Our trainer, Will Goodwin, a Denver Fitness specialist, explains why progressive overload is the key to gaining strength, muscle, and losing weight.

Progressive Overload

When we go to the gym most of us know that we need to make the workouts harder at some point to see progress. It’s fairly intuitive, given the choice we would all like to lift more, run farther, and move better than we currently do. That is the basic idea of progressive overload, adding weight, reps, etc. to a given exercise, aka just doing more.

Progressive overload forces adaptation in the body, whether that is strength gain, muscle gain, or in some tertiary ways even weight loss.

The application of progressive overload is where things can get tricky. There is a sweet spot between progressing too slow and too fast where the magic happens and if you miss it it can be quite frustrating.

For the purposes of this post let’s simplify things. We will only discuss progressing strength training and leave out things like running, acquiring new skills, etc. We will also only discuss two methods of progression, adding weight or reps.

For any given exercise in your training program you want to make it harder each week. Yes, every week your workouts need to get harder. It sucks but it is the sad truth of making progress you need to accept.

The cool part is you really don’t have to progress by much to see improvements. I actually recommend adding the smallest amount of weight or repetitions possible each week. That means maybe 2.5lbs for weight and one TOTAL rep for repetitions.

This ensures your allowing your body to progress rather than just trying harder each week which can burn you out quick. If this doesn’t sound like a lot, try it out. Two things happen eventually things get REALLY hard and a little starts becoming a lot or you progress forever, which isn’t a bad thing.

When you find yourself unable to add weight or one repetition every week. Take a few days/ a week off and start back a little lighter and repeat, this would also be a good time to consider changing your training.

In practice it looks like this;

Take a squat and a push-up

Week 1- Squats 50lbs 3 sets of 10 reps, Push-Ups 3 sets of 8 reps
Week 2- Squats 52.5lbs 3 sets of 10 reps, Push ups 3 sets of 9, 8, and 8 reps

And so on and so on.

If you're already implementing progressive overload hopefully this can help clarify how much to progress by week to week. If you're not, then expect to start to see your progress increase once you do!

Of course there’s more nuance and exceptions to these rules like anything else, if you have questions about those come chat!

Trainer, LoHi Athletic Club

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