During this blog, I want to talk about the Principle of Progressive Overload. What is the right exercise? What is the right workout? What is the right program? These are questions I hear a lot. We are all different in terms of how we respond to certain stimuli and each have various individual factors such as exercise history, anatomy, and mobility (just to name a few). However, what each program has in common is the Principle of Progressive Overload. This principle states “in order for a muscle to grow, strength to be gained, performance to increase, or for any similar improvement to occur, the human body must be forced to adapt to a tension that is above and beyond what it has previously experienced.” In order to apply this principle to your workouts, you need to find different ways to increase stress that is above and beyond what your body has previously experienced. In this blog I want to discuss four different ways in which you can do this. Keep in mind that these are basic concepts but are often times overlooked. I believe that we have a tendency to make things more difficult than they need to be. For whatever reason, we tend to believe that programming needs to be complex and extremely difficult in order to see results. Keep it simple, sustainable, and enjoyable while mastering the basics. You will be surprised how effective this approach becomes.
The most common and straight forward way to increase stress on your body. This method involves increasing the weight lifted over each workout. For simplicity sake, I will use the same example throughout the entire blog. During week 1 you squat 100 pounds for 8 reps. Using this method, you would then squat 110 pounds for 8 reps on week two. This increases the demands placed on the body and as a result adaptation will take place assuming you have adequate recovery.
This is pretty self explanatory here. This method involves increasing the reps performed over each workout. During week 1, you squat 100 pounds for 8 reps. During week 2 you would then squat 100 pounds for 10 reps. Again, this method increases stress placed on the body and will lead to adaptation eventually.
Tempo is essentially the speed of the movement you are performing. This is an area a lot of people forget but is so incredibly important and effective. Here’s an example of how you can progress with tempo. Week 1 you squat 100 lbs for 8 reps with a 2 second eccentric (lowering phase) and a 1 second pause on the bottom of the squat (isometric). This provides a time under tension of 3-4 seconds assuming you have good movement quality throughout the range of motion. During week 2 you can increase the time under tension to 5 or 6 seconds (3 second eccentric and a 2-3 second pause). Time under tension drastically increases the metabolic stress placed on the body and is a key component in hypertrophy (muscle growth), connective tissue health, and progression.
Rest periods are another effective way to increase the tension placed on your body without changing weight, reps, or tempo. Let’s say week 1 you rest 1 minute between squat sets. During week 2, if you rest 30 seconds between each set and achieve same amount of reps with the same amount of weight, you will have increased the tension placed on your body but just simply resting less.
There are lots of other methods you can use to adhere to the principle of progressive overload. Weight, reps, tempo, and rest are basic concepts but are extremely effective. Every solid program out there is built around this principle and applies one or two of these basic concepts. Choose a balanced outline, be creative, progress slowly, and find a sustainable program that you can adhere to on a consistent basis. Adhere to these principles and explore your wellness. Your best is yet to come!