Progressive overload is the secret to making progress. It boils down to a very simple concept:
You can’t keep making progress unless the difficulty of your workouts increases over time.
Let’s take a SUPER common case study (if this is you–consider this article your handy dandy guide to gainstown): the person who always does the same thing when they go to the gym.
You get there, warm up, and hit some lifting. After a few sets of 4×10 or 3×12, you hop on the treadmill and run for a few miles.
You started this a few months back, and it really helped! You were consistent with it, you saw some good progress, and felt a lot better.
But lately… it’s the like it suddenly stopped working. You don’t feel better any more. You gained 5 lbs back. You haven’t changed anything, but it’s like you’re going backwards.
You see–when we exercise, what we’re really doing is stressing our bodies. Our bodies take that stress, and adapt to it (this is why working out makes us fitter). That adaptation is an increased capacity for whatever you were doing.
So-you start this new regimen, and your body responds, and you get fitter!
This is where progressive overload becomes important.
Your new level of fitness means that same workout you’ve been doing for a few months is actually a SMALLER stress–even though the difficulty stayed the same! And that new fitness you built? It’s expensive, from an energy standpoint. Your body has to work hard to keep it!
It turns out, when you stop progressing the difficulty of the workouts, not only do you stop getting fitter, you actually go backwards.
So–how do we make things harder? The easiest answer is to up the intensity (only after making sure your mechanics and consistency are sound though!) of your workouts. If you’ve been running that mile in 9 minutes, try to run it in 8:30. It you’ve been squatting 135, try to squat 145.
That will work–for awhile. Once it stops working, you have to play with other factors like volume, recovery, and nutrition (fuel).
Progressive overload is the reason that fitness is an infinite game–you can’t just get to a spot, and then stay there without continued work.
If this sounds all too familiar–come check us out. We’ll make sure that you’re progressing the intensity of your workouts!