What Is Progressive Overload Training?

What Is Progressive Overload Training?

You may have heard the term, "progressive overload" a lot lately on social media. 

Progressive overload is when you gradually increase the weight, frequency, or number of repetitions in your strength training routine. This, over time, allows your body to get stronger and build more muscle. 


  • Increasing weight = going from 10 lb dumbbells to 12 lb dumbbells
  • Increasing frequency = going from doing 3 sets once a week to 3 sets twice a week
  • Increasing reps = going from hitting 145 lb squat for 8 reps to hitting a 145 lb squat for 10 reps

    Further explanation of each: 

    Increase volume:

    Week 1. Perform 8–10 squats with 115 lbs

    Week 3. Perform 10–12 squats with 115 lbs

    Week 5. Perform 12+ squats with 115 lbs

    Increase weight used:

    Week 1. Perform bicep curls with 10 pound weights.

    Week 4. Perform bicep curls with 12 pound weights.

    Week 8. Perform bicep curls with 15 pound weights.

    Another way to “progressive overload” that is underlooked is improving form.

    NO ONE has truly “perfect form”. Despite what many people say, everyone struggles in some aspect with form. Whether that’s mobility issues, flexibility issues, past injuries, lack of experience with lifting, etc. etc. Don't be hard on yourself, just continue to strive to be better. 

    You must master the compound lifts with proper form for you and your body. You should also be doing the same routine for at least 2 weeks — ideally a month — before you start to train significantly harder and strive to progressive overload in all your lifts. 

    For example, if you cannot properly perform a squat with little to no weight, you should not be trying to hit a weight PR. 

    Obviously, you can’t progressive overload forever and it will be a slow process after the “newbie” gains.

    One drawback and the most frustrating aspect of progressive overload training is that it must be done gradually. It can be dangerous to increase the load or frequency of your training too quickly, which can lead to injury.

    You won’t be able to add 25 lbs onto a squat PR easily. But like mentioned previously, adding another rep, another set, or adding 5 lbs to your lift is still a huge accomplishment to strive for.

    So, how do you apply this to your own training?

    Train hard. 

    If you squat for 4 sets of 10, those should be 4 CHALLENGING SETS.

    If it's not challenging, up the weight or strive for another rep or 2.

    If that’s still not challenging really up the weight.

    If you can only get 8 reps instead of 10 with that new weight, that’s okay! Awesome! That is a huge win in my book because then I know you’re truly PUSHING yourself. 

    If you notice a weight is becoming easy for you to do for X amount of reps, either up the weight or add another rep!

    Take note of what weights are challenging for you, especially with your compounds. When programing your own training, a standard protocol would be to schedule in weight progressions every 2-4 weeks.

    This is how to progressive overload! Simply put :)