Bodybuilder Justin Harris training chest with cable crossovers

PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD: WHAT IT IS AND HOW TO APPLY IT

I want to try a progressive overload training program. Do I just make sure I use more weight each workout? I don’t see why that’s anything special. Everyone is trying to get stronger.

Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during training. The principle is about continuously increasing the demands on the musculoskeletal system so that you can make gains in muscle size, strength, and endurance.

In general, I look for any form of progressive overload—not just strength. The problem with getting stronger is people focus too much on getting stronger in a particular lift rather than making a muscle stronger.

I can always add more weight to my squat by adjusting my stance, changing the bar position, finding weights I know are only 44.5 lb instead of 45 lb, wearing flatter shoes, using tighter knee wraps, even resting a few seconds longer before my max set. That doesn't mean my quads get stronger.

In fact, I can use far less quad muscle and lift much heavier weight. If the goal is to get bigger quads by making them stronger, then the only way getting stronger in squats is a good indicator of that is if no other variables are changed.

That means the same clothing, same bar, same weights, same form, same stance, same bar position, same meals, same exercise rotation, same warm-ups, and the same time between sets. When you remove variables you find that the strength increases slow down dramatically, and a lot of the early (first many months) strength progression isn't getting stronger muscles, it's finding ways to be more biomechanically advantageous in a movement. And when you've maxed out all those things, then you're stuck with the true strength progression...which is much slower.

Because of that, I prefer to find any form of progressive overload.

If I can't get stronger or get more reps without changing variables, then I try to get the same weight for the same reps but with shorter rest periods. Or I try to complete the entire workout in a shorter time than the last one, or I try to find a way to do the last rep slower. Or hold a static hold, or hold a final partial rep, or anything that is "more" than what I did the week before. 

If I'm feeling strong, I'll go for a PR in weight/reps.

If I'm not, I'll try to get through the workout faster.

If I know I can't hit either of those goals, then I'll do the same number of reps, but then try for an extra rep and just hold it at the failing point as long as I can.

If I feel like shit and can't get any of those done, then I'll do all the same max weights and reps as the week before, but I'll do one extra rep on all my warm-up sets.

 

JUSTIN HARRIS COACHING
If you're new to the bodybuilding and fitness game or just looking to take your physique to the next level, investing in a good coach can make all the difference in reaching your goals. With decades of experience, both as a competitor and coach, Harris's knowledge is matched by few in this industry. Whether you are a bodybuilding or fitness competitor, athlete, or someone who is just motivated to make a change, he has a program that's perfect for you.

To learn more about his programs, visit www.troponinnutrition.com or email him at justin@troponinnutrition.com.