Part One: Progressive Overload

Firstly, this term of what we use ‘to get stronger’ is called ‘progressive overload’. Progressive overload is when you're going gradually increase either the tempo, the frequency, the volume, or the weight during your strength training. There's a number of different ways you can do this and I'll go into that shortly. But before you're able to do this there is one crucial thing that we need to understand, which is you need to have good form before you're able to go into progressive overload.

For example, you can do a body weight squat with perfect form, so you add on some weights and then you eventually increase to a barbell. You still have good form, you're getting deep, your chest stays up high, core remains tight. And then you add on 2.5kgs on either side. So, you're up to 25 kilos total now using the barbell, but you're finding you can't get as deep and you're struggling to brace your core. That means what we're going do is go back a little lighter. So, you may go to like 22.5kgs and really master your core activation and engagement before you go back up to 25kgs total in weight. My point here is, you're not going be progressing to a higher weight if your form isn't right, which we've really been harping on in this lately in the studio! Most of our girls should hopefully be familiar with that and have a better understanding of why sometimes we won't tell you to go heavier. Whereas other times we may encourage you to go heavier because your form is good.


Volume is when you increase your repetitions. For example, just say we're working on your squats; one week you may come in and do 10 squats at 5kgs because for those last two reps, you really had to push to get to that 10 and you just could not do any more than 10. Then week two, you come in and you feel you can do a little bit more, therefore you go up to 12 squats for that 5kg weight. You're sticking with the same weight, but you're adding more reps, which means you're still overloading your muscles in a different way. Then week three, you come in and do 15 squats and that's where you can usually go up to a heavier weight at that point, in our MFW group classes, when you can do about 15 reps. Then you would probably go up to 6kgs because your form is on point. You go up to 6kgs and complete 10 squats, and then you sort of repeat that cycle again. It is a bit of a cycle, and it does take time as well, so you've got to be patient.


This is the most obvious way to progressively overload and it's what we do a lot in our MFW ‘Lift’ class. Once again, let's use squats. You're going do 10 reps at 20kgs. Then the next week you may come in and just say, it's still 10 reps, so you can increase the weight a little bit. You may go up to 25kgs. You could also do something like do 5 reps at that 20kgs and then 5 reps at 25kgs, so you're still increasing the weight. And then week three, you may come in and be able to do 10 reps at that heavier 25kg weight. There are a lot of different ways to increase the weight incrementally.


This is something we don't harp on too much, but it is a good way if you're feeling like you can't get up to that next weight just yet, or you can't do another rep, but you want to challenge yourself a little bit more. Tempo is about slowing down your reps. Let's use a squat again for another easy example, you may go three seconds on the way down. You can hold for two at the bottom and then go straight back up on the way up, no pausing. What tempo does is by slowing down your reps, is it increases your time under tension. It increases that time that you are loading those muscles with that weight, as opposed to just say, if you go one second for each part of the movement; one second down, one second up. Obviously, it's going be a lot easier as opposed to when you start to slow down those reps. You will find it will make that exercise a lot harder, but it's a great way to overload those muscles.


This is all about how often you are doing that exercise. One way could be increasing your amount of classes at MFW. Say you go two times a week and you've done that for the past year. You could up it three times a week, and you're going start to see change because your body's used to going two times a week. When you start to add in that third class, you're going be adding more stress onto your muscles because it's another day that you're working out. You're being more frequent with your exercise.


Now that we've sort of gone through all the ways to progressive overload, why do we do this? Why can't you just stay at 20kg squats forever? It's because over time, if you do squats just with a barbell, your muscles are eventually going to adapt to that weight and it's no longer going to be challenging enough. You may find not that you have to be sore after every workout, but you may find you're not feeling fatigued as much after every workout using that same weight. Because your muscles are going get used to it and it's no longer putting the body under as much stress. As opposed to if you start to add on that little bit of weight each week, or increase tempo or frequency, etc, it's going to put more stress on those muscles which is how your muscles actually grow

How to achieve muscle growth, is something we'll go it into a little bit more in my next blog in a few weeks.


You do have to be patient. It is a gradual process to progressively overload. You may find one week, you can lift heavier, the next week you can't, but then the weeks after that you keep progressing. You do have to be patient and not be too hard on yourself because does take a while to get to progress and that's fine as well.


I want to let you guys know how you're going be able to incorporate this at MFW if you want to get to that 100kg deadlift, or you may want to get on a 100kg squat. Try a heavier weight and don't be afraid to do this. You can even ask one of us trainers. If you say ‘Elisha, Sal, Vicki, Gill, (whoever) I'm feeling really comfortable in my squats. I've been doing 15kgs and I really feel like I can go a bit heavier’, we will give you feedback. If your form's looking really good, we will definitely encourage you to give it a go and increase your weight. Even if you only do a few reps with that few extra kilos, and then you come into the next class and you do more reps with those few extra kilos, you're going be able to progress and get heavier over time. Always feel free to ask us as well if you are worried about your form or anything when it comes to increasing weight, because it doesn't hurt to ask, and we are here to help you guys!

Hopefully you enjoyed this post. If you do have any questions, feel free to message me, or you can comment down below and I'll be happy to help you guys out. I'm looking forward to you all getting stronger and seeing you progress in your lifts!!

Love Elisha x

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