Hey guys, Dan Thomas from Image Doctor and Improvemant.com and watch the video above or read the article below as we discuss WHAT IS PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD. 


Progressive overload is a term most commonly tied to resistance training and bodybuilding but can be equally applied to cardiovascular training as well as weights training.


But what is progressive overload?


As the name suggests, progressive overload is gradually increasing the stimuli applied to your musculoskeletal or cardiovascular  system.


However it can be easy to hear that definition and decipher it to mean that you need to simply increase the amount of weight you lift or km’s that you run each time you workout in order to build stronger, larger muscles or increase your cardiovascular endurance.


Whilst this is one example of progressive overload and definitely the core principle, progressive overload can involve a lot more variety and dimension so let’s use the good old bench press as an example to breakdown and explain what is progressive overload.


Let’s say you’ve recently taken up weight training, you train your chest on Tuesdays and one of the exercises that day is bench press.


60 kilograms is a weight that you can do for 3 sets working at a rep range of say 12 reps then 11 reps then 10.


If you just do 60 kilograms for 3 sets of 12, 11, 10 for 6 months straight, the muscles in your chest will get used to this stimuli and stop responding and growing because they are not being challenged.


The idea is to gradually add more weight every week or  second week which is guided by you being able to maintain good form despite adding the extra weight.


And this does not have to be drastic increases. This could literally just be a extra half a kilogram per week.


But what happens in 12 months time when you have added 1 kilogram per week for 52 weeks? Technically this means you should now be bench pressing 112 kilograms which is 52 kilograms more than the 60 kilograms you started out at.


Whilst this would be awesome if you did make those increases, the reality is that for some people, no matter how many years they train for, they may never be able to bench press more than say 80 kilograms using good form and maintaining the 3 sets of 12, 11, 10 reps just an as example.


This is called a plateau and it is a reality that restricts the whole principle of progressive overload for many people because if you simply can’t physically lift anymore or run any further, what do you do?


At the end of the day, the question of what is progressive overload really just means that you are keeping your muscles or cardiovascular system guessing.


This means that your muscles won’t get used to the stimuli their receiving and stop responding. Progressive overload can involve much more than just the weight you lift or the kilometers you run so let’s look at some examples.


Using the bench press as an example, if you hit that plateau of not being able to increase more weight whilst maintaining good form and a relatively high rep range you could experiment with the following examples to potentially shock the muscles and create new strength and growth to break through the plateau.

  • Decrease the amount of reps so instead of 80 kilograms for 3 sets of 12, 11, 10 reps, you instead attempt 85 kilograms for 3 sets of 8,7,6 reps.
  • Maintain the same weight of 80 kilograms but instead of doing 3 sets of 12,11,10, you can increase the frequency to 4 or 5 sets at a similar rep range of say 12, 11, 10, 10, 9.
  • You could increase the number of reps. Don’t just have some magical rep  number in your head such as the standard 12, 11, 10. If you have maxed out at 80 kilograms within that rep range then try and push out 80 kilograms with 3 sets at a higher rep range such as 15,14.13.
  • Maintain the same weight of 80 kilograms but decrease the amount of rest time that you take in between each set. Instead of doing 12 reps at 80 kilograms and resting for 60-90 seconds before doing another set. You could instead rest for just 30-45 seconds in between sets.
  • If you are doing a muscle split workout routine that isolates one muscle group per session you may like to experiment with training that body part more than once per week. Whilst many believe in not over-training and suggest you should only work each muscle group once per week, every persons body is different and if you have a lagging body part more frequently.
  • You can also look to add additional exercises to that body parts training regime to increase strength and gains if you are lagging. If Tuesdays is the day you train your chest and you currently do flat bench press, incline bench press and dumbbell pullovers. You may want to add an additional chest exercise or exercises such as fly’s and dips to place further strain on the chest muscles which may activate them and spur on new strength growth.


So keep all of these options in mind if you have hit a plateau and just remember that progressive overload is more than just increasing the weight or cardio output and you have a variety of other options to keep your muscles confused and guessing.


If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like, share and leave your comments below and keep tuning back into Improvemant.com for regular videos to improve yourself as a man.


And if you would like some help or guidance to improve or update your current your style and image, you can see all my men’s personal styling and clothes shopping services here at my Image Doctor website


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