Fundamentals of training #2 - Progressive overload - BroScience

Fundamentals of training #2 – Progressive overload

Okay, by now you should know that muscle growth is the result of an adaptation to previously unknown stress.

The body adapts in numerous ways, including but not limited to – Optimizing the energy pathways, cardiovascular, neuromuscular and respiratory systems.

So, if that is so, then what would be the best way to induce muscle growth?

progressive overloadLogically, optimal progress requires us to subject the body to new, previously unknown stress.

Depending on the parameters of the stress, we will achieve a different adaptation.

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If you go back to our previous article, where we talked about the pyramid, you’ll see that we recommended increases of 3-5% in your working weight, once you are able to do 3 sets of 10 with a given weight.

The seemingly small increase of 3-5% is what we call “Progressive overload”.

In this case, we manipulate the parameters of the workload, by increasing the intensity (Weight).

In doing so, we expose the body to new, previously unknown stress.

As a matter of fact, increasing the working weight is the best muscle growth stimulus.

However, you can’t get stronger forever, which is why we need to pay attention to other aspects of the workout as well.

It is all about increasing the demand of your musculature.

If implemented correctly and systematically, progressive overload is the single most important thing in your workout.

Types of progressive overload


If you read our articles on training parameters, you should have an idea of how we can create progressive overload.

So, what is it that we can do, besides increasing the working weight?

  1. Volume

We can increase the number of sets and repetitions that we do.

This creates a bigger demand for the musculature and stimulates sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

We need to keep in mind that junk volume is a no-go if you are serious about your progress.

What we mean by junk volume is doing a ton of sets at a lower level of intensity.

The ratios between intensity and volume should be tightly controlled, so that you can always stay in the 70-85% range of your maximum strength capabilities.

2. Rest times

To further demand more of the body, you can decrease the rest times between exercises and sets.

This will increase density and thus allow you to improve the rate at which you’re moving a certain weight.

3. Explosiveness

Explosiveness is the intensity of effort that we put into the workout.

What you have to aim for is doing the repetitions quicker, or at least applying the mental effort to do so.

While this won’t substantially increase the speed of your repetitions, you will be sending more signals to the musculature and the reps will become easier, due to that neuromuscular adaptation.

4. Exercises

Now, switching up the movements isn’t a direct overload but the benefit is different here.

What we’re looking for is a better overall activation of all the zones of the musculature.

And targeting different zones is best done by switching up the angles.

Hitting plateau

There are certain limitations, which is exactly why we reach a stall in progress at one point.

That stall we refer to as a “Plateau” and it is pretty much every trainee’s worst nightmare.

But what can we do once we reach the stall in progress?

Check out our next short article where we talk about How to shatter the plateau easily.

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