The biggest secret to getting results from training is not actually a secret at all, as a matter of fact, it’s the most basic principle of training, BUT a lot of people tend to get it wrong.

If you’re someone who comes to the gym multiple times each week, diligently working through your weights program and you’re sitting there scratching your head wondering why you’re not getting any stronger, pay attention.

If you’re also the type who, when asked by the coach, has no idea what weights they lifted last week, pay even more attention, at least 10 times more attention that you are to your weights (OH, SNAP).

Now that I’ve captured your curiosity friend, in the interest of helping you edge closer to achieving all of your wildest fitness dreams, I’m going to divulge this most excellent training non-secret...

While you might have a fat stack of goals that you want to achieve from your training, whether it’s getting stronger, getting fitter or changing your body composition (or all of them!), your body only has one goal: keep this bitch alive.

How does the body do this?

By making sure all of your bits and pieces are functioning as optimally as possible, by giving you signals when it needs something like food, water, or sleep and by continually assessing it’s environment and adapting as necessary.

Basically, without any conscious effort on your part, your body is working 24 hours non stop to keep everything in a constant state of balance.

Pretty freakin’ awesome.

How does this help us get results though?

Knowing that survival is your body’s one goal and that it will adapt as necessary, we can now take advantage of this by tricking your body into thinking it’s in danger and manipulate its response, essentially.

This is called progressive overload.

Every time you come into the gym and train, you’re providing a stimulus to your body. If that stimulus is intense enough, it will trigger the body’s natural response to adapt to its new demands of being able to lift heavier weights than what it just experienced, the next time you train.

Conversely, if you come into the gym and only ever lift weights that feel comfortable, if you never increase the weights you’re lifting or your reps, your body will not feel the need to adapt and you simply won’t get stronger or put on muscle mass, your body will only maintain its current state.

How do we make sure we are progressively overloading our body?

1. Increasing intensity in each session

You can increase the intensity of your training in many different ways:

  • By increasing the load (amount of weight being lifted)

  • The volume (number of sets or reps in the set)

  • The tempo of the movement (going slower on the eccentric portion of the movement or adding a pause)

  • The distance travelled (range of motion)

  • Or by decreasing the rest between sets

2. Pay attention

Focus on how the movement feels as you’re doing it and keep notes about your sessions. If you don’t record what weights you’re lifting and the number of sets and reps, and if you don’t pay attention to how challenging the movement feels, you won’t know whether you’re actually increasing the intensity at all.

For example, if you don’t know how much weight you lifted last week for 8 reps, how will you know if what you are lifting for 8 reps this week is heavier?

3. Move well

For progressive overload to be effective, you need to make sure that you are using correct technique and using the same standards every time you lift.

If you’ve increased the weight on your squat but you haven’t hit the same depth, or if you increase the weight on your deadlift but you can’t finish the lockout, you’re not getting stronger, you’re just decreasing the difficulty of the lift.

Final takeaway:

A huge variety of factors will affect your training ability on any given day, and you’re not going to be able to increase your performance at every single session, BUT the only way you’ll see results from your training is if you continually increase the intensity of your workouts, as often as you can.

I’ve used strength training as an example here but the progressive overload principle applies no matter what your training goals are.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you!

Jade X

Melanie Corlett