Why progressive overload training is the most effective fitness strategy

People training step aerobics in a gym. PHOTO | FILE | NMG

Fitness professionals are increasingly recommending progressive overload training, as the most effective strategy to optimise your fitness routine and improve your outcomes.

It helps you optimise your workouts in building strength, muscle mass and conditioning. It requires increasing stress and challenging your body enough to cause progression. Some fitness experts argue that without progressively overloading your training, you are unlikely to see progress.

So, what is progressive overload training?

Progressive overload training entails increasing the difficulty of your workouts by increasing the resistance, intensity and volume. The goal is to keep challenging the body to induce physiological changes that manifest in increased muscle mass and strength, as well as conditioning.

Fitness experts recommend progressive overload training as essential to continued improvement, noting that as one trains longer, one must continue progressing with their workouts to see results.

Doing the same thing every day, with the same intensity, weight and resistance, keeps one from improving one's performance and one's fitness is likely to plateau. The training forces one out of their comfort zone, challenging their bodies with more difficult exercises and pushing their bodies to change.

In the case of strength training, progressive overload training leads to an overload of the muscles over some time, causing them to adapt, resulting in muscle growth. In cardio training, progressive overload training enhances cardiovascular capacity by challenging cardiovascular endurance and causing physiological adaptations that improve aerobics performance.

Tips to achieve progressive overload

One can achieve progressive overload in multiple ways, including: Increasing exercise intensity by raising the difficulty level of exercise.

One can achieve this by increasing the number of repetitions, the speed, the resistance, or the weight. Circuit training has been my go-to training style for increasing my training intensity. It entails doing a group of exercises back to back without rest in between.

Supersets are a great way to increase intensity where you piggyback two exercises with no rest in between.

Increasing the weights—progressively, challenges one’s body to change—building muscle and strength. Increasing repetitions stresses the muscles, leading to muscle hypertrophy (increase in muscle mass) and muscle growth.

Increasing number of sets will help one push the same types of muscles, leading to increased endurance and strength.

As part of the progressive overload strategy, one can increase the number of sets from two to three and then three to four. Evidence has shown that performing 15-20 sets of challenging hypertrophy exercises a week "is the optimum stimulus for enhancing muscle size." One can, therefore, spread these throughout the week in sets of 5-6.

Other strategies are increasing exercise frequency, decreasing the rest time between sets, increasing the range of movements and adding tension to your repetitions.

Benefits of progressive overload training

Evidence from studies shows that progressive overload training speeds up workout results. It helps one gain strength and build muscle mass. These, in turn, have immense health benefits, including reducing the risk of degenerative bone conditions like osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes and improving mental health. It also helps accelerate the burning of calories and reduces lower back pain due to an increase in muscle mass and strength.

So, you want to speed up and sustain your workout results? Try progressive overload training! But if you've not been working out, be sure to check with your physician on the kinds of exercises safe for you.

The writer is a fitness enthusiast

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