If I could, I would stop the hashtag #MakeProgressiveOverloadGreatAgain. Literal application of progressive overload has never been great, ever. Fact is literal application of progressive overload does not, will not and has not worked. Progressive overload is a linear “training concept” (A → B → C → D and so on = linear process); that when applied to a nonlinear dynamic system (human body), fails to produce anything other than diminished results and injury.
Progressive overload states that strength and all other components of fitness increase if the training becomes gradually more demanding via loading.
Let’s play progressive overload out in regards to a 20 year old male who’s bench press is 225 pounds. Each week he will increase the load by 2.5 pounds. In his first year he would gain 130 pounds to his press, bringing it up to 355 pounds. At this rate by the time he is 25 he will be pressing 875 pounds and by 30 he will be at a world record of 1,525 pounds! It’s clear to accomplished lifters who understand training principles that this will not happen; even though there are severely unaccomplished Instagram “trainers” who would actually debate this issue.
“The major limitation with the gradual overload principle is obvious, namely, that a stagnation point is reached, despite further increase in loading. The performance growth curve flattens out and a limit to further growth is reached (accommodation). This phenomenon is what prevents the same person from constantly breaking world records.” – Mel Siff
Verkhoshansky and Siff state in Supertraining that “It is inappropriate to apply this principle literally, since research has revealed that optimal progress is made if the increased loading phases are alternated periodically with decreased loading phases.”
Fluctuating Overload System
In a fluctuating overload system, continual increased loading does NOT occur for a prolonged period of time. Simply, there is not a continual increase in loading WITHOUT any decrease. Thus, the direction of loading is positive in the long term, but alternating between positive and negative during the short to intermediate. The rate of loading to apply an optimal training stimulus is dependent on the particular individual.
People in the fitness industry like progressive overload because it is simple and linear; however, the body is complex and nonlinear. It is easy to consume information that is simple and linear; thus, social media is filled with this easily digestible inaccurate information. Fast food is on every street corner and is equally convenient; however, it does not mean it is healthy.
The training system, much like the individual/athlete cannot be rigid; but must be adaptable in order to induce optimal results.
If you found this post to be informative, please share and subscribe to my blog to receive posts directly to your inbox. Thanks for reading and please check out my online services.
John Quint NMT, FR, FRCms, FRA, ART, CAFS