The Exercise Prescription – Part 6 – Progressive Overload

Progressive and Overload Principles

The Idea is simple. Stress forces adaptation which is applied to muscle strength, flexibility, explosiveness or agility, and endurance. However, overtraining will lead to muscle breakdown and loss-the opposite of training goals. Adequate rest is important between training sessions. Now let’s talk about why.

Overload is exercising more than you are use too and can be applied to resistance training, flexibility, etc. The body adapts to be better suited for our next exercise session, assuming there is continued pressure on it to adapt. Adaptations are specific to the demands imposed upon them. Sport specific training is helpful in this case.

The overall objective is remain focused on building our exercise system to increase the load of a previous session progressively. Mastering this over a certain period of time typically takes 4-12 weeks of consistency before changing the routine to get past plateaus.

Progressive means that with each training session the overload must continue if progressive gains are desired. Always remember though to be mindful of overtraining or your efforts will be hindered through injury.

The older one is, the more rest is required for recovery. I am sure we all have heard we need to allow our body to rest, but how many of us actually do this? Why don’t we do it sometimes? Generally, it is because we forget about the prescription and are feeling like failures for not meeting our weight loss or strength goals. Make sure you give yourself enough time to rest, middle aged people may take 50% longer to recover than someone in their 20s.

Signs of Overtraining

Upper Respiratory Infections

Swollen Lymph Nodes in Neck

Sleep Disturbance


Depression Symptoms

Emotional Lability

Performance Decrease

Excessive Sweating

TIP: Start thinking about a needs analysis that will guide your individual exercise prescription. The prescription will need to have overload that is progressive with training sessions.