Secrets to muscle gain and progressive overload


Lifter increasing the weight he’s benching. Men’s Health                                        

Dylan Backer | Writer & Photographer

March 17, 2023

Many gym-goers strive to become stronger. However, they may find themselves lifting the same weight for the same reps for every workout. Your body will quickly adapt to these stresses and you will reach a plateau in strength. This is where progressive overload comes in. The idea is to continue to challenge your body to adapt to heavier loads or higher levels of intensity. This can be achieved by increasing reps sets and weight on a given exercise over time. Progressive overload is the most effective tool to become stronger. 

Sophomore Cruz Juarez resting in between sets of incline bench press. Dylan Backer

To give a real-life example, sophomore Cruz Juarez, an aspiring amateur bodybuilder and powerlifter, was asked how he would utilize progressive overload in his workouts. He responded “If I were using progressive overload on an exercise like the bench press and I could bench 195 pounds for five reps, I would move up in weight to, say, 200 pounds and try to hit that for three reps. I would then increase the sets workout by workout. Say I started at three sets, I would increase it up to four and then to five. Then I would drop the sets down to three and do four reps and so on.” Cruz’s approach to progressive overload is increasing one variable of intensity while decreasing another. By lowering the reps and increasing the weight, he is giving his body a new stimulus to grow. It is crucial to use progressive overload safely because just increasing the weight will increase the chances for an injury to occur. By increasing each factor slowly, your body will have adapted to the load by growing the muscle’s size and increasing the muscle’s strength. 

To conclude, progressive overload is an effective technique to gain strength and build muscle. Progressive overload can be implemented into any exercise, but its most effective use is in heavy compound movements. Progressive overload matched with a nutritious diet is a surefire way to become the strongest and most muscular version of yourself. 

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