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How to ensure you don’t overload while exercising!

16/12/2019 by Pivotal Motion

Progressing overload training

Progressive overload is one of the key principles when it comes to exercise and rehabilitation. The principle infers a challenge must be present in order for adaptation to occur. This is of particular importance to a physio’s as their role is often centred around strengthening and stabilizing previously injured body parts. This can’t occur without progressive overload as the physio needs to continually challenge the patient and ensure the tissue changes, preventing the injury from occurring again. Continue reading to learn more about progressive overload training.

A great illustration of this principle comes from the Greek philosopher Aristotle and his story of Milo of Croton. As a child, Milo would carry a calf on his shoulders, which over time would grow and increase in weight, subsequently increasing the stress placed on Milo. This increase in stress was matched by the progressive increase in strength of Milo, as each day the calf was only marginally heavier. As Milo entered adulthood, he was capable of carrying a full-grown cow on his shoulders. This gradual, continuous increase in stress allowed Milo to continue to develop his strength. Although in practice, progressive overload is not linear and there becomes a point of diminishing returns (less bang for your buck), the story of Milo underpins the principle of progressive overload nicely. As there is a gradual increase in stress on the body, it responds to be able to withstand more stress, and therefore to continue to progress, the stress must also increase gradually.

There’s no doubting that selection is extremely important when it comes to a progressive overload training program. If there is not enough of a challenge present in the program, there will simply be no change as the stimulus (the training) has failed to establish worthwhile adaptations. The opposite also presents a problem, if the challenge greatly exceeds the capacity of the individual, not only will they not progress, but they drastically increase the likelihood of injury.

This is where a physio can help guide and tailor training programs to ensure that the changes made are not only safe but will still challenge the individual in establishing positive adaptations in the body.

There are multiple ways to progressively overload an exercise or training program. This can be done by increasing weight or load, increasing the volume of the exercise (how many sets and reps you do), the motor control of the task or even decreasing the amount of time taken between sets. These are all factors that your physio can help monitor and change in accordance with the goals of the patient to maximize their recovery time and optimize performance.

If you would like to learn more about sedentary behaviour, or how best to limit it, come and discuss it with our team at Pivotal Motion Physiotherapy. With a wealth of knowledge and a friendly smile, we will happily get you back on track.

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