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Ask The Trainer:"The importance of progressive overload?"

Jul 8, 2019

Christian Agudelo, ACSM - CPT

Progressive overload means that you are continually increasing the demands on your muscles in order to make gains in their strength, size and endurance. The harder you work them, the stronger you become. By progressively adding more tension to your routine your body will adapt to the stress and overload being placed. You will notice increased changes in your strength and stamina over time. This is truly how we get stronger. If we don’t challenge our muscles to work beyond their capacity we will never see change.

Nikki Davis, ACE- CPT

Progressive overload is important because it provokes changes in different systems of the body like the musculoskeletal, cardiorespiratory, central nervous system, depending upon the focus of your training. When you are applying an appropriate overload of at least 5% during resistance training you will experience changes in muscular growth, an increase in tendons, ligaments, and bone density. If the body does not go through muscular stresses it will plateau, and stay in it’s normal homeostasis. It is critical that your technique is perfect before adding more work overtime, so that the body can withstand and thrive from these new changes. Ways to provide progressive overload not only include increasing weight but also increasing, rage of motion, reps, tempo, sets, frequency of the same exercises each week, decreasing rest, adding droplets, negatives or static holds to name a few.

Earvin Bahena, NSCA - CSCS

Progressive overload is one of the most important training principles when it comes to getting stronger and trying to reach your performance goals. The idea behind this refers to increasing exercise stress to your body over a period of time. As you continue to add stress to your body it will adapt and thus more stress needs to be added to continue to progress. This is important because you need to constantly challenge your body in order to see change. Consistently working out is great but if there is no challenge or change to your workouts your body will plateau. This principal is the reason behind why your trainer will either increase the weight or reps on an exercise or add an extra set to your workouts.

Spencer O'Neil, NASM- CPT

The importance of progressive overload is fundamental in improving our workouts. The body needs to be consistently challenged to avoid stagnation. What’s great about progressive overloads is there are many different viable options for increasing difficulty. Once I feel comfortable moving a certain weight and it becomes increasingly easier, I tend to slow down my tempo to force my muscles to work extra hard. This is a great way to challenge the body while keeping the weight the same. It also allows you to focus on being strict with form. Another variation that I like to do is decrease the rest time in-between sets. After slowing the reps down and having less rest it should be tough to continue to move the same weight. Once I’ve mastered both of those, I know its time to finally increase the weight. I try to increase in very small increments ensuring I can master the movement. Far too often I run into people quick to increase the weights to make exercises tougher. Decreasing tempo and rest time are two fantastic ways to continually challenge the body to improve without increasing weight all the time.


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