PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD – WHAT IS IT?

Losing or struggling to keep your strength or your “gains” through lockdown? Here is some information to help you make the most of your training at home and also with the return of the gym.

Firstly we will be looking at “progressive overload” what is it? 

Quick scenario, you’re performing 10 push-ups at home or a 60kg squat for 8 reps and overtime of completing this it’s now feeling comfortable… your body will not get any stronger as it’s adapted to what you’ve got comfortable at. You’ve hit a plateau. This can happen in a range of exercises, one exercise or even individual body parts. Think of that deadlift that may have been sat at the same weight for a while or that shoulder press weight you just can’t get past. This is when progressive overload should be put into your workouts. Using a variety of overload will allow you to push past plateaus, ensure your adaptations continue to improve and you keep hitting your goals.

So were going to look progressive overload to help us increase our strength, keep it interesting and make “gains”. There are a few ways in which to do this and we’ll cover some common themes below. You may remember us talking about tempo training a while back, which is another method of increasing overload. Take a look at the tips below to create progressive overload in your workouts.

INCREASING RESISTANCE

This is a lot easier to do within a gym with the availability with weights but will depend on what you have available (resistance bands, a range of weights, chains etc.). Once a certain move, say your 60kg squat, becomes comfortable, take it up 62.5kg – 65kg. Always look to go that little bit heavier, consistently pushing your muscles to adapt to the new weight and over time that 65kg will also feel comfortable. Push-ups? A backpack on with weights in, heavy water bottles etc. is a nice way to experiment this. You may find that you need to adopt a rep range and fit within this as your performance will drop slight as you’re not used to the weight yet – this is a good thing. For example if you were constantly performing 12 reps, aim for 8-12 reps and fall within that.

INCREASING REPETITION

You’ve become comfortable at your 10 reps on squats or you’ve finally hit 10 press-ups, or maybe you’re getting bored of just constantly repeating the same weight with the same reps. Mix it up! Muscle memory can become a big issue if you’re never changing your reps up, push yourself to get 12-15 reps instead of 10. It can also work with resistance, going up in weight but only having to achieve 2-6 reps. It can all depend on your goals/plan.

VOLUME

Always sticking to that same plan of doing 10 reps of 4 sets? Change the volume. This is kind of a combination of everything we’ve just mentioned but sometimes try adding an extra set. What I have personally enjoyed is doing 8 reps of 4 sets then adding a final 5th set of 10 reps with a slightly lower weight! This would be using progressive overload to help increase my strength. Changing tempo, performing a squat with your regular controlled speed is good but maybe it’s time to try slowing it down. Count 5 seconds on your way down then 1 second coming up, this will keep your muscles under tension for longer and change your regular way of training. A great way to fight through plateaus is by changing volume. Say you’re stuck on 90kg for your deadlift and you manage 4 sets of 10 reps, add 5-10kg and try 6-10 sets of 4 reps. You’ll find the shorter duration is manageable with the overload being delivered by the increase in sets.

REST PERIODS

Lastly, we’re looking at the time between sets, maybe you’ll try going for a big 2-4 rep max and give yourself a full minute rest or push your endurance giving yourself only 30 seconds rest. Rest periods can always be looked at with frequency of training, how many times a week are we training in the gym, can we look to train legs twice a week instead of once without overtraining them.

All together with these tips they can all work hand in hand but will massively help you with your training at home and back in the gym! Don’t be scared to step out of your comfort zone and experiment! It will keep things fun and also help make that hard work pay off. If you need any advice to creating progressive overload, speak to one of our health and fitness team. Once we’re back in the gym, if you’re trying something new, ask one of us to check your technique for the first few lifts.

WE’VE CREATED SOME WORKOUT PLANS THAT ARE FREE TO USE, OR YOU CAN TAKE PART IN OUR FACEBOOK LIVE CLASSES. BOTH CAN HELP IMPLEMENT EXERCISE INTO YOUR ROUTINE.