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Progressive overload is a strength-training principle. The central concept is to make your workouts challenging over time to place greater stress on your muscles and nervous system. This progression can help you gain strength, stimulate muscle growth, and build endurance. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger...
Over the course of your program, you will need to do slightly more difficult training so that your muscles will grow and you will get stronger over time. If you did the same workout week after week, the workouts would feel more manageable at the same weight or volume, but you will see no improvements. Your body will naturally progress and build muscle mass in the first few months of strength training. But eventually, you will plateau, and progression will stop if you do not continually adapt your workouts.
Progressive Overload Techniques
PUT MORE WEIGHT ON THE BAR
The obvious one. Lift heavier weights. This is as old as time. Milo and his calf is the ancient greek story of the wrestler who carried the calf until it grew into a bull. Probably the best illustration of progressive overload there is. Start slow, and increase little by little. The problem here is that at some point you will hit plateu OR your form or ROM starts to break down.
INCREASE TOTAL VOLUME.
This, up to a point is our preferred method. Increasing reps and sets will increase the total working volume or total amount of weight moved. You can add reps, but there is law of diminishing returns here, we know certain rep ranges and time under tension are better for strength and or muscle growth. If you can do 30 reps the weight is too light to stimulate strength and growth. Our preferred way is to increase sets. this is a way of maintaining the right amount of weight (muscle tension) and increasing the total volume and time under tension.
DECREASE REST PERIOD
You can increase tension by decreasing rest. The more fatigued you are from set to set the harder its going to be for your muscle to exert force. Be warned though, too little rest will potentially effect your ablity to lift the right amount of weight with good form.
You can train muscles or muscle groups more frequently to progress. For example, you might want to train legs twice per week as opposed to once if this is a lagging area for you. Again, this should be done with caution because you will need to rest between training days, especially as you advance.
SPEED OF MOVEMENT (INTENSITY)
Slowing down or speeding up movements will have a direct effect on its intensity. Increasing time under tension is one way to increase the intensity of a set. we sometimes use tempo to add an extra stimulation to workouts especially wth StrongDads looking for mass gain.
Progressive overload usually comes down to a fine balance of all the above. Think of it like a mixing deck. Overload and fatigue must be managed carefully in a program. there is always a law of dinishing returns no matter what your strategy. Ou advice? work closely with your coach to get the perfect pitch of overload to stimulate the gains you are looking for. If your coach doesn't know how to manipulate your training to achieve this, get a new coach.