Health & Fitness

All You Need to Know About Progressive Overload Training

People train for many different reasons, it could be your therapy, for health reasons, to improve your aesthetics or to feel stronger. For all the effort you put in, you want to be getting something back – results, improvement, progression. Lucy loves Fitness talks to us about why you should practice progressive overload.

What is Progressive Overload?

“This principle involves continually increasing the demands on the musculoskeletal system to continually make gains in muscle size, strength, and endurance.”*

If what used to be your main workout, is now your warm up, you will benefit from reading this post. Once you fall into a comfort zone and the workouts are no longer challenging, you’ll plateau. Plateaus are no fun for anyone, in fact they can be de-motivating and cause people to give up.

Here are some ways to fire up your workouts, so you’re feeling challenged and keep taking your fitness to the next level.

  1. Increasing the weight lifted

When you are able to perform the number of repetitions you were aiming for, without a struggle, this is a sign it’s time to go up in weight. The last 2-3 reps in your rep range should require some mental strength to get you through, when these become as easy as the earlier reps it means you are strong enough to lift heavier. Always ensure you have perfect form, to avoid injury though.

  1. Increasing the number of reps per set

Increase the number of repetitions you perform for a given exercise to increase total volume.

  1. Increasing the number of sets

Increase the number of sets you perform for a given exercise. Instead of 2 or 3 sets increase to 3 or 4 in order to increase total volume.

  1. Decreasing the rest time between sets

Decreasing the rest time between consecutive sets will force your body to adapt metabolically over time. This may also be beneficial for endurance athletes or individuals concerned with muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness rather than gains in strength and power.

  1. Increasing the intensity of the exercise

Increase your perceived exertion or how much effort you put into every set. If you are using a fitness tracker you will be able to see your exertion levels over a session. If you’re not using a fitness tracker, ask yourself after each set how you feel on a scale of 10 (10 meaning you used all the energy in your body and had nothing more to give). If you’re only answering a 7 or 8, then you can dial up the intensity.

  1. Increasing the range of motion

Going back to the 1st point about form, a lot of people are more interested in increasing weight instead of making sure they are performing the full range of motion. By ensuring that you are utilising the full range of motion of an exercise, you can increase the difficulty of the exercise. Make sure you can perform all reps with strict form before you progress.

  1. Increasing the frequency of training

Increase how often you train a certain muscle or muscle group. This technique is under-utilised and is extremely useful for improving lagging or weak muscle groups. The traditional approach to training a muscle or muscle group only once a week is usually not effective to make continual gains at the desired rate.

Have fun trying some of these techniques to break through that plateau!



Lucy is a fully qualified Personal Trainer living in Sydney, fitness has always been a huge part of her life and she’s tried most sports – dancing, swimming, surfing, rock climbing, pole dancing and triathlons though as she entered her thirties she noticed how what she was doing before wasn’t getting the same results so she got into Bodybuilding. This taught her so much about discipline, mental strength, changing body composition through resistance training and nutrition.

Lucy has competed in 2 seasons of Natural Bikini Competitions in Australia, and has gone through a strict preparation process twice to get ready for stage. Her focus now is on helping women to learn how to change their lifestyle for the long term, through making better nutrition decisions and implementing results driven exercise into their weekly routine.

Share this post:

Receive our editor's picks weekly to your inbox