What is Progressive Overload? (Explained with Examples)

One of the most effective ways to improve strength training is by implementing progressive overload. This type of exercise allows you to maintain a muscular body while improving your fitness goals.

Progressive overload is increasing repetitions, weight, and frequency moderately in your daily workout regimen. Not increasing the weight will lead to your body plateauing, meaning you can move the weight easier but won’t see any more progress.

As you continue to workout, eventually lifting the same weight for the same amount of repetitions will be easier. you will then increase the weight but continue doing the same amount of repetitions.

Examples of Progressive Overload

There are several different ways to perform progressive overload. Some include increasing repetitions, increasing weight, and increasing intensity.

All options will also help you reach your final goal to get diced, assuming that is your final goal because that is most individuals.

Increasing Number of Repetitions

Increasing the number of repetitions stimulates your muscles more. That will increase your strength over time.

Increasing your repetitions requires you to work out with a set weight until you can push the weight for 10-12 reps.

You can also increase the number of sets you do. So if you do 3 sets of 8, attempt to do 4 sets of 8.

Here is an example of increasing repetitions or sets for squatting.

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Increasing The Weight

When you increase the weight or resistance, it tears and breaks down your muscles, which then allows them to rebuild bigger and stronger.

When you increase the weight it forces your muscles to adapt and get stronger to do the amount of weight for the given amount of repetitions.

This is my favorite way to perform progressive overload. Not only do you get stronger and more prominent, but you can also really see the results firsthand because you are doing the same amount of reps, just with a heavier weight.

Here is an example of progressive overload for bench pressing:

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Here is an example of using this method for bicep curls.

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Increasing The Intensity of Your Workout

Intensity is the amount of stress given to your body in a certain amount of time. So that would include things like time between sets, how fast you are finishing each rep and the tempo of your entire workout.

Increasing the intensity means decreasing rest time between sets, and increasing the tempo. So your workouts will be quicker but, if performed correctly, they should be very efficient and successful.

If you normally take a 30-second rest between each set, take 10-20 second rests between sets depending on how intense you want your workout to be.

Another way is the time of each set. If each set takes 20 seconds, try to do each set in 15 seconds. This will increase the tempo a lot and you will get a great workout.

Is Progressive Overload Difficult?

When it comes to training, it’s not always easy to tell someone to add 10 pounds to their weight each week or do 2 more reps with the same amount of effort.

No matter how you plan to work out, the progressive overload will be difficult. You have to force yourself to grind and do the hard work to get more rewards.

Not everything will be natural. Your body has to adapt to certain things like resistance, movements, and stress.

How to Get Started

You start at the amount of weight, repetitions, and sets you can do with perfect form. Then you start your progressive overload.

Do not try to use this method if it feels uncomfortable, unnatural, or awkward. Again that is how you injure yourself.

If you have to start out with body weight that is perfectly okay. If you can’t perform regular push-ups, do modified push-ups. There is no shame as to where you start.

How Long Until You See Progress

Progress is different for every person. It depends on body type, genetic build, how much work you put in, and many other things.

You may have a big jump in two weeks in one muscle group but you might plateau for a couple of months in a certain muscle group.

You will see that at the beginning of your workout journey that the first couple of months you get considerably stronger. That will not always be the case. Eventually, your considerable growth will slow and lengthen the time between each PR.

What to Avoid in Progressive Overload

Something you do not want to do while performing progressive overload is overtraining. You want to push past your limits but only to an extent. If you exceed your limits too much, it can result in serious injury.

Here are some signs that mean you need to take a rest or even be done completely for the day. If you are feeling any of these symptoms, you need to take a break.

  • Fatigued
  • Nauseous
  • Puking
  • Dizzy

Many beginners who aren’t informed about overtraining tend to do things like tearing muscles, straining joints, or even breaking bones.

If you injure yourself, you’re taking steps backward when you want to go forwards.

If You Feel Pain While Lifting

While you are working out if you feel pain anywhere in your body you need to be careful to ensure you do not hurt yourself.

Pain is not soreness, feeling soreness while lifting means it is an effective workout. If you feel any joint pain or deep, sharp pains you want to take a rest because that is not normal soreness pain. If you continue you can really hurt yourself.

If you feel super uncomfortable pains, that does not mean you are getting a hypertrophy workout. Some people misconceive pain as a hard workout.