T Nation

What is 'Progressive Overload?'


To gain strength and hypertrophy more load must be put on the bar, then we have volume, gradually building up more reps and sets... I guess load on the bar and volume are what most weight lifters have in thought when discussing how to progress for hypertrophy and strength. But what about "density" or doing the same amount of work in shorter time span? Doing 30 set in 45 minutes will represent a progression if you used to use one hour with same amount of weight. Progressing on "form" should also be counted... Curling 100 lbs in good or better form represent a progression in targeting your biceps if you are advancing from a rather sloppy cheating curl.

So it seems like we have at least four possible ways of doing "progressive overload": 1) Intensity or load on the bar, 2) Volume = more reps and set, 3) Density or the time factor and 4) Form or the technical aspect of the lifts = the mind-muscle connection.



my thought is that form is a fixed variable and should be proper, unless cheating for the sake of increased intensity for the final rep or 2 of a set. as far as density/time goes, i think one gets to a point where you end up exhausting yourself aerobically, rather than exhausting the muscle if the rest periods are too short, plus the load placed on the muscle may not be enough to stimulate growth if the rest isn't ample.

one also needs to consider speed of rep, as rep speed slows, the amount of weight moved will likely decrease. i think that rest periods, form, and rep speed should be considered fixed in a given program/exercise, and the focus should be on increasing reps and or weight...although, i think a little improv isn't a bad idea....just my thoughts.


rest intreval
method of execution


OTS' 'Serious Growth' series had an excellent summary at the front of their books (buy them)

To summarise, you can increase/progress by:

1) Increase training session length
2) Train more frequently
3) Train each bodypart more frequently
4) Select different (harder) exercises - needs further detail - see the book
5) Change repetition speed (either increase or decrease)
6) Increase volume or intensity - periodisation
7) Increase weight or repetitions
8) Manipulation of rest periods - more or less


Progressive overload is the American waste of time...needs to be done thrown away! Congugated, Undulated ...European Methods are the only and proven science way to get stronger