All workouts ever created have one thing in common – Progressive Overload.
This is the gradual increase in weight, volume, intensity, distance, frequency, or time training in order to achieve a specific goal. In simple words, the tiny incremental improvements you make each time you step into the gym, or hit the turf for running or enter the swimming pool. Exercise, by its very nature, is an adaptive process. It’s the whole reason we do it.
If you are not attempting to improve or progress in some way, its probably not training.
Homeostasis is the ability of the body to remain in stable internal state. Stimuli and Stress can impact our homeostasis and cause us to adapt and improve.
The Story of Milo
The story of Milo is famous in strength circles. A celebrated 6th-century BC wrestler, Milo was born in the city of Croton and like most successful athletes of that period, became the subject of some epic tales of strength, skill and power. His daily diet included 9 kg of meat, 9 kg of bread and 10 litres of wine, and how he could burst a band about his brow by simply inflating the veins of his temples.
But these aside, Milo was best known for epitomising the idea of progressive overload. All because the Greek fitness-themed fable details how Milo picked up a small baby cow and carried it on his shoulders every single day. As the cow grew, so did Milo’s strength.
Days, months and years of progressive overload later and Milo was able to hoist a full-size, half-tonne bull onto his shoulders and stroll into town to pick up his weekly groceries.
How? All through the gradual increase of stress (weight in this case) placed upon the body during training. It’s the single most important component of anyone’s training programme.
Without it, you don’t improve!
Tool Kit to Progressive Overload
- Add more sets – It’s the simplest tool to start with. Add more sets to your routine. Let’s say you can do three sets of 8 reps. of Barbell Bench Press with 60 kgs. Start by adding one more set. May be 3-4 reps. Take it to 8 reps like earlier sets. Once you are able to do 5 sets of 8 reps each, understand your work capacity has improved. Now it’s time to drop back to three sets with higher weight, say may be 70 Kgs. When you drop back to three sets, it’s less volume than you have been accustomed to, setting nicely for re-ramping of the volume.
- Add more reps – This is also important. Add more reps to your routines. This was made famous by legendary Canadian weightlifter Doug Hepburn. You simply pick up weight that you can do eight sets of one repetition with, then slowly add an extra rep to each set util you do all sets 8 X 2 reps. Then increase the weight and start over with one repetition.
- Add Cardio – Add intensity to your work capacity by adding 20-30 minutes cardio after 8-10 hours of your strength training. Simple activity like spinning or rope jump aren’t very taxing on the body or joints
- Add finishers – Add movement specific finishers after your strength training. To increase your work capacity, finishers are your answer. Quick intense movement based workout added at the end of your workouts like 10×10 sets of tyre flips after your deadlift day or 3×100 mars sprinting after your leg day. Know that increasing work capacity is secret to fitness.
Toolkit to making yourself strong
- Visualise every lift – Visualise how the movement is supposed to look and feel. Imagine how the bar feels in your hand, load on your back, weight on your feet. Perfect your visualisation. After the set, analyse it. How did it feel? How did it look? What could be improved upon?
- Lift without ego – Remove your ego. It’s not what you lift, it’s how you lift. The weight should be light enough that you need to be in control, yet heavy enough to force the body to perform the correct movement pattern. Ideally lift 60-80% of your 1 rep max.
- Always lift, never fail – Avoid failure on your sets. The more you struggle, the more your technique breaks down.
- Don’t dilute your strength – Your body will adapt specifically to the demands you place on it. So it makes sense to train to your specific goals. Concurrent training dilutes your effectiveness to improve a specific component.
- Get tight – Get stiff and tight when lifting. The tighter you get, the more force you generate and the more weight you can lift. Commit to tensing your body as hard as possible on every set and every rep.
One Rep Max
- The one-repetition maximum (1RM) test is often considered as the ‘gold standard’ for assessing the strength capacity of individuals in non-laboratory environments.
- It is simply defined as the maximal weight an individual can lift for only one repetition with correct technique.
The following represents the basic steps in 1-RM (or any multiple RM) testing following familiarization/practice sessions:
- The subject should warm up, completing a number of sub-maximal repetitions.
- Determine the 1-RM (or any multiple RM) within four trials with rest periods of 3 to 5 minutes between trials.
- Select an initial weight that is within the subject’s perceived capacity (~50%–70% of capacity).
- Resistance is progressively increased by 2.5 kg to 20 kg until the subject cannot complete the selected repetition(s). All repetitions should be performed at the same speed of movement and range of motion to instill consistency between trials.
- The final weight lifted successfully is recorded as the absolute 1-RM
Remember your each exercise will have 1 Rep Max