How To: Progress Your Strength Workouts

There are three important principles of training that I consider when planning strength workouts.

  1. Is it getting harder over time? This is the principle of progressive overload.
  2. Will it move the person towards their goal? This is specificity.
  3. Am I allowing adequate recovery for adaptation to take place? This is the principle of recovery; and it’s a balancing act as giving too much leads to reversibility (when you lose your gains).

In this blog I offer several ways to apply the principle of progressive overload to strength training. 

These all fall under one of the FITT principles: 

Frequency – how often

Intensity – how hard

Time – how long

Type – what exercise

Seven ways to progress your strength workouts:

  1. Increase range. Moving through a greater distance; increasing your range of movement (ROM) will increase the intensity of the exercise.
  2. Increase work time. Maybe you’ve been working in 30 second intervals; push it to 40 seconds.
  3. Decrease recovery time. Reducing the time between working sets means you’ll work harder, increasing the intensity. 
  4. Increase sets/reps. Changing up the number or sets and/or reps increases the time your muscles are under tension.
  5. Increase load (resistance). Adding weight will make an exercise harder whether it’s a barbell squat or a prowler. You can use weight plates, resistance bands, dumbbells or kettlebells to achieve this.
  6. Increase time under tension. Add pauses, ¼ reps or slow down the tempo to increase the amount of work your muscles are doing.
  7. Move more explosively. Lifting or moving with greater acceleration increases the intensity of an exercise.

Before you get started; there are a few things to consider. 

Only progress if you have good form and ROM in the exercise. Adding load when you’re not ready will more than likely lead to poor form and reduced ROM, negating the effects of the extra weight.

Pick one at a time. To be effective, strength training should be well-planned and utilise one or maybe two of the above options per training block as a means to apply progressive overload.

A PB only counts if it’s performed with the same range. Lifting more but over a shorter distance isn’t a PB.

Progress isn’t linear. Be patient; and take recovery (deload) weeks when appropriate (every 4-6 weeks). You may not progress every session, instead aim for sustained progress over a six-month period.

About Me

I help runners build stronger, less injury prone bodies so they can increase mileage and speed safely. If you’re interested in introducing strength training to your plan then check out my Run Strong membership. Click here for more information.

If you’re heading back to the gym post-lockdown and would like some support with your strength training I can help. I provide gym programmes, tailored to your goals and and ability. Click here to send me an email and start the conversation.

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