The truth about progressing


The truth about progressing

Coach, why do we repeat exercises so much?

This is a question I get often from my online Coaching clients and members of my gym. It’s an age old question but one that I receive a lot.

We repeat exercises because it’s a key element to any good workout program! Repeating exercises is the most important factor in getting positive results from any sort of exercise or workout.

When I am creating a workout routine, or workouts for my gym my goal is always to manage volume (the amount of work I have prescribed), intensity (how hard my athletes are working), weaknesses (things athletes need to work on), exercise selection (what movements I choose to use), and schedule (do all of my movements together without too much overlap). I keep all of those things in mind to make sure the workouts or routine is as optimal as possible for everyone to reach their goals!

If all of those things are managed correctly, you are pretty much guaranteed to get the best results you can get.

In managing all of those things there is a secret ingredient I use. I use something called Progressive Overload. Progressive overload is the key thing in all effective workouts and exercise programs.

What is Progressive Overload?

I thought you would never ask…..

The best way to explain it is by telling you about your body.

Your body doesn’t know what kind of goal you are chasing. It doesn’t know you want to lose weight, get stronger, put on muscle, get tone, or look good naked. It focuses on one thing: Keeping you alive and adapting to what ever stress you give it. Your body is smart enough and completely capable enough to do what it needs to in any case to adapt to what stress it experiences.

If that is kept in mind, a good workout routine or program can be put into place. When your body has adapted to your training then all positive results will stop. You could make the most perfect workout with the most beautiful set of exercises, with the perfect diet, with the perfect amount of reps but if you do it for too long…. you will stop seeing results. Why you ask?…..

Well, your body figured what you were gonna do, thats why. Your body adapted to the stress it was being exposed to. It no longer needs to change to handle what it is experiencing.

In order to continue to progressing, have muscle growth, strength gained, increase performance, or any other improvement, the human body needs to be forced to adapt to a stress above and beyond what it has experienced before.

What that means is if you lift the same weight on the same exercises, run the same distance, over and over again for the next 10 years…. nothing will change. You will not improve, you will not gain muscle, you will not see progress. But, if you change the demands or increase the stress your body experiences it will have to adapt to the new stress. This adaptation comes in the form of new muscle, weightloss, and performance increases.

Goals you want to achieve are really just your body’s answer to the stress or environment it is experiencing.

How does it work?

Progressive overload works very simply. If i prescribe an exercise to somebody we just need to increase or add volume every week. For example, if I have an athlete do 3 x 6-8 reps of a Dumbbell Strict Press I need to either have them increase the weight next week, or increase the volume (amount of reps/sets done).

Example #1:

Dumbbell Strict Press

Week #1 – 3 x 6-8 reps at 25#

Week #2 – 3 x 6-8 reps at 30#

Week #3 – 3 x 6-8 reps at 35#

Example #2:

Week #1 – 3 x 6-8 reps at 25#

Week #2 – 3 x 8-10 reps at 25#

Week #3 – 3 x 10-12 reps at 25#

Through both of those examples you can see the demands on the body being increased. If you aren’t increasing the demands on the body you will not see a progression. You are telling the body, “You need to handle this extra stress”. Then your body answers back with more strength or muscle.

The same can go for weight loss. If you are eating too much food, with not a lot of activity the body will respond with storage of fat on the body. This is a response to the environment the body is experiencing. On the flip side, if you are active exercising and eating slightly less food the body will respond by burning the fat on the body that was stored. You see, thats just the body once again responding to the stress or environment it’s in.

Why people fail

Most people fail do to the lack of discipline and progressive change in their workouts. I am not saying that you will lift five more pounds a week or need an endless amount of workout variation for years and years. What I am saying is that over time there needs to be progression or change in your workouts or load lifted. It is a gauge of how you are progressing, as well as making the body respond to the new stress it is experiencing.

Manage your diet to fit your goal, lift a little bit more every week, run a little bit faster, and try to get more rounds in your workout. If you do these things you will see progression and will not fail!


Written by Cody Smith

Owner CrossFit Seven Cities and Create Yourself Training