Progressive overload: What is it and why everyone should be using it


If you find yourself going into the gym and doing a new workout every session, you’re neglecting a crucial aspect of long term progress which we call progressive overload. This is the process of planning out a training programme and increasing the training volume of an exercise each week. 


Training volume is defined as the total amount of weight (kg) lifted across all sets of a given exercise. This is calculated by multiplying the weight lifted by the number of sets and reps e.g if you squat 80kg for 3 sets of 10 reps, this would be 80x3x10 which gives us a total volume of 2400kg


We can then plan out a block of training which will typically last 3-6 weeks. Over this time the aim is to perform the same workouts each week, with the training volume of the workout increasing from week to week. On week 1, be conservative and don’t go near failure on any exercise. Going too heavy too quickly will mean that we have no room to improve over the next few weeks, meaning we cannot consistently increase training volume. Look for weekly volume increases of 2 – 6%


Examples of how we can increase volume:


Weight increases: for beginner 

Week 1 – 80kg for 3 sets of 10 reps (volume = 2400kg)

Week 2 – 82kg for 3 sets of 10 reps (volume = 2460kg)

Week 3 – 84kg for 3 sets of 10 reps (volume = 2520kg)

Week 4 – 86kg for 3 sets of 10 reps (volume = 2580kg)

Week 5 – 88kg for 3 sets of 10 reps (volume = 2640kg)


Rep increases: for intermediate 

Week 1 – 80kg for 3 sets of 10,10,10 reps (volume = 2400kg)

Week 2 – 80kg for 3 sets of 11,11,10 reps (volume = 2560kg)

Week 3 – 80kg for 3 sets of 12,11,11 reps (volume = 2720kg)

Week 4 – 80kg for 3 sets of 12,12,12 reps (volume = 2880kg)

Week 5 – 80kg for 3 sets of 13,13,12 reps (volume = 3040kg)


Set increase and weight: for advanced 

Week 1 – 80kg for 3 sets of 10 reps (volume = 2400kg)

Week 2 – 82kg for 3 sets of 10 reps (volume = 2460kg)

Week 3 – 84kg for 4 sets of 10 reps (volume = 3360kg)

Week 4 – 86kg for 4 sets of 10 reps (volume = 3440kg)

Week 5 – 88kg for 5 sets of 10 reps (volume =4400kg)


Why is progressive overload important

By tracking the weight lifted and incrementally increasing volume, we are placing a slightly greater demand each week on the targeted muscles, causing them to adapt and grow in strength and size. If we neglect progressive overload and perform the same weight for the same number of reps week after week, your progress will quickly come to a halt. Get into the habit of tracking your weights each session so you can see your weekly, monthly and yearly progress.


And ther are many different systems for increasing volume as listed above these are just some easy ways I use to calculate volume, through weight reps for sets, which stratedge you use is totally up to you but maybe if your a beginner you need to work weight before you reps and sets but they all work together. 


Volume is not a never ending upward progression you need to periodise your training what does that mean? 

6-8-12  weeks blocks of training with scheduled deload ( light weeks)  to help your body recover grow and adapt, its up to you how long you would train but i think 6-8 weeks are a good timeframe wher you get some good progression and not too much over stress on the body, but it depends on the individual, your sport and your goals. 


Deload week 

Ok so after a period of training a deload week is required in your program, this is a chance to stop lifing as heavy and as much volume think of cutting it in half, half weights half sets, keep up the training frequency so you keep the habit in,  just have a light week of training give your body a chance to recover your connective tissue a chance to relax so you dont get any injuries  and lets your body super compensate 


Breaking through plateau

A plataue is probably more for the intermediat and advance trainer, a beginner shouldnt really get a plateau just because your body will react so positively to any muscle stimulus ( weight training ) that it wont apply unless your doing basically no weight with shit form, if this is you get a personal trainer or coach 


Im not really one to change a program just to change unless you hit a plateau mentally or physically or your getting some sort of injury developmemt *( pain) pain is not good. How do you push through a platue? 

If you have a good structure you should not relly have a plateau unless your really tapped out the weight and reps maybe then you need a change or if your mentally bored from your progrma because your being doing the same thing all year again see your personal trainer or coach to have a look at your program and see how you can freshen it up.