The Progressive Overload Principle

Milo of Croton was a six-time Olympic Champion who lived in the 6th century BC. As a young man, Milo is reported to have gained his tremendous strength by carrying a calf on his shoulders each day for four years until it grew into a massive bull. As the young calf grew, so did Milo’s strength. This story represents the first principle of strength training – the Principle of Progressive Overload.

The Principle of Progressive Overload states that a muscle must experience an increased overload in order to adapt and become stronger. Progressive Overload just means working a muscle or muscles slightly harder than they are used to working. With proper rest and recovery, the muscle will grow stronger.

Overload can come in many forms including increasing the amount of weight, sets or repetitions performed, decreasing rest periods between sets, increasing the range of motion of an exercise, using more challenging versions of an exercise and increasing the frequency of training.

Increasing the stress placed on a muscle causes the muscle to adapt and become stronger following a period of rest and recuperation.

Adaptation takes time. Stick to a particular exercise, weight, number of sets or repetitions for a period of time so the muscle can adapt to the new load before increasing the amount of stress.

Progression means moving slightly past your comfort zone. When you increase the weight, sets or repetitions on an exercise or decrease your rest period between sets, you may be uncom