progressive overload workout

Do you feel stuck in your journey of fitness? Want to move a step forward towards your goal? Don’t worry. I got you. Let me introduce you to progressive overload. A tried-and-true method to achieve your fitness goals.  It is not just a word. Rather, it is a gateway to your fitness revolution.

Progressive overload is a systematic approach to training. It serves as a key to unlocking your body’s full potential for strength, muscle growth and endurance.  It involves a gradual increase in the demands placed on the body during exercise. This approach stimulates adaptation and improvement. Consequently, this drives progress and results.

Right now, you must be thinking about how to implement this into your workout routine effectively. I’ll guide you through everything you need to know about progressive overload. By the end of this article, you will be able to design your own progressive overload workout plan that delivers real results.

Strategies to Implement Progressive Overload

Effective implementation of progressive overload requires careful planning. Following are a few strategies to gradually increase the intensity of workouts.

1.      Incremental weight increase

The most straightforward way to progressively overload is to increase the weight lifted. Start with a weight that allows you to complete the desired number of repetitions easily. Then gradually increase the weight by small increments. For example, you can increase 2.5-5 pounds for the upper body. For the lower body, you can increase by 5-10 pounds. This ensures continual stimulation for muscle growth.

While this may increase strain on your wrists, use of wrist wraps is recommended. These wraps will help support your wrists. Moreover, they will prevent your joints from bending while lifting heavy weights.

2.      Progressive repetition range

Another effective strategy is to progressively increase the number of reps per exercise. Start with a moderate range. Consider 8-12 in the beginning. Aim to complete the upper end of the ranges as you progress.

3.      Variation in intensity

Varying the intensity of your workout is another effective strategy in progressive overload. You can adjust factors such as resting period, lifting tempo, and training techniques. For example, reducing the rest period between the sets can increase intensity. You can also alter the tempo of your lifts. Moreover, you can use resistance bands to increase intensity.

4.      Periodization

Periodization involves organising the training into distinct phases. This is a structured approach to training. It promotes long-term progress while preventing overtraining and burnout. It is typically divided into the following phases:

1.      Base phase focuses on building the foundation of fitness training. It involves moderate-intensity workouts and high-volume exercises.

2.      Build phase focuses on stimulation for further adaptation and improvement. It involves higher-intensity workouts, heavy weights, and more challenging variations.

3.      Peak phase focuses on maximising performance. It involves tapering training volume and intensity for optimal recovery and performance.  

4.      Recovery phase allows for rest and regeneration. It prepares the body for the next training cycle.

Sample Progressive Overload Workout Plan

Progressive Overload Workout Plan

Day 1: Lower Body Strength

  1. Squats: 3 sets x 5 reps (Increasing weight by 2.5-5 kg each week)
  2. Romanian Deadlifts: 3 sets x 8 reps (Increasing weight by 2.5-5 kg each week)
  3. Walking Lunges: 3 sets x 10 steps per leg (Increasing weight or difficulty each week)
  4. Calf Raises: 3 sets x 12 reps (Increasing weight or reps each week)

Day 2: Upper Body Strength

  1. Bench Press: 3 sets x 5 reps (Increasing weight by 2.5-5 kg each week)
  2. Bent-over Rows: 3 sets x 8 reps (Increasing weight by 2.5-5 kg each week)
  3. Overhead Press: 3 sets x 6 reps (Increasing weight by 2.5-5 kg each week)
  4. Pull-ups or Lat Pulldowns: 3 sets x 6-8 reps (Increasing difficulty or adding weight each week)

Day 3: Rest or Active Recovery

Day 4: Lower Body Hypertrophy

  1. Deadlifts: 3 sets x 8 reps (Increasing weight by 2.5-5 kg each week)
  2. Bulgarian Split Squats: 3 sets x 10 reps per leg (Increasing weight or reps each week)
  3. Leg Press: 3 sets x 12 reps (Increasing weight or reps each week)
  4. Leg Curls: 3 sets x 10 reps (Increasing weight or reps each week)

Day 5: Upper Body Hypertrophy

  1. Incline Bench Press: 3 sets x 8 reps (Increasing weight by 2.5-5 kg each week)
  2. Barbell Rows: 3 sets x 10 reps (Increasing weight or reps each week)
  3. Dumbbell Shoulder Press: 3 sets x 10 reps (Increasing weight or reps each week)
  4. Chin-ups or Cable Rows: 3 sets x 8-10 reps (Increasing difficulty or adding weight each week)

Day 6-7: Rest or Active Recovery

Benefits of Progressive Overload

Progressive overload benefits you in many ways. Let’s see how.

1.      Increased muscle strength

The primary benefit of progressive overload is increased muscle strength. You progressively increase the demand on your muscles through resistance training. This creates microtears in muscle fibres. Such tears prompt the body to rebuild them stronger and larger.

Suggested Read: 13 Mini Resistance Bands Exercises for Beginners

2.      Functional strength and performance

Progressive overload not only strengthens your body for workouts. But it also prepares your body for real-life challenges. It places a focus on compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Thus, developing a strong and balanced physique. Whether it’s lifting heavy objects or climbing stairs. Progressive overload builds up your strength for your daily life.

3.      Health perks

Apart from muscle strength, progressive overload comes with a myriad of health benefits. It causes an increase in bone density. This helps prevent osteoporosis and fractures later in life. Moreover, it boosts metabolism. It also increases heart rate and improves circulation. Consequently, improving overall cardiovascular health.

4.      Prevention of plateaus

Progressive overload serves as the key to preventing plateaus. Thus, ensuring continual progress in your fitness journey. By progressively overloading, you continually introduce your muscles to new stimuli. Thus, preventing them from becoming accustomed to your workouts. This prevents stagnation on your way to progress.

5.      Mental resilience

Apart from physical benefits, progressive overload serves mental benefits as well. It cultivates mental toughness and resilience in you. You consistently push your limits in your workout. This develops a mindset of perseverance and determination. In this way, you learn to embrace challenges and overcome obstacles. This strength extends beyond the gym. Thus, empowering you to tackle real-life challenges confidently.  

Don’ts of Progressive Overload

Although progressive overload is a powerful tool for driving fitness progress. Still, it has some pitfalls. Make sure you avoid some common mistakes to maximise the results.

1.      Progressing rapidly

A rapid increase in intensity and volume can lead to overtraining, injury, and burnout. Therefore, it is important to give ample time to the body to adapt.

Suggested Read: 7 Common Sports Injuries You Need to Know About!

2.      Neglecting recovery

Recovery strategies are important for supporting the body’s adaptation process. Failing to prioritise rest and recovery can hinder the process.

3.      Ignoring form

Ignoring form in pursuit of heavier weights and higher intensity can increase the risk of injury. It can also compromise effectiveness.

4.      Lack of variation

Lack of variation can lead to plateaus and stagnation in the progress. It is important to incorporate new stimuli to keep the body challenged.


Progressive overload is a powerful tool for any effective workout plan. A systematic increase in demands on the body can continually challenge you to achieve new levels of strength. Start your journey towards fitness. And remember! Consistency is the key to unlocking your full potential.

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