What is progressive overload?
It is a workout principle stating that individuals must constantly challenge their fitness capabilities in order to see change. From there, they will see changes in their own bodies. When individuals choose to stay within a comfort zone, they will begin to see plateaus in performance because they have stopped challenging their bodies.
If you have ever experienced one of my fitness classes, in particular a circuit class or Nike Training Club workout, I have often reminded you to “push into the uncomfortable”. Each time we train we want to challenge our bodies in a way that our muscles can build and become stronger. We want to be able to see improvement overtime and one way of achieving this is through progressive overload.
My mom has attended my summer fitness classes back home for the past four summers and don’t worry, I asked her before I decided to share this story. Each week my mom came, I would see visible improvement with her form and comfort level with the exercises within each workout, however she picked up the same weights each time. I kept encouraging her to try to lift heavier weights but if I wasn’t there at the beginning of her next exercise she would always resort back to her comfort level. Now, this is totally fine to do because we simply cannot work our muscles maximally for every workout but often times people fall into the category of doing this with every workout. And, I certainly know my mom is not alone.
I used to struggle with this a lot myself. Our varsity field hockey programs were heavily strength based and I had a difficult time wrapping my head around being able to find my sticking point to push myself that extra inch in my workouts. The feeling of struggling to complete reps pushed me out of my comfort zone and frankly, I didn’t like it. It wasn’t until I tried to lift the heavier dumbbells one workout and see what I truly was capable of lifting that I felt confident in pushing into the uncomfortable. I now see the results that I personally have gained from challenging myself. Now, when I push my participants within my fitness classes, it is only because I know they are capable of going beyond what their own minds may be telling them at the time. I also know the benefits of making those gains each workout.
Every time you work out, think of the “if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you” quote. It directly relates to progressive overloading! When we decide to pick up the same weights each week we are not challenging ourselves and therefore will experience a plateau in our performance. However, one thing to remember is to only progressive overload when our bodies are ready. Only when exercises can be executed with proper form can the body be ready for its challenges.
Be fierce. Be strong. Be vibrant.
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What is progressive overload?