Why you need Progressive Overload

Did you hit a plateau on strength gains? If so, progressive overload may be the missing link and this article is for you!

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It is not uncommon to fall in love with the rush of newbie gains.

This is the time when every week you are looking better in the mirror, you are running faster, jumping higher, and lifting heavier.

For a brief moment in time your progress is drastically noticeable.

Be it 4 weeks or 3 months, however long it lasts, it eventually comes to an end.

This is where most people hit a plateau. While you still may be making gains, even little ones, many stop completely.

When progress halts, so often do efforts. Understandably it can be demotivating.

One simple thing is probably missing.

Progressive overload

If you are new to weight lifting, progressive overload is simply the gradual increase of stress placed on the body.

When it comes to strength training, physical therapy, high intensity interval training, or endurance training, progressive overload is the fundamental aspect.

This was a technique developed by Thomas Delorme M. D. in world war 2 to rehabilitate soldiers.

Progressive overload is basically pushing your body to a set limit. Once that limit is accomplished, you push it further, and repeat the cycle.

This is a very important aspect and one I often fail to see take place in many attempts at training.

Why do you go to the gym in the first place? To exercise or train?

Sure you may have a goal like losing weight or looking good in a swim suit during beach season.

That is what we call exercise. Anyone can just go to the gym without a goal and still accomplish some basic goals.

When it comes to training though, there is a purpose.

And while, looking good is often part of it, most want to lift more, jump higher, run faster.

In order to keep lifting more or running faster, there has to be constant training for progressive overload. In other words, constantly placing the body under additional stress.

Why many routines hit a plateau

I don’t really care for the term plateau when it comes to fitness.

To me, it often implies that the reason why you stopped making progress is beyond your control.

Reality is, plateau’s do happen to just about everyone. However, they are merely a sign that there needs to be a change in the routine.

There are many forms of change that can take place.

This article we want to focus on progressive overload or stress placed on the body.

I so often see people at the gym going about their routine without any real purpose or focus.

They walk up to the dumbbells, grab a set of dumbbells, knock out 12 reps like nothing, and then repeat 2 more times before the next exercise.

There may be a little struggle at the end, but this cycle just continues to repeat itself.

Overtime your body will progress, however, those gains are quite minimal and eventually will stop.

The problem is, this person is never really pushing themselves to get better.

Simply going to the gym to exercise only lasts for so long.

What is the goal? You lifted 25 pounds 36 times and then what? Too often, the weight stays the same for multiple weeks.

Same goes for the person who goes to gym on a daily basis and jogs or walks for 2 hours on a treadmill.

What is the point? Yes, you are getting some health benefits, but what is the end goal? Where are striving to be at next week?

If you don’t have an affirmative plan of action, your body is going to adapt and hit a stalemate.

How to properly train for progressive overload

When it comes to training for strength or endurance or whatever else it might be, go in with a plan.

For instance, on chest day lets say your goal is to do 3 sets of bench press at 4 to 6 reps.

You should be lifting heavy. In other words, you should be lifting at about 80% of your 1 rep max.

Now set 1, 2, and 3 you hit 6 reps each. Next week, you need to up the weight to say 155.

Your goal is to hit that 6 reps for 3 sets. Once that has been accomplished, you need to create more stress on the body to prevent it from hitting a plateau.

Next week let’s say your reps go 6-5-5 at the higher weight. Once you hit 6-6-6, go on up again.

Other times you may hit 6 easily and go for 7 or decide to add weight on the next set. If you hit 6 again, go for a little more on the final set.

The point is to keep pushing yourself to add more weight.

By doing this you will continually be making more and more progress.

Granted at times, when you add weight you may be stuck doing 4-4-4 one or two weeks. That is perfectly fine. You are in the rep range and you are simply working towards hitting 6’s again.

The same can be said about the person on the treadmill.

Instead of walking along for two hours, do some interval training.

Set a goal of doing 10 to 15 rounds of 30 seconds running and 30 seconds walking.

You may feel completely done at 10 rounds.

Each time however, you will see that those rounds get higher and higher and the routine gets easier.

Once you hit 15 rounds advance the intervals to 45 seconds of running to 30 seconds of walking, and so forth.

Bottom line

One main reason why plateau happens is because you are not pushing your body to adapt.

With regularly adding to the difficulty of your workout you can expect to continually make progress.

Granted, if you have been working out for a long time, progress does slow down. However, that constant pushing of yourself still pays dividends.

To do so, go in with a plan every workout and when you accomplish a goal, immediately go for a new one.

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Ronald Nattress

Ron Nattress is the Founder and Owner of the Pioneer Fit Project. Ron started his fitness career in 2003 as a certified personal trainer. Over the years he has developed an insatiable thirst for knowledge. With a desire to learn everything about fitness and nutrition he has dedicated a life to finding the ultimate balance of health. In 2017 he decided it was finally time to turn his passion into a full online fitness company. In the beginning of January 2017 Ron opened the Pioneer Fit Project with the goal of helping as many people as he could to live full healthy lives. He is currently working on a multitude of books and developing an online training program.

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