Progressive Overload

Progressive Overload is a very important concept when it comes to training and building muscle.

First, let’s understand what it means. Progressive Overload simply means, over a period of time, adding more reps, weight, or difficulty to our workouts.

When we use progressive overload in our workouts, we slowly increase the difficulty of the workouts and give our body more stimulus to adapt to.

It is this increase in stimulus that facilitates growth. This encourages the body to grow stronger or put on muscle or both. This is key!

You cannot expect to do the same workout over and over and expect significant improvements.

But what does slowly increasing the difficulty of a workout entail?

It depends. It varies from person to person.

The trainer has to work closely with the client to determine what is the appropriate increase in difficulty. Without a trainer, one must know their own body well enough. One needs experience to do this.

Yet, on a very good day, the increase can be quite fast.

For example, doing 8 reps of squats at 20kg for 3 sets at the last workout to 11 reps of squats at 22kg for 3 sets at this workout.

Such improvements are sometimes seen in beginners, which is the group that improves the quickest. But it does not happen often.

More realistically, the progression looks like this:

Last workout -> 8 reps of squats at 20kg, 3 sets.

This workout -> 9 reps of squats at 20kg, 3 sets.

What about bad days? This is where the word compassion comes in!

We all have bad days at the gym. We could be tired from work, just recovered from illness, back from holiday or a whole host of other reasons.

This is where a good trainer does not just push the client to do more reps or more weight. On bad days, we can dial it back down. Have some compassion! We are not robots!

On a bad day:

Last workout -> 8 reps of squats for 20kg, 3 sets.

This workout -> 6 reps of squats for 18kg, 3 sets.

What is important here is that although some workouts are easier, the general trend of the workouts get tougher. In the grand scheme of things, having some workouts be easier do not matter. The results will still come.

Which brings me to the importance of tracking your workouts. You should be tracking your workouts to ensure progress! Otherwise, you would be clueless as to where you need to improve and which exercises are stalling.

Only once the workouts are tracked, can the progress or lack of it be monitored and analyzed.

Are you stalling with just chest exercises? Perhaps we need to strengthen the rotator cuffs. Maybe we need to add more volume. Or perhaps we may even need to strengthen the triceps.

These considerations can only come when workouts are tracked.

A good personal trainer records down the client’s every session, rep, and set. Or if one is self-trained, the person records down his or her own workouts.

In this way, be it good or bad days, the general trend of progressive overload can be achieved.

And with that, I hope you understand Progressive Overload better.

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