Progressive Overload - How to take your workouts to the next level

What is Progressive Overload?

Progressive overload is the week by week process of gradually increasing the difficulty of your workout routine. People always ask me “how long should I workout for?” Well, that really depends on what you’re actually using your time at the gym doing. If you’re at the gym for two hours walking leisurely on a treadmill versus one hour lifting heavy weights and running on a treadmill, the quality of the two different workouts and the effect on your body will be different.

Wherever you are in your fitness journey, making sure that you’re increasing the load on your body is going to ensure that you will progress in the gym. If you aren’t making your workouts hard enough, your body isn’t going to be challenged enough to change. So how can you make adjustments to your workout routine?

Let’s look at four different variables: volume, intensity, frequency, and rest time. Changing just one of these parameters can make your workouts more effective.

Volume

Volume refers to the repetitions and sets of each exercise you’re performing. An example would be 3 sets of 10 repetitions. To increase volume, you could either increase the number of sets and/or the number of repetitions.

Original: Leg press machine: 3 sets of 10 repetitions of 15 lbs with 60 sec rest 2 times a week

Adjustments: 

4 sets of 10 repetitions of 15 lbs with 60 sec rest 2 times a week

or

3 sets of 15 repetitions of 15 lbs with 60 sec rest 2 times a week

or 

4 sets of 12 repetitions of 15 lbs with 60 sec rest 2 times a week

In each adjustment, volume was manipulated.

Load

Load refers to how much you’re lifting in a given exercise. To increase load in a movement, increase the amount of weight. An example would be:

Original: Leg press machine: 3 sets of 10 repetitions of 15 lbs with 60 sec rest 2 times a week

Adjustment: 3 sets of 10 repetitions of 20 lbs with 60 sec rest 2 times a week

 

Frequency

Frequency refers to how many times a week you’re completing an exercise. For example:

Original: Leg press machine: 3 sets of 10 repetitions of 15 lbs with 60 sec rest 2 times a week

Adjustment: Leg press machine: 3 sets of 10 repetitions of 15 lbs with 60 sec rest 3 times a week


Rest time

Adjusting rest time changes how long your body has to recover in between sets. If you decrease rest time, your workout intensity will increase. An example would be:

Original: Leg press machine: 3 sets of 10 repetitions of 15 lbs with 60 sec rest 2 times a week

Adjustment: Leg press machine: 3 sets of 10 repetitions of 15 lbs with 30 sec rest 2 times a week

It is recommended that you only change one parameter at a time when increasing the intensity of your workouts. I suggest adjusting the intensity of your workouts every one to two weeks to ensure you’re making steady progress in the gym.

Written by Justine Nagra, BSc Kin

Instagram: @justinenagra