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Progressive Overload And How To Achieve It

One key principle lies at the heart of all successful strength and conditioning programmes and it’s called ‘Progressive Overload’. 

This effectively means making an improvement from one week, session or even month to the next. 

For example, let’s use the most common way of measuring strength – Weight Lifted and take a popular exercise such as the Bench Press… 

  • Week 1 = 3 Sets / 10 Reps / 2010 Tempo / 2 Min Rest / Weight @ 100kg 
  • Week 2 = 3 Sets / 10 Reps / 2010 Tempo / 2 Min Rest / Weight @ 102.5kg 
  • Week 3 = 3 Sets /10 Reps / 2010 Tempo / 2 Min Rest / Weight @ 105kg

Generally speaking in strength terms a progression of 2-5% is good benchmark, the lower end of that being more suitable with stronger individuals.

But, one thing that’s always worth considering is the other ways of measuring success. 

More weight on the bar isn’t the only way of achieving progressive overload, let’s look at other possible variables. 

1 – More Reps

  • Week 1 = 3 Sets / 10 Reps / 2010 Tempo / 2 Min Rest / Weight @ 100kg 
  • Week 2 = 3 Sets / 11 Reps / 2010 Tempo / 2 Min Rest / Weight @ 100kg 
  • Week 3 = 3 Sets / 12 Reps / 2010 Tempo / 2 Min Rest / Weight @ 100kg 

2 – More Sets

  • Week 1 = 3 Sets / 10 Reps / 2010 Tempo / 2 Min Rest / Weight @ 100kg 
  • Week 2 = 4 Sets / 10 Reps / 2010 Tempo / 2 Min Rest / Weight @ 100kg 
  • Week 3 = 5 Sets / 10 Reps / 2010 Tempo / 2 Min Rest / Weight @ 100kg

3 – Less Rest

  • Week 1 = 3 Sets / 10 Reps / 2010 Tempo / 2 Min Rest / Weight @ 100kg 
  • Week 2 = 3 Sets / 10 Reps / 2010 Tempo / 1 Min 50 Sec Rest / Weight @ 100kg 
  • Week 3 = 3 Sets / 10 Reps / 2010 Tempo / 1 Min 40 Sec Rest / Weight @ 100kg

The variables above may be particular useful if you have limited resources, by not changing the weight it doesn’t matter if your gym doesn’t have weight increments that fit your requirements. 

They’re also useful if you don’t want the hassle of working out exact weight increases session by session. 

Any variable would have plus points and minus points, i’ve used all of these options for both myself and my clients at varying times with success. 

A really important point to finish up with is that you will see in all scenarios that only 1 variable will change at any one time. 

This is because we, when possible need to always make sure we are measuring like-for-like as much as we can. 

Compare apples to apples as the saying goes. 

There are ways in which you can combine a couple of variables if you were using a longer timeframe that was to include pre or de-load weeks but for the sake of simplicity if you are writing your own programmes try not to get too clever for your own good. 

An example of how not to do it… 

  • Week 1 = 3 Sets / 10 Reps / 2010 Tempo / 2 Min Rest / Weight @ 100kg 
  • Week 3 = 4 Sets / 11 Reps / 2010 Tempo / 1 Min 50 Sec Rest / Weight @ 102.5kg 
  • Week 3 = 5 Sets / 12 Reps / 2010 Tempo / 1 Min 40 Sec Rest / Weight @ 105kg

The above just would not work, you’d be changing way too much in far too short a period of time. 

I know it won’t seem like a huge difference when you read it out but in this example in week 1, you’d be doing 30 reps with 100kg and a 2 min rest between sets and by week 3 you’d be doing 60 reps with 105kg and only a 1 min 40 sec rest between sets.

Anyone who has any type of reasonable strength training experience would find this impossible.

So keep it simple, play around with different options and see how you get on with trying to achieve the 2-5% improvements.

Thanks for reading, have a great day.

Craig

Do you need confidential help with your health, fitness or nutrition? I have a range of services available, with Personal Training in my Private Gym in Manchester, also at your home or workplace in the surrounding areas. For clients further afield, I provide Online Personal TrainingNutritional Consultancy & Private Fitness Holidays.

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