Exercise Why Your Not Making Gainz: Progression Overload Explained

Why Your Not Making Gains: Progression Overload Explained

One day I was in class talking to my friend and somehow we got to the discussion of him going to the gym: what he likes, what he doesn’t like and some parts of weight training that he gets frustrated with.

Here’s a quote directly from our conversation:

“I’ll be doing bench press, I’ll put 135 on the bar. I can rep it out so smooth now I don’t even want to increase the weight. I get comfortable there”.

You get comfortable what?

Me hearing that it was equivalent to someone screeching a blackboard with their uncut long nails. I then got to explain to him the reason he’s not seeing changes to his physique is because that right there.

“You are comfortable” I told him.

“The number one driver for muscle growth is progressive overload, aka the FITT Principle, aka the Overload Principle. There has to be a gradual increase in stress placed upon the body in order for muscular development to occur. In English, that means you have to challenge yourself. Every time you step foot in the gym, all you need to be focused on is doing more than what you did last week”.

“If on week 4 for example, if you were able to do 135lbw for 6 reps, the following week increase the weight by 10lbs and do 145lbs for 4 reps”.

Always make progress. Progress is the motto.

Is it uncomfortable – Yeah

It is Hard – Somewhat

Literally, the only way to grow is to challenge yourself and do more. And that’s a metaphor for life.

By now you got the message as to why my homie has been stalling in the gym. You see a successful workout is not about how long it was, or how much did you sweat. It’s all about: did you progress? Did you outdo what you were able to do the week before?

To close out this post I want to share with two things I personally use to adhere to the Law of Progressive Overload:

1. There are 4 ways to overload the muscle of the body

Increase the weight

  • The most immediate way to overload. You know the weight has become too light when you can perform 6 straight clean reps for compound movements and 10 reps on accessory exercises.
  • Increase the weight by:
    • 10 lbs on barbell exercises
    • 5lbs on any dumbbell work that you do
    • 10lbs on machine work

Increase the reps

The second factor in overloading. This method comes naturally to most. After increasing the weight, working within the golden rep ranges of hypertrophy: 4-6 reps. Increasing the reps every week until you can perform no more than  6 reps and no less than 4 reps on any given exercise. 

Perfect Form

  • There are times when you’ll go for a new pr on an exercise. You can the weight for your desired amount of reps but your form was shaky. Maybe you raised your butt off the bench (I have this problem) or it could be that you arched your back too much on deadlifts. 
  • Even though you didn’t “do more” per se, your still making progress because it takes more stability and effort to keep yourself composed throughout your set. 

Decrease Rest Periods

Finally the last way to overload is to have shorter rest periods in-between your sets. Be wary of using this last technique. It’s for lifters who are on the advanced stage of their lifting career.

2. Get Yourself a Notebook Dedicated To Logging In Your Workouts

By now you thoroughly understand that muscular development is based on giving your body small challenges to overcome every workout. You might be able to remember a big PR on a bench, but what about the small wins that might go over your head such as lat-pull downs or skull crushers?

Make things easier on yourself and buy a notebook and write down the body day, the exercise, and the number of sets and reps done.

This way you have a physical representation and your not guessing when the time comes for hitting those PR’s.

This has been Progressive Overload: explained why you haven’t been making gainz in the gym.

-Alvin De Leon


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