It’s All About The Overload
Whether your goal is to move better, feel better or look better, one thing that needs to happen in your workouts is a process called Progressive Overload.
Progressive overload is the technical term for “overloading your muscles”, and simply means gradually increasing requirements in your strength training routine.
When we strength train, our bodies adapt to what we are doing. We know this is happening when the bicep curls we used to perform with 10-pound weights starts to feel easier to perform. Our muscles have adapted to that weight, that number of repetitions and that load. When this happens, it’s time to change SOMETHING to add a more challenging stimulus to the muscle. Otherwise, muscle growth plateaus and our progress slows down, and eventually stalls.
There are many ways to make our workouts more challenging. Here are some variables you can use to promote progressive overloading and to keep making gains!
Increase the Weight
If doing 10 bicep curls with a 10-pound weight used to require effort all the way through, but now feels easy, try using 12 or 15 pound weights. This added stimulus and increased demand makes your muscles work harder, allowing for continued development of strength.
Increase the Repetitions
Not ready to increase weight? Simply increase the number of reps you are doing. Continue curling with the 10- pound weights, but now do 12-15 reps. This will add more volume, which is another way to add stimulus to your muscle.
Increase the Sets
If you were doing 3 sets of bicep curls, try to do 4. This will also add more volume to your muscle requirement, and thus continue to challenge your body in a productive way.
Increase the Intensity
You can increase the intensity of many exercises by altering your body position while performing the movement (like kneeling vs. standing or using one leg instead of both) or by adding an unstable surface to the movement (like using a BOSU or stability ball). Making a movement more dynamic (like turning a squat into a jumping squat) or changing the time or tempo (such as holding a plank longer) are two more ways to increase the demands and require your body to make new adjustments.
Progressive overload must be careful and GRADUAL. You shouldn’t add weight, reps, sets, or intensity in every workout. Instead, pick one or two variables to increase, then give your body time to work and adapt! As a rule, the last 2-3 reps of your set should be a productive struggle, meaning you’re able to perform them with good form, but it’s challenging. You will know it’s time to change things up when most of your reps start to get easy again.
Your muscles are not the only thing that benefits from progressive overload: your bones, ligaments and tendons also get stronger as you increase stimulus! With time, hard work, and being intentional in your workout, you will get stronger and your muscles will need to be progressively overloaded so you can continue to reap the benefits of all your hard work!
Here’s to your best results!
Tina, Deborah, Jenna, Thomas and Nicole