When it comes to exercising, there are hundreds of different modalities in which to do so. You can lift weights, play sports, ride bikes, hike, do yoga, etc. Within all of those modalities, there are different ways to perform them. You can power lift, do cross fit, play soccer or tennis, mountain bike, do Bikram yoga, etc. The thing that all methods of exercise have in common, is that to get better, you must always find ways to challenge yourself. In the fitness world, we call this “Progressive Overload”.
Essentially, progressive overload refers to increasing the difficulty of activity over time. In its simplest form, it means running 1 mile one week and 2 miles the next week, thus increasing the intensity which means your body has to adapt and will get stronger. When it comes to lifting weights, there are several important progressions to be aware of. They include:
1. Intensity / Load 2. Stability 3. Body Position
Intensity / Load
This simply refers to how much weight you’re using for a specific exercise. It’s important to track the amount of weight you’re using and the number of reps you do so you can ensure that week after week you’re increasing your volume. That can mean doing more reps with the same weight, or the same number of reps with more weight. Both scenarios lead to increased intensity.
Decreasing stability is a progression because it makes any exercise you’re doing more challenging. If you’re doing a seated dumbbell overhead press, switching to a standing version will require more musculature to support your body, thus increasing the intensity. You can also try switching from two legs to a staggered stance, then to one leg. Note that you shouldn’t always increase the load and decrease stability. If you’re doing a barbell squat, it’s much more productive and safer to add 5lbs than try to do the exercise on a BOSU ball (DON’T).
Body position is one of the easiest factors to manipulate thus plays a big part when progressing exercises. If you can’t do a full pushup from your toes, try switching to your knees until you’re strong enough. If you can’t do a full lunge, put a block under your knee to decrease the range of motion. Remember, your body is a series of levers when lifting weights, so bringing the load closer to your center of gravity will make it easier while pushing it away will increase the torque and make it more challenging.
- Increasing the weight you used last week but keep your reps and sets the same. - A single-leg squat on the black side of a BOSU ball (see if you can balance on one leg first). Do 3 sets of 12 squats per leg. - Work up to 15 pushups – do as many as you can on your toes and then switch to your knees. If you can do 15 on your toes, try placing your feet on a step!