Learn how to progress toward your goals and overcome plateaus with progressive overload
Progressive overload is a term in strength training that refers to gradually increasing the intensity of workouts to avoid a plateau in muscle mass and strength gains. If an individual performs the same workouts at the same intensity for a long period of time, they will eventually reach a point where the regimen is no longer challenging or effective. As the body adapts to the challenges of an existing workout routine, the routine should progress to reflect new and improved abilities. To gradually increase the challenge of a workout, we can increase repetitions, weight, duration, and intensity.
1) Repetitions: Let’s say an individual begins with 2 sets of 10 repetitions on a movement at a given weight. After practicing the movement for some time, they may be able to complete 15-20 repetitions of the same movement due to increases in strength and endurance.
2) Weight: At this point, an appropriate option may be to increase the weight by 5-10%, to a point where the individual can only complete 8-12 repetitions of the movement with good technique. It is important to increase weight in small increments (e.g. 2.5-5 lbs. at a time) to allow for gradual adaptation while minimizing the risk of injury.
3) Duration: This individual can also make the workout more challenging by adding in additional sets of work, therefore increasing the total duration of the workout. They may now aim for 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.
4) Intensity: Finally, the workout can be made more difficult by increasing intensity. This may be done by choosing more difficult movements (e.g. traditional push-ups instead of knee push-up), completing the movements faster, or taking shorter rests.