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How To Get Stronger Using Progressive Overload



Strength - the quality or state of being physically strong.

As a new trainee pursuing an improved physique, strength gains are a fortunate byproduct.

But as the beginner gains curve begins to flatern, without specific intention, many athletes find their strength plateaus.

Perhaps you got into training for aesthetics, but as your obsession builds, you’re looking for a more performance orientated pursuit.

Want to train specifically for strength?

Today we’re going to discuss a fundamental principle of strength training, and how you can integrate it into your routine.

Strength training is a marathon not a sprint. It’s important, firstly, to define your goals within a specific timeframe.

While it might be possible to build a 300kg deadlift in 5 years, that’s an impossible 6 month goal.

It’s important to be realistic and gradual in your approach to keep the gains coming and avoid injury.

While there are many iconic strength exercises like the squat, deadlift, bench press and military press, we can get stronger at any modality.

Strength training principles can be applied to cardiovascular performance, mobility and even our minds.

How exactly?

Let’s talk about progressive overload.

Progressive overload when you gradually increase the weight, intensity or frequency of a movement over time. This is what allows your body to adapt and become stronger.

Think, if you do the same weight for the same number of reps, week in, week out, how can you expect to grow stronger?

One study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that over a 12 week period, increasing the load and repetitions gradually was a highly effective way to increase muscle mass and strength(1).

Here’s an example of what progressive overload might look like in your routine.

  • Week 1: Bench Press 60kg, 10 reps
  • Week 2: Bench Press 60kg, 12 reps
  • Week 3: Bench Press 62.5kg, 10 reps
  • Week 4: Bench Press 62.5kg, 11 reps

Linear progression like this is extremely effective, but can only be progressed for so long. This is where you need to utilise a concept called periodisation.

Periodisation, put simply, is where you increase the intensity for a number of weeks, called a training cycle. At the end of this cycle, you take a deload week of lower intensity and volume and then start a new cycle with increased numbers.

This allows your body and nervous system to recover, and allow further strength adaptations to occur for the next cycle.

So if you’ve been training with random weights based on how you feel that day, consider implementing progressive overload in your training to ensure strength gains over time.

Define your goals over a given time period, and formulate a plan to put that into action.


Peterson, M., Pistilli, E., Haff, G., Hoffman, E. and Gordon, P., 2010. Progression of volume load and muscular adaptation during resistance exercise. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 111(6), pp.1063-1071.

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