Are you new to training? Have you been training for some time but you’re not seeing progress? Are you winging it in the gym, or continually doing the same exercises with the same weight and number of sets and reps? If so, you’re leaving a large piece of your progress on the table.
One of the most important concepts in strength training is progressive overload, which means to gradually increase the amount of work you do over time. Progressive overload can be the difference between spinning your wheels and achieving your goal.
Have you ever noticed that when you start a new routine–or start lifting again being out of the gym for a while–that everything feels terrible at first? The weights feel like a ton of bricks, and you get so sore you can barely walk. But then over time, it becomes much easier? That’s adaptation.
Our bodies are good at adapting to stress. It’s how we get better at withstanding similar types of stress in the future. This is a great thing from a survival perspective, like when you need to run away from a hungry bear. But it’s inconvenient when you want to get lean and strong.
Because our bodies are eager to adapt, we need to challenge them in a way that forces them to adapt further. If we do this successfully, we continue to get bigger, stronger, leaner and faster. If we don’t, our progress stalls.
So, we need to slowly increase what we do. But what does that mean exactly? Sometimes it means lifting more weight, but not always. Progress comes in many forms, and these are just some of them.
Keep in mind that you should learn good technique for each lift before attempting to progress it. Loading up an exercise before you can perform it with proper form isn’t going to help. So hire a trainer or coach, ask a more experienced lifter, or even find a supportive forum or Facebook group where you can post form checks.
After that, work on progressing. It won’t always be possible to get better every workout, or even every week, but that’s okay. We can’t make linear progress indefinitely, and bad or mediocre sessions happen to all of us. But with a good progressive program, you’ll see gradual improvement over the course of weeks, months and years.