What Is Progressive Overload and How Does It Work? | Blog | THE BOD | Sophie Guidolin

What Is Progressive Overload & How Does It Work?

Do you know what progressive overload is, sis? Keep reading to find out how it can help you to crush your health and fitness goals!


Progressive overload is when you gradually increase the weight, frequency, or number of repetitions in your strength training, or cardiovascular, routine. It’s a gradual increase of stress placed on the musculoskeletal and nervous system, allowing you to build strength. Simply put, in order to get fitter and stronger, you must continually make your muscles work harder than they're used to.

Why should you be striving for progressive overload in your workouts?

By changing up your workouts and adding additional tension to your muscles, you can avoid plateauing, which is when your body adapts to the type of the exercise you are doing. It will help you continuously build strength, muscle size, and help you see progress towards your goals. 

Without progresive overload, your progress in the gym will stagnate and you’ll struggle to achieve your fitness goals -  if you keep doing the same thing over and over you’ll only ever get the same results. Through consistent application of progression to your workouts, you give your body the signal to change.

How can you achieve progressive overload?

Progressive overload must be done gradually. It can be dangerous to increase the load or frequency of your training too quickly, which can lead to injury. You can add progressive overload to your training routine in different ways.

  • Increase the weight you are using

For example:
Week 1. Perform bicep curls with 2kg weights.
Week 4. Perform bicep curls with 4kg weights.
Week 8. Perform bicep curls with 6kg weights.

Tip: When you’re ready to lift heavier, look for a weight that you can lift for about 10 repetitions — but the last 2 or 3 reps should be a challenge. This way, you know you’re properly challenging yourself with your weight selection. If you’re doing multiple sets, give yourself plenty of time to rest in between.

  • Add more reps to an exercise.
Increasing the number of repetitions puts more demand on your muscles. For example:
    • Week 1. Perform 10–12 squats
    • Week 3. Perform 12–15 squats
    • Week 5. Perform 15 squats
  • Increase your sets.
Just as increasing your reps is an option, so is increasing the number of sets you do. For example, if you’re doing 3 sets of 8 reps of Romanian Deadlifts, you could increase this to 4 sets.

  • Increase the length of your workouts.
For cardiovascular endurance, you can increase the length of your cardio exercise sessions. Do this gradually. For example, run or cycle an additional 20 minutes every few weeks. Allow your body plenty of recovery time after putting additional strain on it. Rest for 2 or 3 days before your next cardio workout.

  • Slow down your reps.
Slow down your reps so each one takes more time to complete, therefore increasing your time under tension. For example, if you normally lift with a 2–1–2 tempo you could try a 3–1–3 tempo, then slowly increase the time as you adjust.

Key things to remember:

Progressive overload training should be done only after you’ve mastered an exercise with proper form and technique. You should’ve also been doing the same routine for at least 2 weeks, ideally a month, before you start to train harder.

Working with a qualified personal trainer, or a structured training program, can help you reach your goals and guide you on how to progressive overload safely. The workouts in THE BOD App are made so you can progressively overload your workouts, and see major progress!


Always give your body time off to rest between workouts. Stop training or scale back the intensity if you feel very sore or injured.


Want to know more about progressive overload? Leave your questions below or find more tips over on our Instagram page @thebod_     

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