What is progressive overload (PO)?
Progressive overload defined by NASM “training stimulus must exceed current capabilities to elicit optimal physical, physiological, and performance adaptations.” Essentially you must continue to give your muscles a stimulus greater than that of the last workout. The best visual representation for this is of Milo of Croton, who was an accomplished 6th century BC wrestler. Milo started carrying a baby calf everyday until the calf reached a full grown bull. The calf grew into a bull over years and consistently put on more weight forcing Milo to gain size and strength to continue carrying him
How to use progressive overload?
PO can be a great way to keep yourself motivated while seeing real changes in your physique and strength. There are many ways you can adjust your workouts to a progressive overload style of training. If you are doing home workouts they can become very repetitive. With PO you can adjust your reps, sets, weights or time while keeping the same workouts, but working to achieve a new goal. If you run around your block every evening, try cutting off a few seconds every week. If running faster isn’t in the plans, run just a little farther each week. Maybe you only get to run once a week. Bump that same run, same time up to two times a week and you are progressing! Start using PO to compete with yourself and you will push harder and farther than you knew possible.
Progressive overload and tracking
To make PO consistently work, you will need to be organized and keep track of your progress. This will ensure you are working slightly harder than the day or week before. Make a plan with a realistic goal that will help progress every workout. For example, try adding 5lbs a week to your bench press or 1 more rep on your pulls ups. If you keep track of your progress and push yourself slightly harder everyday, you will never get bored and will continue to see improvements in any workout you consistently apply progressive overload to.