Why Progressive Overload Is Key To Improving Your Fitness

February 17, 2021

According to CA personal trainer Titus Montellano, progressive overload is one of the most overlooked training skills for reaching your fitness potential.

Don’t worry: The term “progressive overload” sounds more intimidating than it is! This concept simply means doing more work over time to see continual gains and improvements. It’s the process of gradually increasing the stress you put on your body to challenge your muscles. 

The result? Improved performance and strength and the decreased likelihood of falling into a fitness rut or plateau. 

“No matter what your goals are or what type of training you do, progressive overload helps you advance and reach that next level,” says Montellano. 

Titus Montellano profile image

CA trainer Titus Montellano


Progressive overload 101

It might sound obvious that you need to push yourself harder to see gains, yet many of us find ourselves repeating the same workouts over and over. To make a change, Montellano strongly recommends keeping a fitness journal or log to record the workouts you’re doing.

This is the best way to track your progress and apply the principle of progressive overload to your regimen. After all, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. Take note of the workouts you’re doing and also how you feel afterwards.

Montellano uses progressive overload for each and every one of his training clients. There’s no “one right way” to apply this concept, and it’s totally individualized to your own personal capacity and goals. No matter what, however, proper form should be your top priority.

“Without proper form, progressive overload is not only pointless, but harmful to your body in the short term and long term,” says Montellano. “For example, say you’re excessively swinging your body during bicep curls. This will not only take the stimulus off of your arms that you’re trying to target, but also place unneeded stress and compression on the spine.”

It’s also essential to remember that progressive overload is not linear, because things are always changing at different paces. 

“It’s a patient process,” says Montellano. “If you’re working on squats and each week you move up five pounds, that does not mean every week you will move up five pounds. You can get sick, may be in a caloric deficit or you might have had a stressful week with little sleep. There are many external factors that come into play each week.”

So while progress comes in waves, what matters is that you will be stronger and fitter over the long haul when you consistently embrace progressive overload.


How to apply this principle

Aside from reps and load, there are tons of ways you can achieve progressive overload. 

You can consider increasing/altering intensity, sets, frequency, range of motion, time under tension, angles of lifts, types of resistance and rest periods.

If you’re super new to exercise, remember that working on improving your form is progress, so stick with that goal at first. Once you master form, you’ll most likely make fairly dramatic gains as a newbie, which is always exciting. Alternately, no matter how long you’ve been lifting, running or whatever it is that you do, there are always ways to use a varied type of progressive overload.

“For several years, I’ve witnessed countless people working out aimlessly with no true goals to track all activity. But when this method is applied, I have found that every client I have taught this principle to they are excited to see there progressive results which is super motivating to them,” says Montellano. “I have been using progressive overload for over 10 years. To this day, I have never ran out of creative ways to apply it! The possibilities are endless.”


CA’s personal trainers are here for you

If you’d like to learn more about how to maximize your fitness regimen, CA’s 30+ skilled personal trainers are ready to help.

Enlisting the help of a personal trainer is a great way to launch a fitness regimen that’s safe and effective for your needs. At CA, we offer both in-person and virtual personal training options. Learn more on our website.

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