What Is Progressive Overload

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What Is Progressive Overload


Any exercise routine puts the body in a state of adaptation. To improve performance over time, you must modify your exercise to raise the acute variables and gradually overload the muscles.

We'll go beyond the pseudoscience in this blog and look at the scientific fundamentals behind gradually stressing the neuromuscular system, as well as the possible benefits for resistance training and muscle development.


According to the Principle of Progression, weekly increases in duration, weight, or intensity should be confined to 10% or less to allow for gradual adaptation while reducing the risk of injury. Muscle growth will plateau if this progressive overloading is not done.

Muscle atrophy, or a loss of skeletal muscle size and strength, can occur when loading is reduced over an extended period of time. The body will adapt to the progressions and fulfill the demands of the stress placed on it with constant training.


The client will find that the same sets and reps are no longer tough to accomplish as the body adjusts to the current resistance training program. The trainer can use a variety of levers to raise the stress on the muscles, such as increasing repetitions, intensity, timing, distance, or adding a diversity of motions. Increasing the resistance load is one of the most common and successful techniques to challenge the client and avoid plateau.

To maintain a client in the Hypertrophy phase, raise the weight by 5-10 percent until they can only accomplish 8-12 reps with good technique. Whether it comes to determining when to gradually overload, the trainer might use force and repetitions as cues.


There are three processes for gaining muscle mass through strength training. Metabolic damage, muscle strain (force), and exercise-induced muscle injury are all examples of hypertrophy. Progressive overloading works by increasing the load and creating a change in the muscle's force output with time, thus addressing the muscle-tension variable.

This increased muscle stress will force the client to work harder and recruit as much muscle fiber as possible in order to complete the activity. It's critical to pay attention to the client's form and intensity in order to determine whether it's time to increase the force.


By progressing through the several phases of the OPT model and implementing progressive workouts, weights, and intensity into the plan, periodization and programming will induce progressive overload. On a macro, Mesa, or micro cycle level, progressions can be implemented.

As you proceed through increasingly difficult phases, periodization requires some progressive overloading. Within a single workout, however, it is not uncommon to gradually overburden the client's demands. Observing the client during training is the best approach to completely understand when it is appropriate to increase loads. Observe the client's level of effort while executing each set when progressively overloading weights. Additionally, the trainer can determine a more appropriate weight by leveraging visual and client input.

As the client's body adjusts to the training intensity and activity, it's normal to increase loading every few weeks. Another element that the trainer can change is the number of working sets.

You can test the client's strength endurance as well as hypertrophy by raising the working set volume from 3 to 4 or 5 sets over time. For example, after set 4, the client may no longer be able to do more than 8-12 reps, keeping them closer to the Strength Hypertrophy zone.

What Is Progressive Overload


Pyramid sets, drop sets, super sets, partials, and negatives are other successful strategies used in athletic training, such as bodybuilding and powerlifting.


Each working set's weight is gradually increased using this strategy. As the weight increases, the number of repetitions will usually decrease. A set of four bench presses, for example, would look like this:

  • 135 lb x 12 lb 
  •  10 lb × 10 pound 
  •  10 lb x 10
  • 165 lbs x 8 and 180 lbs x 6 are the weights.

As you get closer to your peak set, gradually raise the load to minimize injury and engage both slow and fast-twitch muscle fiber.


Drop sets are an effective way to overload the body with volume while also increasing hypertrophy.

Drop Sets are typically utilized as a finisher after the majority of the working sets have been completed. This approach begins with a hefty weight, with the trainer assisting in the reduction of the burden after each set. It's crucial to remember that this type of training should be done with little to no rest in between each working session. The muscular and cardiorespiratory systems are gradually overworked as a result. I.e.

DROP SET WITH QUAD EXTENSIONS: Set 1 is 100 pounds x 5; Set 2 is 80 lbs x 6

60 pounds x 8 is the third set.

40 pounds x 10 is the fourth set.

Completed back-to-back with a 0-10 second rest in between sets.


Super Sets are one of the most popular bodybuilding and advanced resistance training routines. Super Sets are when two or more exercises are performed back-to-back. These muscle groups could be complementary, contiguous, or unconnected.

When training complimentary or neighboring muscle groups, blood flow into those muscles is increased, which aids in hypertrophy and pump. Altering the agonist and antagonist muscles that are being worked has a synergistic impact, and it's a terrific method to make better use of your gym time. Super Setting biceps and triceps, chest and back, or quads and hamstrings are all good examples.


Training an upper and lower body exercise to force peripheral cardiac motion is another Super Set strategy that can drive progressive overloading. This puts a different strain on the cardiorespiratory system, forcing it to adjust to the increased intensity over time.

An overhead shoulder press followed by a series of prisoner squats is an example.


Partially reps are most commonly utilized in maximal strength training programs, such as powerlifting, when attempting to set a personal best (PR). By stressing muscular tension with 90-110 percent of 1 rep max and only going through a portion range of motion, this drives an adaptation (ROM).

This technique necessitates the employment of a spotter(s) to ensure good form and safety. The purpose of an 8-week training program is to enhance movement force production through physiological adaptations and stronger neuromuscular control as a result of increased muscle demand.


Negatives - Similar to partial reps, only the progression is achieved by employing a 1 rep max of greater than 100 percent (with a spotter) on the eccentric movement of the lift, with assistance on the concentric component. This technique uses a full range of motion, with the client resisting the heavier load on the way down.

*In the strength Hypertrophy and maximal strength phases, these strategies are most commonly used.

Progressive Overload: 5 Ways to Break Through an Exercise Plateau

Have you ever felt trapped when trying to be in shape? You don't seem to be growing any stronger, do you? You've most likely reached a stalemate, but don't worry: it occurs to the majority of us! What matters is that you know how to come unstuck, and that's exactly what we're here to discuss. Progressive overload is one of the simplest methods to do it.

It's all about efficiency in your body. To keep you alive, it will use as little energy as possible. Your body is also tough. That's all there is to it. It will adjust to the physical demands you impose on it. You will not see any changes if you do not make any modifications. This is the point at which you will experience the dreaded.

Your body is executing its job to the best of its ability. It's figured out how to cope with the pressures of your (not so) new training regimen. So, if you want to notice greater improvements in your body, you'll have to adjust your training routine.

And there, my friends, is when progressive overload enters the picture.

What Is Progressive Overload

1. Gradually increase your reps

If four reps on the bench press no longer feels tough, try six or seven reps and see how you feel. Increasing the difficulty of any exercise is usually as simple as doing it a little bit more.

Gradually increase your weight

Do you find that a 100-pound front squat isn't as effective as it once was? Then it's probably time to up the weight to 110 or 120 pounds.

Your muscles have adapted to the weight of 100 pounds, which is excellent since it implies you're growing stronger! It's time to turn up the heat a notch.

3. Increase Your Training Frequency

We advise you to take this one cautiously, as more of a good thing isn't always a good thing. Increasing the frequency of your sessions and even adding one extra day per week can make a significant effect.

To avoid overuse, which can lead to injury, vary your motions and the muscles you're targeting. These first three tactics are already rather effective on their own. When you combine the two, you'll be even more likely to break through that irritating plateau with increasing overload.

Now that we've covered the fundamentals of progressive overload, there are a few less obvious aspects to consider when trying to increase stress levels.

4. Modify Your Movement's Tempo

Take whatever you're doing and slow it down. This is a simple yet sometimes neglected approach to employ progressive overload. Tempo work is what it's called.

When you slow down the descent to a three-count, a simple push-up becomes ten times tougher. Slowing down the negative (or lowering phase) of a back squat to a count of five will make it much more difficult.

Similarly, you can enhance the intensity by increasing the speed and doing things faster. (You don't know cardio unless you clock yourself doing squats.)

5. Extend your range of motion.

Let's use the example of push-ups once more. Your hands should be on the ground during a typical push-up, and your chest should touch the ground at the bottom of the movement.

Imagine that instead of putting your hands flat on the ground, you hold two dumbbells in your palms and raise yourself a few inches. Then you have to get into a deficit in order for your chest to touch the ground.

That's how you'll be able to extend your range of motion.

6. Reduce the amount of time you spend resting.

Rest is beneficial! It can also be utilized as a sort of gradual overload to assist you break through a stumbling block. If your squat programming calls for two minutes of rest in between sets, try 1.5 minutes instead and see how you feel.

There are certainly more approaches to investigate, but let's not get ahead of ourselves—after all, this is just a beginning! While progressive overload might be taxing, Tempo, a full-body workout, can help alleviate some of the stress.

Tempo will not only gradually increase your weight over time based on your performance (that's right, no guesswork or math for you! ), but it will also track your overall volume week after week to verify that you're progressing.

As a result, you'll be able to see target ranges for your pace, range of motion, and rep schemes with ease. Furthermore, you'll have the opportunity to participate in progressive programs developed on these variables, which our expert coaches will develop and assist you through from Day 1.

What are the four fundamentals of progressive overload?

Progressive overload can occur in one of four ways:

Increasing Intensity: In your next training session, lift more weight. Increasing Volume: In your next workout, do extra reps, sets, or exercises for a specific muscle group. Increased Frequency: Performing more training sessions than the previous week.

When it comes to progressive overload, how quickly should I go?

What is Progressive Overload, and how does it affect you? According to the Principle of Progression, weekly increases in duration, weight, or intensity should be confined to 10% or less to allow for gradual adaptation while reducing the risk of injury.

Should I do a weekly progressive overload?

As long as they aren't exercising a movement more than three times per week, most novices can apply progressive overload every session. Most multi-joint activities can be increased by 2.5kg (5lbs) in each session by novices. Alternatively, if they wanted to increase reps, they might do so by adding 2 reps every set.

What Is Progressive Overload


The needs of each client will differ depending on their exercise routine, genetics, nutrition, and a variety of other things. It also depends on the client's objectives (I.e. weight loss vs increasing muscle). Periodization is most commonly used to schedule in progressions every 2-4 weeks. However, there are situations when a client's needs may need weekly or even single-workout progressive overloading.

Can 5 reps help you gain muscle?

Strength is supposed to be increased by performing 5-7 repetitions. It will, however, result in increased muscular mass. Myofibrillar hypertrophy, which is associated with an increase in contractile protein content, is the sort of muscle growth seen in this scenario.

What is hypertrophy training, and how does it work?

Hypertrophy training is primarily concerned with the development of your muscles. You'll concentrate on enlarging your muscle fibers and building large muscles in the areas where you work out the most. This could include your thighs, calves, biceps, and back. The emphasis on hypertrophy is on modest weight and moderate repetitions.


Progressions are a regulated continuum based on client performance, injury prevention, and goals. Adjustments should be made based on the client's progress. Overloading isn't required for working out, but it is vital for achieving the adjustments needed to improve performance over time.

What is the most effective approach to achieve progressive overload?

There are four different ways to gradually overwhelm your system.

  • Boost your resistance. Increasing your muscle's stress causes them to break down, repair, and get stronger. ...
  • Enhance your endurance (exercise length) To increase your endurance, you must increase the length of your workouts.
  • Increase the reps and the tempo.

How much will progressive overload add to your weight?

Try increasing the weight by two or three percent each week if you're using the standard progressive overload method. Percentages aren't your thing? Consider adding five pounds to upper body exercises and ten pounds to lower body work as a general guideline.

Should I focus on hypertrophy or strength training?

The decision between hypertrophy and strength training is based on your weight-training goals: Hypertrophy exercise is for you if you wish to improve the size of your muscles. Consider strength training if you wish to improve your muscle strength.

How do you figure out how much weight to carry?

Pace/tempo, range of motion, and reps are all very simple to prescribe, but determining how much weight to use is not.

Your weight/load will be highly tailored to your fitness objectives and degree of fitness or experience. However, you can start by playing with just one variable at a time to see what works best for you.

Try adding a little extra weight and slightly scaling down your rep count if you feel comfortable with a certain action and can consistently and safely execute the full range of motion (which Tempo and our coaches can help you with).

Keep in mind that some muscle groups can handle more weight than others—for example, you'll probably be able to add more weight to your squat than you can to your bicep curl. Remember that you don't have to add a lot of weight to your movements to make them effective. Over time, incremental overload, or modest increases in volume, will build up!

"Your weight/load will be precisely suited to your fitness goals as well as your degree of fitness or experience."


Anyone who exercises regularly should progress in some way over time. This doesn't always mean adding a lot of weight to each exercise, but the trainer should have a plan in place to keep the client moving forward and avoid plateaus. To establish the requisite adaptations, the load on the neuromuscular systems should be continually increased over time.

This cycle may include a de-loading phase to allow the client to properly recuperate (or overcome an injury or over-training) before going through the OPT model phases again, depending on the meso/macro periodization.

Using Progressive Overload to Your Advantage

Any of these methods can be used in your training, but it's ideal to focus on only one at a time. When adaptation occurs, and it will, it's helpful to know you have some options, especially if just adding additional weight to the bar doesn't appear to be working any longer.

Of course, all of this assumes that you want to gain muscle (staying with the 8- to 12-rep range, which is optimal for hypertrophy). If you want to focus on strength, increasing the load rather than doing more reps may be a better alternative. Individuals looking to develop muscle endurance may discover that higher repetitions mixed with increased reps, rather than increasing load, is the way to go.

While increasing total volume is vital for bodybuilders, decreasing rest time between sets and increasing repetitions may be more advantageous for endurance athletes or people who are concerned with muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness rather than strength and power improvements. Your workout techniques should be in line with your fitness objectives. Make a list of the things that are most important to you.

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