Since your body quickly adapts, you’re going to have to keep challenging it if you want these reactions to occur. The concept of gradually increasing stress is a tried and tested way of doing so. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, your body will get used to it, and you won’t be stressing it enough for any changes to occur. That can lead to results tailing off because you have reached a plateau. If you stop training for any reason, it will also have significant effects.
Living a sedentary lifestyle can cause muscular atrophy (loss of mass and strength). That is why, if you’ve come back from a lengthy absence, you’ll no doubt have found that your performance has dropped off and your physique is not what it used to be. If there is no demand for the body to adapt, then this atrophy will continue, which is why it’s so important to stay active and train in the right way.
How to Implement Progressive Overload in Your Training
There are many ways you can keep challenging your body and ensuring that it responds to your training. Here are some of the most common methods:
•Increased volume (more sets, more reps per set)
•Decreased rest times
•Increased resistance (heavier weights)
•Increased time under tension (perform reps more slowly)
•Increased frequency (training more often)
•Adapted exercises (one arm push-up, jump squat, deficit deadlift, etc.)
These are just a few of the main ways you can modify your training in line with this principle. How you implement this overload will depending on your goals and type of training, but it’s essential you find some way of stressing the body so you can continue to make progress.
Dangers of Progressive Overload
While the body needs stress to improve, the emphasis is on gradual increases. If you try and change your training too quickly or too drastically, you risk overtraining and causing serious injury to yourself. Here are a few things to keep in mind when coming up with a training plan:
•Small increases — whether you’re increasing weight, volume or whatever else, it’s important to take your time and build up in small increments. If you usually train for an hour three times a week, suddenly training for two hours every day is a recipe for disaster and could well lead to injury.
•Adequate rest — if you’re lifting heavier and longer, you’ve got to give the body time to recover from your training properly. Rushing back from a hard training session puts your body at risk.
•Periodization — periodization is the practice of training in cycles to reach your peak without overloading your body. That means you should avoid going all out every session, and vary the RPE (rate of perceived exertion) or percentage of the 1RM (one rep max) at which you train. Research training plans based on your goals.
Keep Making Gains
If you take your training seriously and want to keep making progress, then it’s essential you understand the principle of progressive overload, and know how to apply it to your workouts. Whether you’re increasing resistance, volume, or intensity, there are plenty of ways of effectively taking your exercise routine to the next level. As long as you’re aware of the potential risks, and ensure that you increase the stress on your body gradually, you should see some great results using this method.