Progressive Overload, I got SWOLE.

Are you just getting back into fitness or want to know more? There are so many great resources, but they can be hard to find. They are often buried beneath all the sparkly, glamorous clickbait followed by hard to understand language and science.

First, anything that makes you work harder is progressive overload. Whether you increase weight, reps, sets, change speed/tempo, elevation, change the exercise’s difficulty, change the number of limbs you are using, change how you are balanced… there are so many ways to progress. Fitness programs or a sequence to the progressions make it simple when you want to ensure you are progressing safely and consistently.

Don’t underestimate that challenge of high reps and many sets, but if you’re into quick workouts and getting the most bang for your buck, lift heavy with low sets and reps – but this means HEAVY. Don’t be a pussy and get the job done right; otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.

I mentioned once, my current programming is through, and I have experienced one of the best exercise days of my life at the start of the program.

When I started, I started from the very, very bottom. I thought I was in terrible shape (I was not). I have some mobility deficiencies, and I am far weaker in my upper body than my lower body (as per the progression sequencing).

I ended up spending a Saturday doing all 18 of the 3-minute videos of “Fundamentals.” I found the strict bear crawl and the inchworm to be the movements to watch for gauging my mobility progress.

So I moved on to foundations level 1, which I also too easy. I was wasting my time. They suggest that you slowly move through the program to find and rehab or strength weaknesses, but I work out pretty regularly and felt like I was wasting time and money at the pace I would be moving through the program. So I took a look at the progressions, sets and reps and took a guess at where I should start.

…Drum roll… I did pretty well – I got SWOLE. Even R. noticed I looked jacked. Fuckin’ proud. Example: I started at the final stage of inline push up 5 sets of 15 reps. I thought it would be a breeze, but it just felt good! I felt engaged like I was fatiguing at the end of the cycle, and by the time 5 sets were done, my arms, shoulders and back were lit.

Honestly, though, I thought it wasn’t going to be enough. Just goes to show ya. I learnt a valuable lesson about how easy and beneath me I went in thinking INCLINE pushups were going to be. The next progression was 3 sets of 3 full body on the floor pushups (I did those well), then 4 sets of 3, done. I am eventually going to plateau a bit. And to get over the plateau, I am going to do a couple of tests. I want to see how well I do 5 sets of 15 again. I will try to do as many as I can in a row with good form. I will raise my feet. I will do them on the rings. I will do versions tougher than the level I am at, at low, low sets and reps to trick my muscles into evolution.

I think people confuse fitness for fun. I do like it. But there are times I don’t; I go through cycles. I see fitness as a chore; I brush my teeth, have a shower, do the dishes, go for a run and lift some weights.

You need to train your body to do what you want it to do. You get better by progressively making it harder. Yes, working out is hard. It’s supposed to be. If you didn’t push, your muscles wouldn’t need to grow – or even maintain. Muscle is heavy to lug around; your body isn’t interested in lugging around more than you need.

So if you want to get better, faster, stronger, more independent, you need to progressively overload your body and teach it to work for you well.

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