Kent Pegg: Progressive Overload Principle

Los Alamos

Most everyone would like to increase their level of health and fitness. By doing so we know we will have a better lifestyle, enjoy a more active life, and delay the aging process.

Whether you’re currently on an exercise program or not, you can benefit from a workout program that utilizes the progressive overload principle. The progressive overload principle states that to consistently increase your level of health and fitness you must increase the frequency, duration, or intensity of your workout sessions.

What you’re doing by increasing one of these things is placing a greater load on your body than your body is accustomed to. This causes the muscle cells to slightly tear. Your body is perfectly capable of repairing those tears and does so.

But, in an effort to prevent future tearing if exposed to the same load, the body repairs the muscles a little stronger than they were before. This repair process produces the soreness you may feel after performing activities or exercise in excess of what you have done previously.

Remember, that soreness should be mild, not severe, and be fairly equal from one side of the body to the other in the muscle tissue, and not sharp pains in the joint. That severe or sharp pain indicates that you either have an injury or have overdone it and caused too much muscle tearing.

If you haven’t been exercising or are just getting started, begin by increasing the frequency of your workouts. You can go from not working out at all, to working out couple times per week for short exercise sessions, to increasing the frequency to as many days as possible.

Once you’ve achieved the maximum number of days per week that you’ll be able to workout, begin increasing the duration of your exercise sessions. If you’ve been spending thirty minutes in the gym, increase that time to forty-five minutes, then to one hour.

At some point you’ll find that your time is limited and you’re spending as much time as you can in the gym. That’s when you begin increasing the intensity of your exercise.

While increasing the frequency and duration of your workout is finite because you can only workout so many days per week and for so long each day, the ability to increase intensity is unlimited. There is always more weight available to lift.

Always increase the weights you are lifting very gradually. For instance, start by picking the one or two exercises in your workout routine that feel the easiest and increase the weight slightly.

Remember this is a slow process where you tear the muscles slightly and allow them to repair themselves a little stronger and consistently repeat this process. Over time you will notice that, not only have you increased the weights you are lifting, but your body is looking and feeling better.

So whether you have been exercising all your life or are just getting started, remember the progressive overload principle and the benefits it can provide for you. It will work for a lifetime and give you a better lifestyle.

Kent Pegg is a certified personal trainer and the owner of the Los Alamos Fitness Center. Direct questions about the information in this column to him at 505.662-5232.

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