What Is Progressive Overload and Why Is It Important to Implement in My Workout?

You may have heard the term progressive overload thrown around from workout videos you may watch or your favourite athletes Instagram post. While it might sound complicated to some it's actually quite a simple concept and is necessary to train effectively.

While you may not think that you're ready for this 'advanced' training technique chances are you're already doing this in the gym. Anyone who goes to the gym who's looking to gain strength and improve their fitness levels will need to implement some form of progressive overload, whether they know it or not.

What is progressive overload?

Simply put, progressive overload is the gradual increase in stress placed on the body while training. This isn't something you implement in one workout, it's something you do over months and months of training that leads to an overall improvement in your fitness capabilities. Most people that go to the gym and weight train will see this progressive overload taking effect as they begin to increase the weight for each of their workouts.

There are a number of ways in which you can practise progressive overload over time:

  • Gradually increasing the weight you're using for each workout
  • Increasing the number of reps or sets you do for each workout
  • Increasing the frequency of your workouts (ie: going to the gym more often)
  • Increasing the number of workouts in a single session
  • Gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts
  • Decreasing the rest time between your sets

Many of these are actually done in conjunction with one another and you can absolutely switch them up now and then. But when it comes to strength training, weightlifting and bodybuilding the most common practice is to gradually increase the load (weight) you are using. After all, being able to lift heavier is the point right?

Why you should be practising progressive overload

Whether you want to be the next Eddie Hall, Kobe Bryant, Connor McGregor or just want to get in better shape, using progressive overload will be the only way you see real improvement in your physical capabilities. This is because, in order for you to be able to perform at a higher level, your body needs to be able to adapt to the stresses that come with that performance. Whether it's lifting heavier weights or improving your endurance and stamina.

When you think about progressive overload you should think about your fitness goals. In order for muscles to grow, strength to be gained or performance to improve your body needs to be forced to adapt to increased stress compared to what it normally experiences. As your body adapts to this new load or stress you can increase the stress again resulting in increased performance.

Obviously this won't happen overnight and it won't even happen each workout. Improving your fitness level is a commitment you have to make to yourself knowing it will be months or years before you're where you want to be. So go out and get started.

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