Progressive Overload: Making It a Habit During Training

By Putri PD
Progressive Overload: Making It a Habit During Training

‘Progressive overload’ is a term that’s often used in the bodybuilding scene to describe the action of adding more weight or reps or sets to the workout. The idea is that by gradually challenging yourself at each workout, your body is bound to improve and adapt.

This is true and it’s an excellent habit to adopt every single time you start your workout. It’s best to keep a workout journal where you record down the details of your session. Here are a few stats to note down:

* What exercise did you do?

* How many reps/sets?

* What weights did you use?

* How long were your rest sessions?

* How did you feel at the end of the workout?

* What was the duration of the entire workout?

By writing down these details, you’ll not need to rely on your memory and it makes it all easier to track. If you’re doing a cardio workout like running or swimming, you’ll need to note down how much mileage/distance you covered. Unlike weight training, cardio is slightly more difficult to track.

If you’re engaged in workouts like kickboxing, dancing, etc. it’ll be even more challenging to use the principle of progressive overload. If you’re engaged in activities that make it difficult to track your progress, you can always add 2-3 resistance training or conventional cardio workouts (running, swimming, rowing, etc.) to your training regimen and track those.

The goal is to increase your strength and stamina. While group workout classes such as Zumba and kickboxing do have cardio benefits, you’ll have to follow the pace set by the group. This will place an invisible ceiling on your progress because you’re limited to the pace set by the instructor.


* How to apply the progressive overload principle?

For starters, the principle is more about mindset than anything else. Your goal is to always train slightly harder than you did the previous time. You don’t need to push yourself too hard to the point of total exhaustion, but you do need to do just a little bit more to effect change.

It's important to understand your own body and see how it feels. Pressure turns coal into diamonds, but it can also turn it to dust. Being sensible with your ‘pressure’ will help you progress without wiping you out and making the workout so torturous that you dread future sessions.

As for the technical aspect of progressive overload, you’ll just need to tweak the different factors mentioned above. You can either do more reps or more sets. Or you could add more weight to the barbells and dumbbells.

Another way to challenge yourself will be to keep the weights the same, but reduce your rest time. This will translate to a faster workout where you do the same amount of work as the previous session, but in a shorter time.

Changing up the exercises can challenge your body too. For example, if you do regular push-ups, now you may try doing archer push-ups, or you may place your feet on an elevated surface… or you may even do pull-ups which are considerably more challenging.

The aim of progressive overload is to challenge yourself. As long as you can do that, you will improve by leaps and bounds over time.

So, make progressive overload a habit and apply it during every workout with purpose and ferocity. You’ll be fit and strong in no time at all.