What is Progressive Overload? Why is it Necessary for Muscle Building?

Progressive Overload is a crucial part of resistance training or weight lifting. More or less every experienced weight lifters, professional bodybuilders & athletes uses this principle to achieve better muscular strength, gain muscle mass & endurance. If you are a newbie in the world of muscle, fitness and bodybuilding then you may have heard this term but do you actually know, what is progressive overload? Why is it essential for muscle building or for increasing muscular strength & endurance? And, most importantly, do you know, how to utilise progressive overload principle in your workout for maximum gains? If you don’t then continue reading the article now.

What is Progressive Overload?

Progressive overload is a very basic idea actually. When you gradually increase the weight or the number of repetitions or the frequency of your workout, you are actually progressively overloading. This will provide your muscles a better challenge to push forward and thus, your muscles will gain faster. However, this principle or workout method is mainly used in weight lifting or strength training or resistance training where you have to either increase the weight or the number of repetitions gradually. But over the years, it is also proven that you can actually utilise this method in cardio exercises too by reducing the rest/interval time and increasing the intensity as well as duration so that you can challenge your cardiovascular muscle to become more endurable.

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Why is Progressive Overload Necessary?

Ever heard about the term, “Plateau”? No, I’m not talking about the plateau you have studied in your Geography class. A training plateau in bodybuilding and strength training is when you cannot progress in your fitness goals anymore. In simpler words, if you are working out for muscle building and after a few months, you cannot gain muscles anymore. That means, you have hit a training plateau. There are many useful ways to break a plateau such as changing up your workout routine. Progressive overload is one of them. Yes, if you are progressively overloading continuously, there will be less chance of hitting a training plateau and if you have hit a plateau already, using progressive overload method is one of the best way to break the plateau so that you can keep your muscles under more tension to make them gain faster and become stronger.

When you do the same workouts with same weights and repetitions over and over for few months, you not only face training plateau but also it becomes easier for you to lift weights with which you have become habituated. So, you muscles cannot feel challenged and under tension anymore. Thus, it will be much difficult for the muscles to grow further. But, if you gradually increase the weight or the number of reps or reduce the time of the rest between each set, your muscles will never be habituated and they will always be under tension during workout as they are challenged by more intense or heavier weights gradually. Finally, this extra pressure on your muscles force them to grow more. Now, you may have realised how beneficial it is to utilise this method in your training to get way better results.

How to Utilise Progressive Overload Principle in Your Workout Routine?

Well, as we have earlier discussed, progressive overload refers to the gradual increase of reps, sets weights or even intensity. The thing that you have to keep in mind is that it must be done gradually. Let’s take an example to clear the confusion.

If you were doing bicep curls with 10 lbs dumbbells for 10 repetitions in each set for the last month or for the last couple of weeks, you can now perform the same exercise with the same weight but this time, you aim to do 12 reps in each set. Then, after a month or few weeks, you can increase the weight from 10 lbs to 15 lbs dumbbells and aim to do 10 reps in each set and again after 2-3 weeks, you can increase the reps per set to 12. In this way, you can gradually increase the reps from 8 to 12 with the same weight and then you can increase the weight again to perform the same progressive overload method from 8 to 12 reps.

You can increase the reps or the weight depending on your muscular strength & fitness level. Like, you can progressively overload in every week if you feel you can handle the increased challenge or you can wait for one month until you increase them. But always keep in mind, it can be very dangerous to increase the load or frequency of the workout too quickly if you are not habituated enough. This can lead to severe injury. That’s why this method suggests you to gradually increase the intensity & load. Therefore, It’s indeed the safest way to progress on your fitness journey.

What are The Different Ways to Use Progressive Overload Method?

We have earlier mentioned that you can use this method by not only increasing the weight or the reps but also by reducing the rest time or by increasing the time of the cardio or whatever endurance training you do. For example, if you are planning to use progressive overload in your cardio exercises then you can reduce the interval or rest time between each exercise. Like, if you have been cycling for 20 minutes and taking a break for 60 seconds for last 2 weeks, you can target for reducing the rest time to 45 seconds now. Then after two or three weeks, you can reduce the rest time to 30 seconds. In that way, you can add more frequency and intensity in your cardio training.

Moreover, you can increase the duration of the cardio exercises. For instance, you run for 20 minutes in moderate pace 3 days a week for the last two weeks. Now you can target for running 30 minutes for 3 days a week. Then after a few weeks, you can run 30 minutes for 4 days a week. So, in that way, you can utilise the progressive overload method properly to make progress faster in your cardio training.

Related: 10 Best Cardio for Weight Loss!

In a nutshell, the different ways to use progressive overload principle are: to add weight (in case of strength training & resistance training), to increase reps or sets (in case of resistance training), to reduce the rest time (in case of endurance training & cardio) and to increase the duration of the exercise (in case of cardio).

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The Bottom Line

Therefore, in the concluding lines, it is no secret to you now that progressive overload is one of the best and safest way to progress much faster in your fitness journey regardless of what fitness goals you want to achieve. Utilising this method not only helps you to avoid training plateau but also challenges your external as well as internal muscles to gain strength and size fast. If you want to gain muscle mass & get stronger, progressive overload should be a must in your routine. If you want to lose fat with cardio & endurance training, this method is also quite helpful. We would suggest you to seek for a certified trainer who will provide you a routine filled with this principle so that you can excel in your fitness journey safely without any mistake or injuries. We wish you all the very best. Hope you have found this article helpful. If it really so then don’t hesitate to express your valuable thoughts in the comment section below. Thanks for visiting and appreciating our work.

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