Progressive Overload

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Once you start to incorporate this into your training you will notice your strength and endurance consistently trend upwards.

Progressive overload is a key part of fitness and training. Simply put, an individual can increase the intensity, duration, type, or time of a workout progressively in order to see adaptations. These adaptations are improvements in endurance, strength, or muscle size.

In other words, when you first begin working out from having previously been doing a session here and there or maybe just the occasional bit of cardio you will notice some quick muscle and strength gains. After a while if you continue moving the same weight for the same number of reps week after week the body will adapt. You need to introduce more stress to the muscle to give it a reason to grow, that’s because muscle growth is the body’s response to the stress. Once it’s grown enough to meet the demands you place on it, the job is done and it won’t grow any more or at least not to any significant degree.

This is where progressive overload comes in, once the muscle has adapted to moving a specific amount of weight you need to do something to introduce more stress, this can be extra reps, more weight, an exercise variation, longer time under tension. Basically anything you can think of to make the exercise harder for yourself. In order to do this successfully we highly recommend you use a tool to track your workouts and at a minimum write down your sets, reps and weight completed for each exercise when you train. This will help significantly in your journey, don’t rely on just trying to remember what you did last week, it doesn’t work.

This is part of the reason we created the Sanctuary Training Journal but any book or app that tracks your workouts will work just fine. This is where I will mention the dangers of using an app to track workouts, while it’s super useful to have your data on your phone which is usually always with you it also means that those little social media buttons are right there too trying to distract you from your workout. If you have the willpower not to check Snapchat or TikTok for an entire workout then go for it but if you find yourself easily tempted we will push towards doing things the old fashioned way with a pen and paper.

Our key methods for overloading are:

  • Frequency – This is usually the first place we look when people are struggling trying to grow, your body will not grow on 1 session per week and even 2 is a stretch unless they are hard, physically demanding workouts. Aim for 3 sessions weekly in the gym if you are serious about seeing results, remember the word is “progressively” so if you are doing 2 sessions per week work your way up from 2 to 3 to 4.
  • Weight – If you can’t increase your frequency you can start to increase the weight you are moving on each of your exercises, remember the tracker is key here. Just add a tiny bit each week and over the course of weeks and months you will force the body to adapt to be able to move the larger weights.
  • Reps – If you weight increases start to plateau try to add in some extra reps, or alternatively drop the reps down and increase the weight.

These are just some tools you can use to progressively overload but keep in mind there are almost limitless options here for increasing difficulty. Think about some ways you can incorporate progressive overload into your training, you won’t regret it!

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William (Bill) Bennett one of our Small Group Strength Coaches and a very valued part of our team. We really have enjoyed having Bill on

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