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Imagine going to your job, working hard, and not getting paid for it. In fact, you haven't gotten paid for it in weeks. Maybe months. Or years. You wouldn't work for free right? Training shouldn't be any different.

That concept often happens in peoples training, however, due to lack of progressive overload. This is another concept that I learned about through the readings of Charles Poliquin and studies at Poliquin Group

 

Progressive overload is where you improve your performance from workout to workout or workout cycle to workout cycle. Something about your training should improve. You should get stronger. You should get leaner. You should be able to do more work. Something should improve. In this post, we will be explaining some common ways to make improvements in your training and some not so common methods of improvement.

 

Get A Journal

We already established that you don't work for free and you don't train to waste time. You want to improve. You want to make gains. The most important step here is to first have a training journal. This lets you measure your progress similar to what we explained in the goals post. You need to know if you improved or not and a journal is the perfect tool to keep track of that. Unless you have a memory that records every set and rep you do, get a journal. It's one of the best training tools you can own.

Next, we need to know all the different ways we can improve.

 

STRENGTH

This is a common one. Is your strength improving? There's an easy way to tell. Can you add more weight to the bar? Can you decrease the leverage use in the exercise? And example of decreased leverage would be going from a normal pull up to a wide grip pull up which is harder. Can you pause at the bottom of a squat? The pause will remove the bouncing help you get from your tendons and make your muscles work harder to overcome the load. Strength increases are a great way to tell if you improved.

Advanced Tip: Another way to increase strength is to add a pause to the top or bottom of a movement, depending on what kind it is. For things like squats or push-ups, add a pause to the top which will force you to work harder to overcome the resistance rather than bouncing out the bottom.

 

VOLUME

Volume is the number of reps or time under tension used for the exercise. So if you are doing squats for your first training session with ten reps and the next session, you can do eleven, then congratulations, you have improved! However, there is more! Another way to increase volume is to add more time to the tempo. Going back to our squat example, lets say you did squats using a (4,0,1,0) tempo and the next session, you use a (6,0,1,0) tempo. Good work! That's still an improvement.

Advanced tip: Want to add some volume to your set? After you finish a set, count out-loud to ten, and then try another rep. The short rest may allow you to add on more reps and increase the volume past what you could usually do.

 

DENSITY

Density is a measure of how much you rest. If you have small rest between sets, your workout is dense. If the rest is long, it isn't as dense. Density can be a great training tool. Try a workout of an exercise with two minutes rest, for example. Next workout, attempt to perform the same or better while taking off fifteen seconds of rest. Good work! Now the density is higher and you now need less rest before you can repeat the exercise!

Advanced tip: A great way to use this is with sprints. Sprint all out for twenty seconds and rest four minutes. Every workout, take twenty seconds off the rest and add five seconds to the work portion.

 

POWER or SPEED

This one is a bit harder to measure when lifting, but is still a great tool. If you are lifting a maximal weight and it takes you four seconds to get it up (picture the trainee in the gym hitting a hard struggle on the last rep) then an increase in power can be seen when you do that same maximal weight next session and it goes up in only two seconds. You're moving the weight faster meaning you have become more powerful and explosive.

Advanced tip: When lifting, focus on a hard and fast contraction during things like squats or chin ups. Get the weight up as fast as safely possible.

Get a journal, track these variables, and progressively overload. You work hard. You deserve to be rewarded for it.