Progressive Overload: Definition, Benefits, and Examples

Progressive Overload: Definition, Benefits, and Examples

Authored by Marshall on January 27, 2023

Never heard the term “progressive overload” before? You may be more familiar with the concept than you realize. Progressive overload is a straightforward workout theory that allows athletes to grow stronger, avoid plateaus, and enjoy a healthy, natural rhythm in their fitness journey. 

If you are new to the concept of progressive overload, your friends at Jack City Fitness are here to get you up to speed. We are experts in progressive overload training and are happy to share our tips with you! Today’s article will discuss progressive overload, its key benefits, and how to incorporate it into your own workout routine. If you have any questions, reach out to our expert team—we’re here to help you reach all your fitness goals. 

What Is Progressive Overload?

So, what is progressive overload?

The term itself is a bit confusing, as “overload” often refers to something being too much at once. However, progressive overload is actually the opposite of this. It refers to a style of fitness that involves gradually intensifying a workout. By doing this, athletes can see more gains, increased strength, or better endurance without putting too much strain on their bodies too quickly. 

Progressive overload is certainly effective, but it can sometimes feel like a lesson in patience as well. While it delivers great results, this is not a “get fit overnight” workout regime. Progressive overload is all about meeting incremental goals and working your way up from there. 

In many ways, progressive overload training is similar to other learning processes. Let’s say you are learning to speak Spanish. While your early lessons will involve basic conversational skills, they won’t get you very far in the long run. Once you become comfortable with the basics of the language, your lessons will progress to another level, and you will begin practicing subjects like past tense and abstract conversion. If you simply repeat the basics and don’t try to learn more difficult subjects, you won’t progress. However, moderation and a realistic attitude are key. After all, no matter how great you are with languages, you won’t jump from a beginner’s level to being a fluent speaker without some type of progression. 

This concept applies to fitness as well. If you keep doing the same routine over and over again, you may not grow much as an athlete. However, the overnight fitness regimes hawked by some social media “fitspo” personalities are also not ideal. They can actually be unsafe. This is why we recommend progressive overload training. It is safer and more natural, and it can lead to longer-lasting results.

How Does Progressive Overload Training Work?

When you smash the same workout every sesh, your body becomes used to it. This can be a good thing, of course. However, if you progress athletically but continue to do the same routine over and over again, you run the risk of hitting a plateau. In that case, you might stop seeing results when you work out. This is because your body has become so used to your regular routine that it has stopped becoming a challenge. Your body has now adapted to this level of exercise, and therefore, you’ll stop seeing significant results. This is very frustrating, but there’s a way to change the scenario or even avoid it altogether. The solution you’re looking for? Progressive overload training. 

With progressive overload training, your body will not have the opportunity to plateau because you won’t keep doing the same thing. Instead, you will increase your difficulty level—but only slightly. This can be done by adding reps or resistance, lengthening your sessions, or working out at a higher tempo. (These specifics will depend on your goals and can be discussed with your fitness coach.)

What Are the Benefits of Progressive Overload?

Wondering about the benefits of progressive overload training? We’ve covered a few of the key perks below.

  • Goodbye, Plateaus…

It can feel so discouraging to spend time and energy working out, only to see zero changes in your strength and fitness levels. However, if plateaus are the enemy of the athlete, then progressive overload training is the antidote. When you incrementally increase the difficulty level of your workout, you’ll keep your body on its toes and won’t fall into a plateau. Instead, you’ll constantly be challenging your system and allowing your muscles to see further growth as you work.

  • Hello, Strength!

While progressive overload can be applied to lots of fitness styles and workouts, it’s particularly effective with strength training. In fact, 2011 research proved this by studying 83 people engaging in progressive overload arm training over the course of three months. The participants indeed found that their bicep and overall strength improved over the course of the study.

  • Long-Term Goal Setting

We love that progressive overload encourages incremental goal setting. Instead of saying, “I want to deadlift 500 pounds,” for instance, athletes set lots of small weight benchmarks over time. This may seem to pack less of a punch than a big number goal, but it can lead to the same results. It just gives you a blueprint of how you will get there and makes it more digestible. 

This can be helpful in other areas of your life, as it helps develop the skills necessary to break goals down into manageable chunks.

What is progressive overload

What Is a Progressive Overload Example?

There are several ways to incorporate progressive overload techniques into your training plan. The four primary ways to do so are by incrementally increasing the following:

  • Resistance

This technique is often seen in strength training. By increasing resistance, you will be upping the weight that you’ll be lifting. Ideally, this means selecting a weight that is 2-4 pounds heavier every month or so. Consult with your fitness coach to find the ideal starting weight and to determine how many pounds you should be adding and how often. They will be able to assess your unique physical fitness level and determine the right number for you.

  • Reps

Like resistance and weights, your rep count can be gradually increased to avoid plateaus and enjoy better results. We recommend a monthly increase. This can be accomplished by adding two reps to each set you do or by adding another set with the same number of reps. 

  • Intensity

Intensity can make a significant difference in your overall workout system and results. By increasing your tempo through shorter rest times or by physically moving faster during your workouts, you are giving your body the additional challenge it needs to progress. 

  • Session Length

This is a great technique for those hoping to enhance their endurance levels. If you engage in cardiovascular exercise (like running, dancing, or cycling), try adding 20 minutes to your overall session length every two to four weeks. 

Before you officially begin your progressive overload training journey, we advise you to speak with a healthcare or fitness professional about your goals and plans. They will make sure that your fitness plan is right for your health, background, and circumstances.

Progress With Us!

If you’re ready to try progressive overload training, Jack City Fitness is a great way to begin. Our coaches have the fitness and strength training tips and skills you need to meet all of your goals. Whether you need 24/7 gym access, heart-pumping classes, or the opportunity to create your own customized workout plan with a coach, it’s waiting for you at Jack City Fitness. We’re Boise’s ONLY results-oriented gym, and we can’t wait to welcome you to our world. Call (208) 999-1111 today for a FREE fitness consultation and tour of our facility. Once you sign up for a Partnership, you can get moving straight away. Let’s start seeing goals turn into reality! 



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