By Josh Bryant ProSource
Get More Done In Less Time With These Progressive Overload Strategies
Milo of Croton was a wrestler with several ancient Olympic titles under his belt, considered by most historians as the greatest wrestler of antiquity. Milo’s heyday was 6th century BC but to this day his name is associated with strength. Milo built his strength by using progressive overload before it was categorized as a founding law or principle at all.
Milo had a baby bull or a calf. Milo lifted that calf every single day, as the calf grew bigger, Milo became stronger. Milo did this until the calf was a full grown bull and then he was the strongest man in the world. Milo eventually carried the adult bull on his shoulders around the Coliseum.
Today’s lesson? Milo started small, used micro-progressions daily and became the strongest man in the world.
Why Progressive Overload?
The law of overload is one of the first principles learned in exercise physiology. It means: Mother Nature overcompensates for training stress by giving you bigger and stronger muscles.
Progressive Overload is one of the Seven Grand Daddy Laws categorized by Dr. Fred Hatfield. No resistance training program will be successful without progressive overload at its foundation.
The simplest and most effective way to overload is to simply add more weight to the bar. Eight-time Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney, once said, “The key to building massive, powerful muscles is to doggedly increase the training weights you use.” Was he wrong? Heck no! Heavy pig iron opens the gates to anabolism.
Today, if you are able to bench press just the bar, and add just five pounds to that bar per week for three years, you will smash the world record in the bench press! Piling weight is the most effective overload technique, but eventually the buck stops.
Other ways to overload training include increasing total volume (weights x sets x reps), increase range of motion, vary exercise sequence, increase exercise frequency, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Increasing training volume is another promising strategy for increasing intensity. This is very effective to a point but there is a problem. Usually when volume is increased, workout duration drags on forever.
One of my favorite overload techniques that does not add any time to your current workout and is brutally effective is density training. Density training simply means getting more done in less time.
Here is an example of a shoulder workout, over the course of three weeks, increasing density:
Dumbbell Military Press (5 sets of 10 reps)/150-second rest interval
Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raises (3 sets of 12 reps)/60-second rest interval
Face Pulls (3 sets of 15 reps)/60-second rest interval
Reverse Pec Deck (3 sets 15 reps)/60-second rest interval
Dumbbell Military Press (5 sets of 10 reps)/130-second rest interval
Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raises (3 sets of 12 reps)/50-second rest interval
Face Pulls (3 sets of 15 reps)/50-second rest interval
Reverse Pec Deck (3 sets 15 reps)/50-second rest interval
Dumbbell Military Press (5 sets of 10 reps)/110-second rest interval
Incline Dumbbell Lateral Raises (3 sets of 12 reps)/40-second rest interval
Face Pulls (3 sets of 15 reps)/40-second rest interval
Reverse Pec Deck (3 sets 15 reps)/40-second rest interval
Each week rest intervals decrease and volume stays the same.
More on Density
Make sure you do not drag ass between sets; move from one exercise to the next. By increasing weights using the same rest intervals, sets, and reps, density is increased. By doing more sets in the same amount of time, density is increased.
For any major core lift (squats, bench press, deadlifts) one of my favorite density strategies is: start with a weight you are capable of doing 8-10 reps with. For the first set do five reps. Rest 60 seconds and attempt five reps again. If you are unable to complete five reps do four; if you can’t do four reps do three: if you can’t do three reps do two: and if two reps is too much, do one. Always stop one shy of failure but don’t exceed five repetitions.
Repeat this process for 12 minutes. The clock starts once you have completed your first set. On the last set if you have anything left, go for an all-out rep max, stopping one rep shy of failure.
When you can complete 40 reps, increase the weight on the bar by five percent; if you can’t make sure you beat your previous rep record.
Density can be summed up pretty easily: get more done in the same amount of time, or get the same amount of work done in less time.
Piling on weight and adding volume are great strategies! But increasing density is one of the most under-utilized, highly effective techniques to increase intensity.
You now have one more important weapon in your muscle-building arsenal!