Strategies to Progressively Overload

Overload is one of the three basic principles of training, with the other two being specificity and progression. Progressive overload means increasing the intensity, volume, and frequency of training. It aims at continuously increasing the demands on the skeletal muscles and making continuous gains in the desired performance. Progressive overload is thus a very crucial concept for your resistance training to be fruitful. Although it is usually associated with strength training, you can apply the principle to cardio exercises too.

When you work out every day, your body reaches a plateau, that is it gets used to your daily exercises. As a result, you may not see any changes in your body if you continue with the same workout routine. Progressive overload takes your training regimen a notch higher and challenges your body to make the musculoskeletal system stronger.

Progressive overload can be added to your training program in different ways. Read on to know these progressive overloading strategies and know how you can make your daily workout challenging.

How to Progressively Overload?

As difficult as it sounds, progressive overload is but a simple method if the following concepts are clearly understood.

  • Training volume : It is the total amount of work done during a workout session.

Training volume = reps x sets x weight

  • Training intensity : It is the percentage of maximum weight a person can lift for one repetition.

Training intensity = % repetition maximum (%RM)

  • Training frequency : It is the number of times a person or a specific muscle group is trained in a given period of time.

Training frequency = number of times a muscle group is worked out/week

Increasing any of the above parameters will help in progressive overload!

How to Practicing Progressive Overload

  1. Increasing the training volume

This means either the number of sets, reps, or the load is increased.

Increase in  TodayNext session
SETS2 sets 10 reps 20 kgs3 sets 10 reps 20kgs
REPS2 sets 10 reps 20 kgs2 sets 12 reps 20 kgs
LOAD2 sets 10 reps 20 kgs2 sets 10 reps 25 kgs
  1. Increasing intensity of a workout

It refers to lifting more weight in the training session. This can be done by doing more exercises for a particular muscle group in the next strength training session, or by increasing the time of an endurance exercise in the next cardio session.

  1. Increasing frequency of a workout

It simply means increasing the number of times one trains a particular muscle group in a week.

  1. Decreasing rest intervals between sets

Cutting down the rest interval between two sets from one minute to 30 seconds will allow you to do the same amount of work in a lesser period of time and make your body metabolically more efficient.

Besides these strategies, a couple of other ways to progressively overload include increasing endurance by increasing the length of your workout and increasing the tempo of your exercise performance.  

Things to Consider While Progressively Overloading

  • Go for progressive overloading only when you are able to execute any exercise maintaining a proper form.
  • Carry out a training routine for at least two straight weeks before progressively overloading it.
  • Progressive overloading should be done gradually. If you add challenges to your workout too quickly, it may prove to be dangerous, leading to an injury.
  • If you get injured or feel too sore after progressively overloading your training program, scale back the intensity or give your body some rest. 

About the Author: Dr. Pooja N is a dentist and a public health professional. She has a keen interest in nutrition and fitness and with her flair for writing she firmly believes that words can work wonders and change worlds.

About the Editor : Ketki H is a wandering soul who loves travelling solo, and firmly believes in enjoying the journey rather than hurrying to the destination. Although a graduate in Mechanical Engineering, she took to writing for reaching the masses.

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