Progressive overload is to strength/size gains what sunlight is to photosynthesis, what learning stock markets are to the broker and what studying is for students. almost no progress will be made by the individual with a lack of this principal’s practice.
What is progressive overload?
Progressive Overload is the principal that makes it possible to gain muscle, strength, cardiovascular fitness and just generally progress in physical activities. The idea is the athlete does an exercise one week with weight X number of repetitions 👍 and then next session should try to increase X or Y (depending on the goal). Absolutely critical if you’re looking to gain muscle, lose fat or make some CRAZY strength gains. Progressive overload is a lifters oxygen, more important than eating 23 chicken breasts for protein and miles more important than ANY supplement.
Your muscles get used to and adapt to anything you subject them to a few times. So if you’re bench pressing 60kg for 5 reps and 5 sets then after 1 or two sessions this will become much easier due to the breakdown and rebuilding process your muscles have been subject to. Micro tears in the have been created then repaired to become stronger and hopefully hit 62.5kg for 5×5 (my current goal)
“that which does not kill us makes us stronger”- Friedrich Nietzsche
(I thought that quote was by kayne)
This is a regular way to achieve progressive overload, but after a few workouts with only changing one variable (weight or number of reps) the body begins to adapt even faster and you get to the point where the muscles will not adapt or will not adapt as freely, this calls for some random style of training or variable to be thrown into the mix because as Arnold said “you gotta confuse the muscle”
Painful but EFFECTIVE method progressing
Say you want to get bigger arms and currently you’ve been doing biceps on pull day and triceps on push day, this is a reasonably good idea BUT there’s a better way! (infomercial). Try “super sets” these are PAINFUL if done right and done hard. A superset is where one set is done just after another set has been destroyed, it can be done with any two muscle groups but generally, they should be different movements (back and chest or calves and traps).
personally, I’ve been trying to grow my arms and since the bicep and the triceps are a muscle pair (agonist and antagonist) when one is contracted the other is stretched out, it is very easy to make a super set out of this muscle group! For example a great superset with these muscles would be any type of bicep curl (I’m loving rope curls currently) combined with a similar rep scheme of triceps rope pulls or skull crushers, both at around 10-15 reps (number of reps is dependent on the muscle group) and both for 3 sets, so 6 sets total (1 minute rest between the next super set)
Drop sets that test willpower
Imagine if there was a way to make it possible for just bench pressing 50% of your normal weight would induce an INSANE burn and euphoric pump. Drop sets exhaust the muscle and reduce the capacity of the muscle to lift the regular weight. Drop sets are performed by starting out with a heavy weight (5-12RM) then immediately doing 90% of that, then 80% then 70% (all for 5-12 or to failure), the numbers can change but the principle stays the same, you get to a point where 50% of your normal weight absolutely CRUSHES you!
For example personally, on the chest press, I would do a drop set of
22kg for 8
20kg for 8
18kg for 10
16kg for 10
14kg for 10
10kg for 15
(The weight and the repetitions can vary depending on what I’m repping out)
The best way to progress
recently I have been having trouble progressing on my bench press and my general pectoral gains! I tried 5×5 on the bench press, hypertrophy rep ranges, drop sets, consistent 10×3 but none of these were feeling like they were making much difference to my progress (or to my shoulder issues).
I finally figured out what the culprit was, I was bench pressing with incorrect form. In particular, I was bench pressing with my shoulders abducted to nearly 90 degrees while an angle of 45 is MUCH more desirable. I also figured out that I was not doing enough chest press volume without letting my deltoids and upper chest do a large chunk of the work, so now to counteract this I am doing a more dedicated chest day, focusing on form, weight and more volume with the exercises that mainly only use my pectorals!
Checking form and taking it SLOW can make an even bigger difference than getting high on 3 scoops of preworkout, performing drop sets or EVEN super sets! Change it up, take it slow and train smart.