Our bodies adapt. They can get with the program pretty quickly.
If you always do 3×10 back squats with 95 lbs., you can bet that your body will adapt to that challenge.
If you always do the same bodyweight exercises at the same tempo and in the same rep range, your body will also pick up on that pretty quickly.
If you always work out 30 minutes a day, 3x a week, and do the same steady state cardio, you can bet your body is going to yawn through those workouts, too.
The obvious ways to progressively overload your muscles and stimulate change are to increase:
- the resistance (weight) you use or
- the amount of reps you perform.
But what happens when you are stuck in weight limbo (e.g. “10s are too light but 15s are too heavy!”) or simply can’t complete those next five push-ups with good form?
Good news – there are several other ways to safely overload your muscles, get stronger and bump up to the next level.
INSTEAD OF RESISTANCE/REPS, INCREASE:
For example, if you aren’t seeing pull-up progress with one session a week, increase the number of times you train back and shoulders to 2-4 more weekly sessions. Our muscles are resilient; they don’t typically need more than 1-3 days of recovery. Increase the number of times you train a lagging muscle group each week.
Now, I don’t mean “go train legs every day.” I know there are lots of people on IG who appear to only do glutes and abs, but don’t be one of those people. A healthy body is well-rounded. And, for example, if you find deadlifting to be difficult, you might find that by training back and core, you are able to deadlift more!
In addition to cranking it up when “Africa” by Toto comes on, increase the amount of sets you do for a lagging muscle group. Struggling to progress with push strength and typically do 3×10 sets of incline push-ups? Try 4-5 sets next time.
You can also decrease the number of reps for a new level of resistance and increase the set count. Can’t seem to press 10 reps of 15 lbs. but have no problem lifting 3×10 at 10 lbs.? Try 4-5 sets of 4-6 reps at 15 lbs.
YOU CAN ALSO DECREASE:
How long do you rest between sets or circuits? With our love affair with our phones, we probably rest a lot longer than we realize. Put the phone down and pay attention to how long you’re resting. Cut it 10-15 seconds shorter every few workouts. This is especially effective for HIIT/ circuit training.
This is probably my favorite way to progressively overload, as my clients (and MBBHome / MBB (gym) athletes) are well aware. How fast are you pumping out reps? What happens when you slow a chest press down to a 5-sec. eccentric stretch with a 2-sec pause at the bottom? What happens when you add a 2-3-sec. pause at the bottom of your squat? You can make 10 lbs. feel like 50 lbs. when you slowwwwwww down and increase time under tension. Eccentric training is one of my favorite methods because it really forces you to lift mindfully.
PICK ONE TO TRY.
I recommend picking one and focusing on it. See a bunch you want to try? Don’t worry – your body is adaptive, remember. So, chances are, you’ll need to switch it up again soon.