Essentials of a workout schedule (Part 2) - Progressive Overloading

Sairamnath Ananthakrishnan
Sairamnath Ananthakrishnan

 | 1 minute to read
Exercise Science

Personally, the thought of going to the gym every day is an amazing feeling. Its true that, endorphins (Feel good hormone) is secreted in the brain when one engages himself/herself in a physical activity. And when it comes to lifting weights, the happiness quotient post an amazing workout session is inexplicable. Lifting weights is good but what if the workout sessions are not programmed? Your form may be the best, range of motion would be second to none, you may be breaking personal records but what if there is no method but only madness? Will you run the risk of getting injured despite ticking the above boxes? Injury does not have to be on the spot necessarily. It can be over time and when the time comes, you’ll regret it real bad. Trust me when I say this !!

In part 1, we saw how warm up is very essential to improve your range of motion and prevent any possible injuries. This article touches upon the importance of programming your workout sessions I.e., following a lifting schedule. I am not talking about the routine followed such as 3 day or a 4 day or Push/Pull/Leg routine but the load lifted in any of these routines. We all want to better ourselves every time we set foot in the gym in terms of lifting. Just a methodical approach is required to reap the benefits of lifting weights. Progressive Overloading The term is self explanatory. Each time when you perform a set of exercises, do not try to leap frog to multiple higher weights session after session. Have a method and gradually progress towards higher levels. In short, progressive overloading is the principle of increasing total training volume over time. Now, the total training volume is the product of weight lifted and total reps performed. Total training volume = Weight Lifted x Total reps Let us understand the concept through an exercise that we all perform. Mr. XYZ loves squats and his aim is to build a strong and muscular leg. Apart from quantifying his diet according to his goals (muscle gain), Mr. XYZ has to do the following. Lets Assume Mr. XYZ is currently able to Squat a maximum of 50 kgs for maximum reps of 10 Week 1 = 50kgs * 10 + 50kgs * 9 + 50kgs * 9 (Total volume: 1400 kgs) Week 2 = 50kgs * 10 + 50kgs * 10 + 50kgs * 9 (Total volume: 1450 kgs) Week 3 = 50kgs * 10 + 50kgs * 10 + 50kgs * 10 (Total volume: 1500 kgs) Week 4 = 55kgs * 9 + 55kgs * 9 + 55kgs * 9 (Total volume: 1485 kgs) Week 5 = 55kgs * 10 + 55kgs * 9 + 55kgs * 9 (Total volume: 1540 kgs) Week 6 = 55kgs * 10 + 55kgs * 10 + 55kgs * 9 (Total volume: 1595 kgs) Now if you see, what Mr. XYZ has done is he has tried to up the volume by increasing 1 rep the second and third week. In the 4th week, he has increased the weight by 5kgs more but reduced the number of reps by 1 in all the sets. This seems to be lowering the total volume momentarily but that is absolutely fine. This is because he has increased the weight for this week and has subsequently increased the reps in week 5 & 6 by keeping the weight constant which has increased the total volume. Over time XYZ would keep repeating the same process of maxing out at a particular rep range for a given weight and then increase the weight progressively while decreasing the rep range momentarily for the week and then increasing the reps again thereby spiking the total volume. Key Takeaway One common thing we need to understand while programming our workout is that it is the total volume which counts for muscle growth and not the rep range alone or the weight lifted alone. The above illustration is not the sole method but just one way to go about it.

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