I used to absolutely despise every single time a Progressive commercial came on TV. Something about Flo and her obnoxious voice just really rubbed me the wrong way, man. I couldn’t stand her. Over time though the marketing execs at Progressive have slowly worn down my resistance. They’ve pummeled me into submission. I wouldn’t call myself a Flo fan, but I can tolerate her.
In fact if they took her away I’m not quite sure what I’d do. She’s synonymous with Progressive now. They’re locked into Flo. She’s crossed over from commercial success to pop culture icon. You know this is the case when girls forgo dressing as slutty as possible on Halloween to dress like Flo.
Flo actually stands for something that has to do with training though, and it didn’t dawn on me until the other day. I was mindlessly watching TV at 5 in the morning trying to hook up a caffeine IV drip to wake up. After the SportsCenter Top 10 a Progressive commercial came on, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. She represents a really important part of training. Without Flo, training success wouldn’t even be a thing. Nobody would lose weight, gain strength, or add an inch to their arms.
Progressive: Overload your training.
In the world of strength training there is no law, theory, or principle more important than progressive overload. Progressive overload is the reason why that one program you tried off the internet worked so well, and why that genius idea to mix 3 of your favorite programs together didn’t work.
Progressive overload requires a gradual increase in volume, intensity, frequency or time in order to achieve the targeted goal of the user. In this context, volume and intensity are defined as follows: Volume is the total number of repetitions multiplied by the resistance used as performed in specific periods of time.
In layman’s terms, progressive overload is just continually increasing the work that you’re doing. That could be more weight, more reps, more time, more range of motion, or a number of other things. It starts with whatever you can do with perfect form.
For example: You could be squatting, and one week perform 4 sets of 6 reps with 135lbs. The next week use 185lbs, the next week 225lbs. That’s progressive overload.
Or: You could be squatting 4 sets of 6 reps with 135lbs one week. Next week do 5 sets of 6 reps, and then 6 sets of 6 reps. Boom. That’s also progressive overload. The same can be said if you keep upping the reps.
The body is a remarkable thing, man. –The Big Lebowski
Maybe a cult hero and eternal badass Jeff Bridges didn’t say those words. But you probably read them in his voice, and that works for me. The body really is amazing. It adapts incredibly well to what you throw at it. Progressive overload is just the way in which we keep the body from adapting to what we throw at it. By continually adding more training stimulus, the body has to adapt by growing bigger, stronger, faster, etc.
Progressive overload is the reason why following a well-designed program is so damn important. A good program has progressive overload built in through a number of different ways. These allow you to continually make gainz, even if the gainz aren’t always what you expect.
Progressive overload can be a tricky son-of-a-bitch.
Progressive overload seems to have a mind of its own. Sometimes you can do everything possible right, and you won’t make a single effing gain. You could be eating perfectly, never miss a training session, keep track of every single weight you’ve lifted, and not a gain will be had. Not a single gain. You couldn’t even buy a gain.
Other times you could be doing everything completely wrong. Not tracking anything, eating KFC double downs for lunch AND dinner, drinking beer as your main source of water – Coors Light obviously, and you make all the gainz in the world.
Have I mentioned that the body is tricky? Because it is. If this sort of thing happens to you, don’t get down OR cocky. Don’t feel like this a huge waste of time or that you’ve got the secret all figured out. Physiology is really complicated, and there’s a lot that goes into it. The best possible thing you could do is just keep plugging away.
Newbies should LOVE progressive overload.
It is common knowledge in the world of strength training that the first 6 months – year of strength training is the best of your life. During this period it’ll seem like every single session someone winds up stronger, bigger, and with more body control. It leaves those of us who have lifted for years green with jealous rage, and not looking near as much like the Hulk as we want.
If you’re new, TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS. This time is invaluable in building a base of strength and size that will benefit you for years to come. Basically anything you do is progressive overload, meaning that during this period the body is continually adapting.
Those of us who have taken an extended time off of training, think anything over 3 months, can also see a similar thing happen. If you’ve been away for a few months and get back into it, the gainz will come quicker than usual. The longer you’ve been away from training, the longer you’ll make gainz more quickly. You’ll also find yourself sitting on top of a plateau quicker than a complete newbie though, so be ready for that cold shower of reality.
If you’re a strength training veteran (more than a year under the bar):
Progressive overload won’t come near as quickly. Sorry to say it. Sometimes it can feel like you couldn’t buy a gain with all the money in the world. Other times you may make gainz every damn day during a program.
That’s not to say you won’t make any gainz at all. Of course gainz will be had in some manner or another, they just won’t come very quickly. However completely switching gears can make you feel a little bit like a newbie once again. Like switching from a running program to a powerlifting program. Initially in the program you’ll likely see a ton of progress, thanks to the completely new stimulus.
Other times you may switch gears and not see progress for a while, then all of the sudden things seem to “click” and gainz can’t come soon enough. This is because unfortunately gainz don’t happen in a linear manner. Nothing in strength training happens linearly. Not strength gainz, size gainz, fat loss. Nothing.
This sounds really unfair, and maybe it is. It does kind of suck that nice and steady weight loss doesn’t always happen. But without those periods of no weight loss, or no strength gainz, the times where it seems like we’re just kicking ass and taking names all day long wouldn’t be near as awesome. Those times make it all worth it, and those times aren’t possible without incorporating progressive overload into your training.