Progressive overload, as it refers to weightlifting, is the process of steadily overloading the muscles with higher weight loads and repetitions to increase muscle size and strength. In this article, I will go over the basics of progressive overload and outline Phase 3 of our Getting Swole 101 program. I hope you all are getting excited at the positive changes in your bodies since you began this training regimen. I know I am! Also, if you’re new to the website, this is the 4th article in the Getting Swole series, so read up and get lifting!
Progressive Overload: A Strategy of Strength
Progressive overload is a strategy of strength training that calls for a slow and steady increase of stress to be placed upon the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. The main point is that the continual addition of weight to the total workload during training sessions will stimulate muscle growth and strength gain. This improvement in overall performance will, in turn, benefit you by cranking up the intensity of your weightlifting session. Basically, it helps you to get Jacked and Swole!
The two methods we will be using are:
- Increasing the resistance
- Increasing our reps
Don’t Resist Resistance
When I say resistance I am talking of the amount of weight we are lifting. We can grow complacent in our training routines. Before you know it you are just going through the motions of lifting. At this point, the exercise is not helping you progress. Exercise and weightlifting are good things, but they need to be difficult and challenging. Muscles adapt rather quickly to weight training. What started as hard, if done consistently, will now be easy to accomplish. We don’t want that.
The way to increase our resisitence is simple. Add more weight.
Let’s say you are flat bench pressing 135 lbs. for six repetitions. You are performing three sets and you get six reps across the board. Instead of benching 135 lbs. next week, increase the weight by five to ten pounds. Now, you are bench pressing 140-145 lbs. and you get four reps for each set you do. Does it sound like we went the wrong way? Nope. We are using the first method of our progression tactic. You see, what has happened is that you have gotten stronger. The previous weight of 135 lbs. for six reps has gotten you to 140-145 lbs. for four reps. Increasing the weight on the bar is crucial in maximizing muscle gains.
Ego Lifting is NOT Progressive Overload
Proper form in our weightlifting movements is a key factor in our strength and muscle gains. If not performed correctly an exercise will not give us all the benefits it offers. Proper lifting form will help us achieve our goals while keeping safety in mind. Nothing good will come of slinging weights around willy-nilly like. Ego lifting is a first-class seat to the emergency room. I strongly recommend that you research your weightlifting exercises and watch videos of proper lifting forms. Video yourself performing the exercises so you can make the correct adjustments, as well. The video can also be a diary of your progression if you’d like.
Rep It, Rep It Good
Repetitions, the question of how many and for what exercises can be a whole article unto itself, yadda, yadda, yadda. I know what works for my goals and that is what I will suggest for you. The sweet spot for muscle stimulation and growth is between 4 and 12. Since you are here, I would say you are wanting to Get Swole and Jacked to the Max!
So, for all of your heavy compound lifting, I recommend the 4 to 6 rep range. The reason being, the muscles involved in these exercises can withstand heavier loads because they are larger. The result is greater strength gained over time. Do you know what happens when you get stronger, your muscles get bigger! That is what we are looking for.
When training the calves and abdominals, perform 8 to 12 repetitions. The longer the time under tension is, the greater the muscle damage will be. This is what we must do to force the muscle to grow. The muscles of the calves and abdominals respond better to a moderate rep range like this. These stubborn little muscles are bastards that take their sweet ass time growing.
The Elixir of Longevity
According to recent studies, progressive overload may be beneficial for our overall health and well-being. Since progressively overloading the muscles is a good method to increase muscle strength. This method was found to decrease the risk of all-cause mortality regardless of muscle mass. The link below will take you to the study.
Let me put the two methods of progressive overload we have discussed together for you.
Perform your exercises in the rep range that you have deemed appropriate for your fitness goals. Safety is first, and foremost always keep that in mind. I will use the flat barbell bench press in the 4 to 6 rep range as my example.
You are bench pressing 135 lbs. for six repetitions across all three sets of the movement. What you will do is add ten pounds to the bar, five for each side. This bumps you up to 145 lbs. The principle of progressive overload allows you to move this weight for four reps and possibly more, depending on your level of fitness. You will stay at this weight until you can complete six repetitions across all three of the sets. Once that occurs, all you do is apply this principle again. This is progressive overload at work. You can apply this to every weightlifting exercise you perform. Pretty frickin’ cool, huh?
The days of spinning your wheels trying to gain size and strength are over, my friends. I implore you to apply this technique to your own training regimen. I can confidently say that it works, and it will bring about a renewed excitement for pumping iron.
Getting Swole Phase 3
For your reading pleasure, here is another installment of Getting Swole 101. Those of you following this regimen, remember to perform the exercises in the order listed and complete the phases in the same fashion. Take between 2-4 minutes of rest between sets and practice proper weightlifting form.
Push & Abs – Day 1
- Flat BB Bench (Warm-Up) 3 x 4-6
- Incline BB Bench 3 x 4-6
- Flat DB Bench 3 x 4-6
- Dips (Bodyweight or Weighted) 3 x 4-6
- Lying Leg Lift 3 x 10-12
- Plank 3 x 45 seconds
Pull & Calves – Day 2
- BB Deadlift (Warm-Up) 3 x 4-6
- BB Row 3 x 4-6
- Wide Grip Lat Pulldown 3 x 4-6
- DB Curls 3 x 4-6
- Chin-Ups (Bodyweight or Weighted) 3 x 4-6
- Standing Calf Raise 3 x 6-8
Upper Body & Abs – Day 3
- BB Military Press (Warm-Up) 3 x 4-6
- Seated DB Press 3 x 4-6
- Side Lat Raise (Cable) 3 x 4-6
- Rear Lat Raise (Cable) 3 x 4-6
- Cable Crunch 3 x 6-8
- Bicycle Crunch 3 x 10-12 (Per Side)
Legs, Calves & Curls – Day 4
- BB Squat (Warm-Up) 3 x 4-6
- DB Lunge 3 x 4-6
- RDL 3 x 4-6
- Hammer Curls 3 x 4-6
- Dips (Bodyweight or Weighted) 3 x 4-6
- Standing Calf Raise 3 x 10-12
Take it easy, train for gains, and I’ll catch ya’ on the flipside!!