Many fitness enthusiasts are fairly committed to the gym and working out, but often perform the same routines with the same weights over and over again. They don’t see any changes in their bodies or increases in strength, and often excuse their lack of results with the mistaken belief that it takes many years to see any real changes.
As it turns out, the human body doesn’t change unless it is forced to do so. If your body doesn’t need to adapt by getting bigger or stronger, then it won’t.
Enter a concept known as progressive overload. Developed by Thomas Delorme, M.D. to help rehabilitating World War II soldiers, progressive overload is the the gradual increase of stress placed on the body during exercise training.
The concept is beautifully simply and scientifically proven: In order for a muscle to grow, it must be overloaded. Doing so activates the natural adaptive processes of the human body, which develops to cope with the new demands placed on it. In addition to stronger and larger muscles, stronger and denser bones, ligaments, tendons and cartilage are all resulted through progressive overloads.
There are 7 techniques to incorporate progressive overloads into your workout:
- Increase resistance. This means lifting more weight. If you normally do 8 repetitions, but are now able to do 9, it may be time to increase the weight. If you are new to working out, you may be able to increase weight by 5% – 10%. If you are more advanced, 2% – 5% may be more appropriate.
- Increase repetitions. If you normally do 6 repetitions of an exercise, try for the 7th rep. Once you can do the 7th rep, try for the 8th.
- Increase the sets. If you normally do 2 sets, try for a 3rd set. While the first set will get you a majority of the results and benefits, there are some additional benefits that can be yielded from additional sets. I generally don’t do more than 4 sets.
- Increase frequency. If you train your legs every 10 days, perhaps you can train them more often. It’s generally unwise to train a muscle that is still sore from a previous workout, but there may be an opportunity to hit certain muscle groups – especially those that are lagging – more frequently.
- Increase intensity and effort. Instead of going through your workout like a zombie, really crank up the effort. Sometimes working with a good partner or trainer can be a big help. Push yourself – or find someone that can do the pushing for you!
- Increase exercises. Maybe you do 3 different exercises for your biceps, or any other muscle group. Try introducing a 4th or 5th exercise to yield increased results.
- Decrease rest time. By doing more exercises in the same amount of time, your body will have to work harder and more efficiently.
You’ll need to map these 7 techniques to your exercise goals. For example, increasing the resistance is great for people that want larger muscles. Increasing the repetitions or decreasing rest time may be better suited for people that want increased definition or endurance training.
Whatever your goals, make this powerful time-tested technique work for you.