Progression and Progressive Overload are not the same thing !
Exercise • • 1 minute to read • By INFS Faculty
Author- Asmita Shah
In the fitness fraternity, the phrases progression and progressive overload are sometimes used interchangeably. Although both terms refer to the process of 'progressing training,' these are not synonymous. These distinctions have significant consequences for how we think about creating particular fitness traits, as well as approach programming to induce adaptations.
Making a modification to a given training variable (for example, adding a few extra reps to a set or adding weight to the barbell), which usually results in increased stress on the body but isn't necessarily overloading or causing adaptations. Progression involves increasing the difficulties of training by modifying one or more training variables, it may or may not always result in progress or adaptations. This is due to the fact that progression only increases the difficulty of training. However, this does not always imply that 'progression' overloads or provides the 'ideal stimulus.' See how progression might go below or over the 'optimal stimulus' range in the diagram below. It is possible to progress with or without progressive overload.
Different forms of progression:
Increasing the complexity of a movement: Modifying the mechanics of an exercise to augment the stability, range of motion, or force requirements of a particular joint is a form of progression. For example: Progressing from knee push-ups to conventional push-ups, may appear to be a sign of overload, but it isn't always the case. If a person can do multiple sets of 10-15 repetitions of knee push-ups and only a single set of 5 traditional push-ups, the triceps and chest will be considerably less stimulated than they would be from knee push-ups. Despite the fact that each rep performed on the feet provides a stronger stimulus per rep in conventional push-ups than kneeling push-ups, the absolute stimulus per set may be diminished due to the reduced number of stimulating reps completed.
Increase in Volume: Increase in the number of reps, sets, or weight will increase the total volume or amount of work performed. Doing more does not always result in increasing fitness capacity until the volume progression hits overload thresholds. If you raise your weekly set volume for the quads by four sets, for example, you are doing more work. However, this increase in set volume may fall short of what is considered 'overloading,' resulting in no gain in muscle hypertrophy.
Training till failure: Another method of progression is to intentionally train closer to failure or to leave fewer repetitions in reserve (RIR). At the beginning of the set, muscles are fresh and not fatigued. While progressing in the set, with each subsequent rep, muscles are forced to work harder to meet the imposed demand until failure is reached.
When a lifter increases RPE on bicep curls from 8 to 9, he is the individual who is clearly training closer to failure. Even with the increased reps or lifting a higher weight, training with the right set volumes and frequencies is required to see gains in muscle growth and strength. Again, RPE or RIR progression does not always imply gains.
An increase in stimulus attained during a training session as a consequence of earlier adaptations, which is necessary to reach the stimulus threshold (which increases over time as one adapts) and elicit subsequent adaptations. Progressive overload occurs when the training stimulus exceeds overload thresholds while remaining within the system's adaptive capabilities. Because the system is bigger, stronger, or more technically adept, this usually necessitates an increase in one or more of the training variables.
- A training variable's progression essentially means making training more difficult in some way, although not always overloaded.
- Progressive overload is a result/response to previous training in which performance improves as fitness improves.
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