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What Is Progressive Overload Training ? – The One Priniciple You Must Know For Muscle Growth

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Progressive overload training is the single most important principle in any workout program and it is the key to getting the results you want from any type of workout or any form of exercise. So what does this term “progressive overload” actually mean ?

The Full Definition Of Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is a principle that involves continual increase in the demands on the musculoskeletal system (your body) so that you can gain more muscle size, strength or endurance. Simply put the only way your body will change is if you create an environment that proves to your body that these changes (whether it be gaining muscle mass, increasing strength or endurance) must be made and the only way to do this is by forcing your body to adapt to a tension that is more that what it has previously experienced, otherwise known as progressive overload.

intense cardio

What this means is that when you begin any exercise start out as light as possible and gradually work your way up, but only when you can do it with perfect technical form. Most of the times that means increasing the amount of weight you lift, but as you’ll find out below there are other methods to increase the overload.

5 Ways To Increase The Overload

Increase The Resistance

The simplest and easiest way to increase overload is by increasing the amount of weight you lift. For example if over head pressing (OHP) 80 pounds for 3 sets and 9 reps gets too easy, try putting 5 pounds on each side of the bar – doing that will overload the muscles to a greater degree ! It’s also important to remember that when adding more weight to the bar your reps are going to be reduced by 1 or 2.

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Increase The Reps

Alternatively, this brings us onto increasing the amount of reps you do per set as you get stronger because you don’t always have to add weight. Don’t go over 12 reps though because at that point you’ll improve muscle endurance rather than muscle size, so when you do reach 12 reps add more weight to the bar instead of trying to do more reps to keep you in the ideal range for hypertrophy (8-12 reps).

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Increase The Sets

Also known as increasing the amount of volume, by adding more sets you’re making the muscles work harder. To do this just add one or two more sets to some of the exercises in your current routine or add a brand new exercise to your whole routine.

Decrease Rest Times Between Each Set

If you’re in a rush the best way to add more overload is to decrease your rest times because this requires your body to become metabolically efficient with weight training. Don’t cut your rest times to less than one minute though because that will increase muscular endurance and not muscle size.


For More On Rest Times And Rep Ranges Click Here: How Long Should You Rest Between Sets ? – Different Times For Different Goals

Extending The Set Past Technical Failure

Once you can’t complete a rep with perfect form you can do things like forced reps, static holds, partial reps or negative drop sets to increase the overload. This is normally only done within the last set of an exercise where you don’t need to hit the muscle again on the same day because if you did this for every set you would not be able to perform each set with perfect form for 8-12 reps, which means it’ll do more harm than good.

child lifting dumbbells

Progressive overload is extremely important for muscle growth, but this doesn’t mean you need to progress every single workout because that just isn’t realistic and quite frankly impossible to do. However, when you feel like something is getting to easy when being done with proper form it’s time to increase the demands being placed on your body. Whether this happens once a week or once a month you just need to remember that if you want to keep progressing you need to force progressive overload to take place in any of the 5 forms mentioned above. As long as you keep doing this progression is pretty much guaranteed !

Hopefully you have found this helpful and if you’ve got anymore questions about progressive overload training then leave a comment below.

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