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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Charpentier

What is Progressive Overload?

Progressive Overload: Increasing the intensity or volume of exercise programs using a systematic and gradual approach.

Anyone working out should go through some sort of progression to continue to challenge and better themselves. There are several ways to progressively overload effectively. But keep in mind, all good things take time. Gradual progression beats rushed and haphazard programs.

How do you progressively overload?

Here are some ways to implement progressive overload:

  • Increase the weight you are lifting

    • Let’s say you are able to bench 135 for 10 reps. That becomes easy, so you move up to 145. Depending on the lift you may want to increase anywhere from 2.5-10lbs.

  • Increase reps

    • As used in the prior example, sticking with the 145 you just moved up to, but slowly increasing reps is another form of progressive overload. However, you don't want to add repetitions indefinitely (as doing 50 reps of an exercise would not be ideal).

  • Increase sets

    • Adding in pyramid sets, drop sets, supersets or just increasing your total number of sets are all options.

  • Increase time under tension (TUT)

    • You can slow down your lifting speed at various points in the movement. Pause reps or integrating tempo are common ways to do this.

  • Rest less between sets

    • Resting for a short period of time can be dangerous for heavy lifts, but depending on your goals, decreasing rest time is another possible form of progressive overload.

Things to note about progressive overload

  1. Don’t change too many variables at one time.

  2. Ensure you have proper form before all else.

  3. Log your workouts (this will make it easier to track progress).

When should I progressively overload?

This is entirely dependent on you! Each person is different and there are various factors that can affect when a person should adjust their workout. But the common time frame is usually 2-4 weeks. Talk to your coach if you’re curious about their plan for you.


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