What is Progressive Overload? (& How to Use It!)

If you’re no stranger to getting your sweat on, then you know the goal to improving your fitness level is to gradually increase your effort, also called progressive overload. Just like your mind, your body grows bored of monotony.

There’s no challenge if you spend the same 30 minutes on the treadmill daily; once your body clues into the routine, cue “the dreaded” plateau. 

Read on for all you need to know about how to get progressive overload working for you.

What is Progressive Overload?

Your body does one thing really, really well: keep you alive. As such, when you begin your fitness mission to lose weight or bulk up, you don’t just program your body to adjust; you have to push it outside its comfort zone to see any changes.

You have to prod your body into adapting by slowly increasing the tension (weight, frequency, etc.) by pushing it further than it’s accustomed to, to get the results you want.

Progressive overload is also referred to as the progressive overload principle: In order for a muscle to grow, strength to be gained, performance to increase, or for any similar improvement to occur, the human body must be forced to adapt to a tension that is above and beyond what it has previously experienced.

Example: If you’re looking to tone up, this could mean you do arm curls with our 5lbs BodyRock dumbbells for a few weeks until it’s too easy, then increasing the weight to 7lbs, and so forth.

Benefits of Progressive Overload

Aside from improved performance, many mind and body party perks come along with dialing up your fitness level. By subjecting your body to resistance training, you’re improving:

Bone & Muscle Health: Once you reach 30 years young, your body begins to lose muscle mass, and your bone density begins to take a hit; but regular exercise helps improve/maintain muscle mass, power, and strength for better joint and bone health.

Mood Disorders: Any regular exercise will crank up the endorphins and make you feel better.

Energy Levels: The high you get from working out and feeling good — and sleeping good too (another exercise benefit) — will help boost your energy levels so you can do more without the fatigue.

Metabolic Function: Exercise improves metabolic function, so you burn more calories before, during, and after you hang up your sneakers, thanks to our dear friend: EPOC.

Heart Health: Regular resistance training helps burn calories, while keeping the extra weight off, which in turn helps the heart — in fact, exercise also improves good cholesterol HDL!

Your Chances of Injury: Weak muscles put undue stress on tendons and ligaments, so by gradually upping your resistance, you’re increasing your flexibility, mobility and lowering your risk of injury.

9 Ways to Get Progressive Overload Working for YOU

For Beginners: If you’re entirely new to fitness, you'll want to pick up a BodyRock Pump Bar and get started by completing some Beginner’s Workouts over at BodyRock+. You’ve only just woken up your hibernating muscles, thus, your poor range or motion opens you up to injury; so nail down your form with bodyweight before you add weights.

Hot Tip: Build up total body strength by focusing on perfecting your squat and deadlift form via box jumps on our BodyRock Plyobox and rack pulls on our adjustable BodyRock Squat Rack. You can master bodyweight versions and overload your muscles; this beginner’s concept is applicable to all weighted exercises not just lifting.

Added Resistance: The most notorious progressive overload principle is gradually increasing your resistance. When lifting 50lbs on our BodyRock BodyBar becomes too easy that means it’s time for a more challenging weight (creep up the weight in small increments — 2lbs-5lbs for beginners/novices). Barbells and dumbbells that use weight plates are a MUST if you’re looking to build muscle because your body will adapt quickly and thus, need more weight plates added, to up the intensity.

Hot Tip: If you can comfortably complete 10-12 reps at your current weight (bodyweight included) it’s time to consider upping the weight. And don’t forget BodyRock Core Bands, Pink Thing or Booty Bands are an awesome bridge between bodyweight and weights!

Longer Sweat Sessions: When you think of progressive overload it’s usually in reference to weightlifting, however, this isn’t the case it applies to any physical pursuit. If you’re wanting to improve your endurance so you can jog, cycle or make it to the end of a BodyRock HIIT workout without crashing midway through, it’s time to lengthen your workouts.

Hot Tip: For better endurance, perform a HIIT or jog for 20-30minutes for a couple of weeks, with plenty of rest days; then increase your workout time by 5-10 minutes for another couple weeks, and so on.

Dial-Up the Intensity: Want to get stronger and improve your fitness, then dial up the intensity and get ready to HIIT it with high-intensity workouts! HIITs force your body to work harder via compound movements that push your body to the max, in a short amount of time for greater weight loss and better gains.

Hot Tip: Start HIITs off using bodyweight until it becomes too easy then strap on a BodyRock Weighted Vest for added resistance. 

More Reps: Up the ante by adding more reps to your circuit training to push your body that extra bit further every time you work out.

Hot Tip: Strengthen your total body doing kettlebell swings with our BodyRock Kettlebell by doing 2 sets of 10 reps for a month or until it becomes too easy then increase the reps by 2 (e.g., 12 reps) and go for another month — the same applies to any exercise!

Workout More Often: Take your workouts to the max by adding an extra workout day, but only IF you are working out less than 5x/week. So if you currently are committed to 2 days, jump it up to 3. Also, if you find a weak spot in your upper body, lower body or core consider safely targeting that zone more than once a week to strengthen it faster.

Hot Tip: Above all else, increase the number of hours you workout a week and on “off days” don’t just sit on your butt all day, stay engaged and active — walk, scrub the floors, clean for an hour, play with the kids, etc.

Less Rest During Sets: We are NOT advocating fewer rest days (those or crucial) we are however suggesting that while you’re engaged in your workouts that you not take the full break time allotted between sets, because it’ll force your body to work harder. Do pause for a cool sip of water from our BodyRock Thermal Water Bottle whenever necessary to keep those muscles hydrated though!

Hot Tip: If you find you need some rest time, then adjust your rest from 20 seconds to 15 seconds instead.

More Sets: Akin to adding more reps, you can add a set to your circuit training to really fatigue those muscles. 

Hot Tip: This means if you’re doing 3 sets of 5 reps on upper or lower body day, you increase the set to 4. If that adds too much time to your workout, reduce the number of exercises per set or split your upper body day into two parts: Day 1 arms and shoulders using our kick-ass BodyRock dumbbells, rest day, Day 3 core, and back).

Alternating Tempo: It’s easy to get swept up in a fast-tempo of lifting your BodyRock Hex dumbbells but if you tone it down, and really slow things like arm curls down to a crawl, you’re actually working your muscles harder. 

Hot Tip: Confuse your muscles further by holding certain positions like planks or lunges for a 5 count before easing off.

How to Use Progressive Overload

When it comes to applying progressive overload to your workouts the key is finding the right combination to progressively overload your body. That means discovering which of the abovementioned work for you right now — maybe it’s only two overload tactics, that’s a great place to start! Then it’s time to lace up those sneakers, turn on BodyRock+, and get busy pushing your body to the max for maximum results!

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Progressive Overload Playlist

Kickstart your results and push play on this progressive overload workout playlist. If you’re not a member of BR+, no sweat: just sign up for a free, no-risk trial and get started. 










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