What Is Progressive Overload? And Why Is It Important?



If you are trying to build some curves (or put on some weight) then you gotta read this! This article is the single BIGGEST piece of advice that will help you in reaching your goals and increasing muscle weight! It’s EVEN  useful for you ladies trying to lose weight or wanting to improve your body composition.

So what could be so important that ALL of you should read? It’s called progressive overload.

what is progressive overload
Progressive overload (Copyright 1hourathlete.com)

What is progressive overload: A Quick Definition

Progressive overload is the art of slowly increasing the work load (or stress) on your muscles in order for it to grow and get stronger! It is the second biggest variable in your training (aside from nutrition and recovery). Although can be tricky and cumbersome, it doesn’t need to be. Essentially, all you need to worry about is increasing the work demand from your muscles (in order to get them to grow, get leaner, faster and more efficient).

So how do you increase the work demand?

In a few different ways! You can:

  • Increase the weight(s) that you are lifting (load)
  • Increase the number of reps and sets
  • Increase frequency
  • Increase time under tensions (intensity)
  • Increase/decrease tempo
  • Reduce rest time….

All of the above translates to “more work” for your muscles which means more adaptation. Our body adapts to the demands with impose on it so if you do this well and consistently, your muscle WILL grow and get stronger!

Progressive Overload: How To Increase Work Load To Maximize Results

Now, if you are trying to gain weight, I suggest you keep an eye on the weights you are lifting for each exercise and try to increase it by about 5% every other week. There may be some weeks that you will find this difficult to do but generally speaking if you can comfortably complete 10 to 12 reps with X weight, then you should try to go heavier!

I should also say that for some exercises this will feel TOTALLY daunting and scary! Can you chest press those 35lbs dumbbells? Can you add another quarter plate to your squats?

Your mind may wanna psych you out! But if you have good strength and good form, give it a go! I would suggest finding a spotter or better yet hire a trainer to help you spot your lifts (reduces the chances of injury! Safety first) . The key is to LEARN proper technique first and then progressively make it more challenging.

You can also aim to increase your reps and sets (aka more demand). For example in my Hourglass Workout classes and on my online training, I include workouts that are both heavy and high reps! For example, doing 40 reps of a series of exercises with as heavy of weights you can lift!

Tempo and rest time are another two variables that you should experiment with! Slower tempos (like 3 seconds up, 4 seconds down) increase time under tension. This in turn makes your muscles work harder, which as you’ve guessed leads to strength increase and growth.

I know all of the above sounds daunting, but know that you have to challenge your body if you want to build curves and get stronger! If you wanna take the guessing work out of your workouts, check out my online program which include 20 of my personal workouts (and a muscle building meal plan!)

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