The Gym Should Not Be A Social Club
So many people show up at the gym to basically hang out, do a few of the same tired old exercises at the same weight with the same lackluster intensity they’ve been doing for the last year. They get to socialize and mingle like it was the junior chamber of commerce mixer and they’re out the door an hour and a half later. That is not what the gym is for and I promise you there are better places to go if you are just looking to hang out. Unless you are lifting extremely heavy for mass building, your weight training should take no more than 45 minutes max. In addition, you should be seeing increases in strength and endurance and if you are not, then you are not working hard enough and should be taking a close look at something called “progressive overload.”
What Is Progressive Overload?
Progressive overload is simply a weight training approach that forces your body to adapt to greater demands by becoming bigger, stronger, and/or more efficient. This allows your body to slowly increase its performance until your goals or genetic limits are reached. Look, if you always are lifting the same 180 pounds on the bench press your body will not have any need to adapt to lifting more weight and therefore will not change in strength or appearance. However, if you started lifting 190 pounds, even if your reps initially decreased, your muscles involved will grow and you will get stronger. Soon your reps will increase to the same amount you completed at 180 pounds. That overloading of weight forced your body to progress. And yes, it really is just that simple.
Simple Percentage Examples
The best thing about applying the progressive overload model is you are sure to burn more calories, translated as fat, through increased effort and muscle recruitment. And each time you hit the gym, you will burn more fat calories then the last time. Now, progressive overload can be applied as intensity for increased cardiovascular performance, with increasing reps for strength and tone, as well as mass and strength in the bench press example noted earlier. Let’s take a look…
Intensity for Endurance Example:
Your normal run is 30 minutes at 6 mph at a target heart rate of 70%.
You maintain the same time but increase the speed to 6.3mph (a 5% increase). Chances are you will see an increase in your target heart rate, say it is now between 75-80%. Once you can complete this routine with the increased speed at a 70% target heart rate, you have now improved your endurance by increasing the demand on your muscles and cardiovascular system. Your body adapted and now is ready to increase the speed, or maybe the incline, to again overload and thus improve.
So, you want strength and tone without looking to “bulk up.” Using the same 180 pound bench press example, apply a 10% increase to reps rather than weight. So instead of 3 sets of 10 you will complete 3 sets of 11. And then once you reach that goal, complete 3 sets of 12 reps with the same 180 pounds. Once you get to 15 or even 20 reps I suggest adding a 4th set.
Your bench press is normally 180 pounds for 3 sets of 10 reps. An increase of 5% to weight equals 190 pounds (yes I rounded up 1 pound and you should too!) Once you can complete the same 3 sets of 10, you guessed it, add another 5%... a cool 200 pounds.
It Takes More Than Just Showing Up
Again, if you are truly looking to improve your physique, sports performance, or even looking to grow, you have to tax your body. Simply showing up is not enough. You must approach every exercise as a challenge unto itself. And a challenge should be just that, challenging. Once you begin to push yourself you will undoubtedly see results. Progressive overload is one of the easiest concepts to grasp in the world of training yet so few realize or employ it. The best thing is you can continually utilize this methodology until you reach your goals or genetic limits.