Why Progressive Overload Should Be Your Goal This Year
It’s time to get real about setting goals. If you’re looking to crush it this year, then practicing progressive overload should be at the top of your list for 2022.
What exactly is progressive overload? You may have heard about this term from one of your favorite Fit Body trainers, but perhaps aren’t exactly sure what it is or why you should care.
We’re here to give all the information you need on what it is and how it’ll benefit your workout routine to help you see progress.
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What is Progressive Overload?
While it may sound like a complicated technical term, it’s actually quite simple.
“Progressive overload is the principle that in order to see progress and get stronger, you need to be placing additional resistance on your muscles,” explains Fit Body CEO and trainer, Anna Victoria.
By gradually increasing the stress placed on your body, or overloading it, you continue to challenge your muscles to see strength gains and avoid plateaus. Note that progressive overload isn’t limited to the pounds you lift. There are lots of different ways in which you can overload your body and see progress.
“At the end of the day, progressive overload is what will determine progress, not heart rate or calories burned alone,” says Anna.
How Does Progressive Overload Benefit Your Progress?
Are you at a point in your fitness journey where you breeze through workouts? It may be time to engage in progressive overload or risk seeing your physical progress stall.
When determining how much load to add, Fit Body Physical Therapist Dr. Amy Schultz recommends using Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) as a reference point. Her recommendation is to keep your RPE in the range of seven to eight out of 10. If you feel like you’re cruising below that, it’s time to increase your load!
How to Get Started With Progressive Overload
Here are seven different methods you can employ to help you get started with progressive overload (reminder: most of the Fit Body app programs incorporate progressive overload in some way!).
Method #1: Reps
Can you comfortably eke out 10 reps of bicep curls? Try increasing the reps! Start by adding two extra reps to your weight resistant move and see how that feels.
Method #2: Resistance
Another way to practice progressive overload is to increase the amount of weight, or resistance, involved. Dr. Schultz recommends no more than 10 percent in increased load or 2.5 kgs per week. This will help avoid overreaching and overtraining which can lead to injury.
Method #3: Endurance
Decreasing the amount of rest time can really up the ante. If you currently aren’t timing your rest periods, start! If you time your rest periods, try decreasing them by five or 10 seconds at a time.
Another way to use endurance as a method of progressive overload is with the duration of your cardio workouts. If you currently breeze through a 20-minute run, try adding an extra five minutes to your next run.
Method #4: Pace
Pick up the pace and aim to hit a new personal record! If you normally bike a certain amount of miles in a specific amount of time, try and beat it. If you run an eight-minute mile, see if you can run it in less time.
Method #5: Volume
Increase the volume that you do! If you currently do three sets, for example, add one more and do four sets. You could apply this to all of your workouts or for a specific body part you want to see more progress on.
Method #6: Training Frequency
This is where you increase the amount of time you train a certain body part. For example, if you currently train legs once a week, add another session, and work out your legs twice a week.
Method #7: Time Under Tension
If you’ve done Anna’s latest 30 Day Tone program, you’ll know she’s a fan of time under tension. This refers to the total amount of time your muscle is contracted and where you focus on the “negative” part of your movement, performing the move in a slow and controlled manner. When doing a bicep curl, this might mean slowly lowering your arm, holding it for a few seconds, and then slowly working your arm back up.
What are Limitations of Progressive Overload?
It’s important to remember that each of these methods of achieving progress overload should be done one at a time, not all at once. And you don’t have to progress every single week.
"Some weeks, you may repeat the same load if the program calls for it and/or if the previous progression is too heavy to increase again,” says Dr. Schultz. “For example, if you progress in load by five kilograms each week, and after three weeks you are at 15 kilograms more load than the first week, you are probably due for a stall week where you do not progress load in order to recover,” she says.
“When in doubt, do not force progression. The body adapts best to gradual increases! Consistent effort will lead to consistent progress even if that isn't every week,” Dr. Schultz explains.
Tip: Never sacrifice your form. If you’ve increased your load too much and your form is suffering as a result, take it back down a notch.
If you’re feeling daunted by progressive overload and aren’t sure how to set realistic goals, Fit Body members can email Dr. Schultz at firstname.lastname@example.org for guidance.
Now, who’s ready to make progressive overload their goal for this year?!