Progressive Overload Principle


Definition: The gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during the execution of a movement.

Progressive overload is the key to training any training program. No matter if the goal is to lose weight, gain muscle, or prepare for the a sport or competition. The principle of progressive overload were developed by Thomas Delorme, M.Dwhile rehabilitating wounded soldiers after the second world war. Progressive overload is the foundation of my training programing whether this principle is applied to resistance training, EDS training (Energy System Development), or any form of stressor that is applied to one of my training programs. The principle of Progressive Overload is based on a simple scientific principle to increase the stress of the stimulus as the body adapts to the training stimulus. For example if the goal of the client is to improve there upper body strength and the movement chosen to measure their upper body strength is the bench press, as a trainer you would apply the principle of Progression Overload to the three main variables which are:

  • Volume- The amount of sets and reps programmed for the bench press

  • The Intensity- The amount of resistance or weight applied to the bench press exercise

  • The Frequency- The amount of bench press training bouts that are programed within a set time period.

Depending on the individuals training experience, fitness level, and or time available to train the principles of Progressive Overload allows the trainer to track and gauge the progress of the individual being trained, and show results as the training stimulus is applied. This is essential to helping the client set bench mark goals, to improve their confidence while training, and minimize the chance of injury. Applying the principles of Progressive Overload is key to increasing strength, aerobic fitness, mobility, speed, in most cases agility (depending on the level of fitness in the for mentioned areas).

As a professional trainer/coach I apply the principle of Progressive Overload to the all three variables of training mentioned above which are, Volume, Intensity, and Frequency (depending on time the individual has made themselves available to train) within my training programs, whichis applied due to various factors effecting the training program which includes but is not limited to:

  • the body adaptation to the training stimulus

  • the individual sustains a injury (which rarely happens within my training program)

  • the individual has limited time to train

  • to keep the training program interesting and fresh to the individual.

The Progressive Overload principle should be applied to all modes of training to improve the efficiency of the training program and allow the individual to reach there health and performance goals but to see holistic improvement in their muscular strength, endurance,  overall health and performance.