There's a lot of talk in the fitness industry in regards to training volume. Volume…
As fast as possible.
But no seriously, we want to be progressing for as long as possible, so we don’t want to increase anything too quickly.
The maximum sustainable rate of progressive overload for YOU will depend upon YOUR experience level, calorie intake & genetics (to an extent).
Firstly, lets define progression. It is an increase in any 1, or multiple of the following:
- Weight on the bar
- Decrease in rest times
- Increase in time under tension
Generally, the first 3 are a little more common.
It should be noted that although the frequency of progressive overload can & should vary between different lifters depending upon their experience level, the proportionate size of progression should always be the same (or similar). I.e very small. This is why micro plates are so useful! They allow consistent micro overloads, stimulating an adaptation time and time again without over-doing it, and allowing your body to adapt sooner.
You may ask why this is such a bad thing. The answer is; the sooner your body adapts to a given stress, the less time you have available in the future for continual progression. Otherwise, if we continually smacked 5% weight increases on the bar, and our bodies continued to adapt and never hit a limit, we would all be the size of Ronnie.
The more time you can spend making gains (and not stalling because you’ve hit a wall), the bigger and stronger you will get in the long run. You will also be a lot happier, and less frustrated, trust me!
Also as a side note: Yes you’re capable of progressing faster than the suggestions below in the short term, but we’re talking long term sustainability in a small calorie surplus. Getting fat and increasing your bodyweight at a faster rate than the weight on the bar is a completely different ball game!
Some general guidelines (as everyone’s genetic capabilities will vary):
Beginners, as always, will be having the most fun with this. It is perfectly reasonable to expect a beginner to be able to progress every workout. Again, these progressions in any of the above 5 areas should be kept very small to allow for sustainable progress. You may be able to tell that I’m rather envious of newbies! 😉
After the first 6 months of training at the upper beginner level, for a lot of people this will probably need to decrease to every other workout, or once per week.
Intermediates who have been training for longer than a year will need to progress either once per week or potentially once every other week. Especially after 2 years or more of training.
Advanced trainers it gets a lot more complicated, so we’ll leave that for another day! 🙂