Progressive Overload and Muscle Growth

I went to the gym this morning for a chest and bicep workout. As I rested between sets, I looked around the gym and noticed a lot of the same faces. I also noticed that the same people I’ve seen in here for the past few months are still lifting the same weights.

How can these people still be lifting the exact same amount of weight after months of training?

…They’re engorging the rule of progressive overload.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” – Henry Ford

You want to get bigger and stronger? Then you must continually force your muscles to do so. By progressively overloading your muscles you will be able to grow and reach strength limits that you never have before, or even thought possible.

What is Progressive Overload?

The concept of progressive overload is simple. It is the foundation of muscle growth and strength training. Progressive overload is the principal that refers to the continuous increase in the demands you put on your muscles through resistance training. This is done in order to continuously make gains in muscle size and strength.

In order to get bigger and stronger, you will need to lift more and more weight over months of your training. If you do not demand more from your muscles every training session, you will not force your body to adapt to any overload. Basically, you’re not giving your muscles any reason to grow.

For example, right now, you may have the ability to bench 70kg for 8 reps. If you just keep pressing 70kg for 8 reps on the bench press week after week then why would your chest muscles need to get bigger or stronger? They don’t, because they have adapted to the resistance of 70kg, to make them adapt further you must add more weight to the bar.

By increasing the weight to 75kg on your next workout your muscles now have no choice but to adapt and grow to meet the demand of the increased stress on the muscle. After a few weeks, or however fast/slow your body adapts, you will get stronger and will be able to increase the weight to 80kg.

Factors such as, using proper form, having a good nutrition plan in place, and getting enough rest are all contributing factors in your ability to lift more weight and grow. Never overlook these!

By creating a progressive overload, you will give the body the ability to gain strength and build more muscle tissue. As you get stronger, you can increase the weight you are lifting for the same amount of reps. You can move up in weight once you are able to do the same exercise for more reps.

You will not be able to increase your weight every time you train. It’s impossible to do so, and pushing yourself too hard every session will lead to overtraining, injury, or both. You should strive to increase your demands as often as possible, though. A majority of your success will be your individually driven motivation and effort to lift more weight and train heavy.

Creating Progressive Overload

Here is a list of ways you can increase the training volume and make the muscles do more total work while you are training. You can also make your muscles do more work in less time to demand more power and strength from them. These steps will help you build more muscle and strength.

1: Increase the Resistance you are Training at – After each workout, you should be recording or remembering what you are lifting on each muscle group. Set goals and strive to increase the amount of weight you’re lifting on each body part.

Take one of the big exercises and use this to measure your progressive strength gains. For example, for chest, just measure how much weight you are increasing on the bench press each week. Don’t bother noting how much you’ve gained on dumbbell fly’s or pec deck.

2: Increase the Amount of Repetitions you do Each Set – Try and push yourself to do one or two more reps each time you feel that you are going to fail. If necessary, use the aid of a spotter to help push you past your limits and reach new personal bests.

Don’t stop at a set number in your head. Lift a weight that is heavy enough that you fail between 6 – 8 reps, when you reach failure, you should be pushing for ‘one more rep’!

The Importance of Progressive Overload

The laws of progressive overload state that it is the only way to absolutely scientifically gain mass on your muscles. The law states that in order to ignite muscle growth, you need to increase the amount of reps you are doing and the amount of weight you are lifting across workouts over time.

Our bodies will adapt to the demands we place on them. They are machines when it comes to adaptation. In the world of fitness and bodybuilding, it is key to understand that we adapt and that is what you should be striving for. If you wish to gain muscle mass and get immense strength, then you need to keep forcing your muscles to adapt.

Each time you train you need to be pushing yourself to move more weight.

Last updated: 12/09/2017

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