Progressive overload


Exposing muscles to a greater stimulus over time. The increase in stimulus will trigger the body’s physiological adaptive responses to meet the new demands that have been placed upon it, with an increase in muscle size and strength. This is called progressive overload

This is ESSENTIAL for achieving muscle growth long-term. Exposure to greater amounts of tensions from workout to workout subsequently leads to hypertrophy. Hypertrophy is an increase and growth of muscle cells

e.g 100kg Hip Thrust - 4 sets of 10 reps (within the correct proximity to failure - around 0-3 reps left in the tank) we would have achieved a sufficient stimulus to drive hypertrophy adaptations. If we do the same workout and complete the same 4 sets of 10 reps @100kg’s the following week, we will not be providing our body with a greater stimulus than the previous week.

So, you're on holidays or now you're in lock down and you have access to only much lighter weight the same hip thrusts with 20kg you would need to do 51 reps with this the first set, then 50 reps each set (3) after this to achieve 20kg MORE volume to this exercise than the previous week. Providing all other variables are the same, rest periods etc

10reps x 100kg = 1000kg

x 4 sets

= 4000 kg

51reps x 20kg = 1020kg


50reps x 20kg = 1000kg

x 3

= 4020kg

WHY DO WE NEED TO DO THIS? Because our body has already gone through the adaptations to this stimulus, repeating this is essentially a LOWER stimulus than the previous week, repeating this week after week or 'jumping around' through volume provides littles to no gains.

If we continue to do this week after week you can see how you will hit a plateau. 

PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD is best achieved by gradual increases in volume, intensity, frequency or time.

      • Volume is the total number of reps multiplied by the weight used
      • Intensity is the amount of load expressed as a percentage relative to a single maximum effort (e.g how many reps in reserve)
      • Frequency is how often a person trains in period of time e.g a week - Shortening the rest time between sets or exercises

AWESOME, so how about I just go all out all the time 0 reps left in the tank, little to no rest, all out hard won't this speed up the process?

NOPE ❌ not necessarily, you need to ensure you are taking into consideration fatigue and recovery demands person to person. Think about it, last time you were in the gym and didn't wait out the rest time were you able to hit your rep ranges? Probably not if the weight is correctly selected. Allowing to little or too long in between times to train certain body parts will also play havoc on your progress.

PROXIMITY TO FAILURE - 0-4 reps is the sweet spot research suggests, with heavier loads actual muscular failure doesn't appear to have an advantage as long as you are within the 0-4 rep range is fine in comparison to lighter loads actual failure appears to be favoured. So what does this mean? If you are training with lighter loads (lockdown etc) actual muscular failure (nope not that lactic acid or "the shakes") ACTUAL muscular fatigue unable to complete any more perfect technique reps drives more muscle stimulus - helping us with our muscle gain or fat-loss goals (more in this on another article.)

IN SUMMARY you can maximise progress with small increments over time extra reps, more sets, slightly heavier weights, less rest, reducing the reps left in reserve, or more time you hit the body part in a week. There are lots of moving parts we can use to achieve these progressions, a carefully thought out plan takes these into consideration. This is just a small snippet into what goes into your programming put keeping these things in mind ensuring small steady consistent progress through your volume load and following all the other parameters will set you up for the best success.


- Coach Rhi 🦋

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