Bryan from Paragon Training Methods performs lateral raise with progressive overload.

What Is Progressive Overload?

Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is a form of training that involves increasing the amount of weight you lift over time. Something we talk about regularly at Paragon is that random training (and/or lack of consistent intention) can lead to random results and not quite getting from A to B as quickly as we might like.

It’s common to see people spin their wheels in the sand because they hop between classes or programs, they don’t consistently follow a plan, and/or perhaps nutrition and fitness goals aren’t quite in alignment.

At Paragon, all our workout programs use Progressive Overload (workouts increase in difficulty over time so we can get stronger, gain muscle, etc). We also cycle through a few different training styles (Hypertrophy, Strength, Metabolic Work) throughout the year.

Each training cycle actually builds on the previous training cycle and when combined with effort in nutrition and lifestyle habits, it affords the opportunity to more quickly and efficiently achieve results. Plus, in addition to our workouts being backed by science, they’re also super fun!

Working Closer To Failure Each Week

We use a progressive overload model in our programming, in which you purposefully work closer to failure each week.

There are a few great elements that this approach provides:

1. It makes progression an expectation each week. You need to add weight or do more reps to ensure that you get closer to failure than the prior week.

2. It ensures you have a self-test each cycle. As you add weight or reps each week, you will inevitably butt up against failure in the final week. If you far exceeded your prior week’s performance in this final testing week, then you know you were sandbagging (and you adjust by increasing loads the next cycle).

If you nail the progression and you successfully hit failure in the final week, you now have a baseline to start from in the next phase of the cycle. Using that baseline, we can effectively plan for a 2-5% improvement in the following phase.

Movement Differences

In this blog post, we discuss the difference between “short” movements and “lengthened” movements.

The big demanding compound movements are more often than not considered “lengthened.” The smaller movements that are less demanding (such as lateral raises, curls, and leg extensions) are considered “short” movements. 

As far as how this relates to progression, it mostly comes down to the fatigue cost of performing these exercises.

Lengthened Movements

Due to how fatiguing (and complex) the “lengthened” movements are, we will often begin cycles at around 5 reps from failure.

The lengthened movements will often progress like this:

Week 1 – 5-6 reps from failure
Week 2 – 4-5 reps from failure
Week 3 – 3-4 reps from failure
Week 4 – 2-3 reps from failure
Week 5 – 1-2 reps from failure
Week 6 – 1 rep from failure

We do not need to actually hit failure on these big movements to see maximal gains.

For more about these intensity techniques, take a look at this blog post about partial reps.

Shortened Movements

For the “short” movements, the fatigue cost is so low that we can often begin a cycle at ~2-3 reps from failure.

The short movements will often progress like this:

Week 1 – 2-3 reps from failure
Week 2 – 1-2 reps from failure
Week 3 – 1 rep from failure
Week 4 – 0-1 reps from failure
Week 5 – Failure + intensity techniques
Week 6 – Failure + intensity techniques

Which Program Should You Follow?

All of our programs at Paragon follow progressive overload and practice this progression model discussed above. No matter your lifestyle, we’ve got an option for you (:

Physique Programs = strength training and bodybuilding workouts for those who want to look their best.

Physique workouts are also our preferred choice for our pregnant/postpartum mommas, those burnt out on high intensity, and/or those working to improve their health and hormones. Choose between 3-Day Physique, 4-Day Physique, and 4-Day DB-Only Physique.

Performance Programs = for those who love combining lifting with other modalities.

For our Runners, CrossFitters, Olympic Weightlifters, Military, those that love Peloton, etc. Choose between Strength Metcon, Cardio/Lift, or DB Cardio/Lift

DB Programs = workouts that require a minimum of 2-3 pairs of DBs.

Great for workouts from home, travel, and those with access to less gym equipment. Choose between DB Physique, DB Cardio/Lift, and 30-Min DB Quickie.

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