No matter what your goal is, whether you want to build muscle fast or lose weight, during your workouts the key principle you should always work within is progressive overload. Failing to do so will mean that your results stop almost immediately.
What is Progressive Overload?
Our bodies are used to doing certain things on a daily basis. Walking around, carrying the shopping etc. All of these functions are normal activities that the body is capable of.
What happens when we go beyond our bodies normal capabilities? What if we’re only used to walking and all of a sudden we have to run for a bus? When people complain that even running for a bus is a difficult task for them it means that they have experienced OVERLOAD. An activity beyond what their body is normally used to.
Bearing in mind that the body is designed to survive, it will take steps to ensure that this kind of stress or ‘overload’ isn’t experienced again by ‘progressing’. After a while, running for a bus will become a ‘normal’ daily activity (if it was done regularly) and would not be something that the body finds difficult to perform.
That is a very simple example of progressive overload in the real world.
How Does Progressive Overload Work in Our Training?
The idea remains similar. Your goal should be to push your body beyond it’s normal demands. Why? So that your body responds by progressing you towards the goal you are working towards.
Failing to beat your score (increase intensity) from your previous workout will result in a plateau!
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No progressive overload = No reason for your body to change!
How Do We Ensure That We Reach Progressive Overload?
I’ll give you a list of things you can do here but this is also another detailed subject in which you’d greatly benefit from grabbing yourself either one of my recommended online muscle building programs or fat loss programs (depending on your goal). Clicking either of those links will take you to my detailed reviews of the most popular online programs.
There are a few things you must do :-
(Failure is harder to determine with cardio. Obviously it wouldn’t be safe to go to absolute failure on the treadmill! As long as you’re using appropriate intensity and beating your previous workout’s score, you should progress. Don’t cheat yourself if you feel that you have a little more in the tank!)
What If We Fail to Reach Progressive Overload and What Can We Do?
Here are some reasons that people may fail to beat their previous score or increase their intensity
Solution : Eat correctly and eat enough food every single day!
- Not pushing yourself to beat your previous score
Solution : This is a mental thing and something only you can overcome. Sure at times your workout will feel uncomfortable (unless it is actual pain, stop if you feel you’re injuring yourself). You are trying to ‘overload’ your body! How badly do you want to reach your goal? If you want it enough, a bit of short term discomfort is nothing compared to the long term glory you will achieve.
- Forgetting what you did the previous week
Solution : No excuse, you MUST record your workouts
- Feeling tired / Lacking energy / Overtraining
Solution: Get adequate rest. Try to aim for at least 7 hours of sleep a night. You may also be overtraining. Take an extra day off in between workouts if this is the case and let your body recover fully.
- Not using correct technique or cheating
Solution: This can be hard to see yourself. Somebody will probably have to tell you if your form is slacking. Remember to lift a weight that is heavy enough but can be lifted with correct technique. There is no point in lifting heavy if you’re not targetting the correct muscles.
Whoever you are, male or female, no matter what your goal you must exercise using progressive overload or your results will stagnate after the first couple of weeks. Remember that no two people are the same so start at a level that your body is capable of handling and progress gradually from there.