Putting The “Progress” In “Progressive Overload”

Originally appeared on ssntl.com

If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

The human body is remarkably proficient at adapting to stress. This is fantastic, as it enables us to reliably elicit physical change in our bodies. Lift a difficult load repeatedly, and you get stronger and more muscular. Sprint as fast as you can repeatedly, and you get faster and leaner. The point most people tend to overlook, however, is that as the body adapts, the stress we place on it must increase.

Every training program that gets sustained results includes a gradual increase in the stress placed on the body. As your ability to perform work increases, so to must the stress you put on your body to create further change. This concept (increasing the work/difficulty over time) is called progressive overload, and it can be achieved via many methods:

Resistance/Weight Training

  • increase the load (lift heavier shit)
  • increase the volume (lift it more times — either more repetitions or more sets)
  • increase the frequency (lift it more times per week)
  • increase the density (reduce your rest between sets / lift the same weight for the same reps in a smaller period of time)

Energy Systems Training (“Cardio”)

  • Increase the intensity (speed, resistance, incline)
  • Increase the duration (longer intervals, more intervals)
  • Increase the density (reduce rest periods between intervals)

The same principles hold true for everything from yoga to Crossfit, although the specific methods will certainly change.

While you’re unlikely to be able to push your performance every time you set foot in the gym, the goal should be to pursue progressive overload over time or settle in for a long stay exactly where you are.

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