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Progressive Overload: What is it and Why is it Important?

Hi, everyone! I am going to talk to you all today about progressive overload: What is it and why is it important?

Often when I’m meeting with clients for the first time, and they’ve been doing some sort of strength training, or they’ve been through around a physical therapy before, they telling me that they are doing a certain exercise, and that they’ve been doing it, typically three sets of 10 for a few months. And then they tell me that they’re frustrated, because they’re not seeing any results. Whether it’s pain or function, they just haven’t seen any change.

We need progressive overload in order to see that change.

So when it comes to our muscles and our connective tissue, they need to be subjected to at least 50 to 70% of their max strength in order to promote growth. What that basically means is that in order for muscles to change and grow, we need to be changing things up. We need to be providing variety, like changing the exercise. Or we need to be increasing the amount of sets or the amount of reps or the amount of weight.

Our muscles are not going to respond if we just do the same thing over and over again. They’re gonna adapt to that stress that we’re putting on them. And then they’re just gonna stay where they are, unless we’re changing things up.

So I’m just gonna take you through an example of a really common exercise that I see people doing or prescribed for physical therapy, and then how you can change that exercise as you get stronger.

A  side-lying leg lift. Where you are laying on your side, and thinking about working our glute mead. On their side, people are typically doing 10,15, or 20 reps of these leg lifts. This exercise is awesome if we have a lot of weakness in our glute mead. But once we’ve been doing it for a few weeks, we need to change things up to improve that strength.

So you can do a side-lying leg lift. And once you’re ready, you can go into a supported side plank. You can extend that top leg and you can hold. Once this becomes easy, say you did it for 45 seconds, it’s feeling easy, then you can start to add in a leg lift. You can then progress that by into a full side plank. And then lastly, you can lift and lower that top leg.

And then within all of those exercises, we can also change things up by adding reps, adding sets, adding time if you’re just holding the exercise. There’s a lot of different ways that you can vary things and you can get as creative as you want. It’s just important if you do want to continually see change, that we are progressively overloading those muscles.


Our Mission:

Here at Peak Endurance Performance & Physical Therapy we help active adults in the Madison Area get back to the activities they love without pain or limitations. We see people of all ages, ability levels, and individuals trying to get back to a multitude of movements including: getting back into running, women postpartum, CrossFit athletes, climbers, gymnasts, wrestlers, overhead athletes, and your recreational weekend warrior. If you’re looking to get back to the activities that give you meaning, relieve stress, and make you feel like you again, feel free to reach out below and we’ll see if we’re the right fit for you.