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5 Methods to Program Progressive Overload for Purchasers with out Including Weight

The method of designing a consumer’s health program can really feel slightly like constructing with Legos.

Each brick you finally determine so as to add to the challenge must account to your consumer’s occupation, distinctive life-style points, present health degree, and even particular person preferences and tendencies when figuring out, amongst different elements.

That’s why each consumer’s “completed constructing challenge” (i.e., customized training plan) is exclusive.

However regardless of how completely different a consumer could also be from the subsequent, you’d discover that there’s one constructing block it’s essential to use—no exceptions.

Have you learnt what that’s?

It’s progressive overload. In different phrases, the strength and conditioning principle that states we have to improve the calls for on the neuromuscular techniques over time to create and maintain physiological diversifications from resistance coaching. 

And opposite to widespread perception, progressive overload isn’t nearly including weights.

This text outlines 5 methods you may preserve your purchasers progressing—with out resorting to heavier dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells. 


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Have Your Shopper Carry out Extra Reps

Let’s say your consumer is deadlifting 235 kilos. Including 22 kilos to the barbell is only a 9% improve in weight—and, generally, your consumer would be capable to deal with the load.

Nonetheless, with regards to isolation workouts (e.g., bicep curls, triceps pushdowns, lateral raises), implementing the identical diploma of improve is not possible. Having your consumer go from 10- to 15-pound dumbbells on these includes a whopping 50% soar in load.

There’s no manner your consumer would be capable to carry out the train with correct kind and method. If in any respect.

So, how do you get your consumer to progressive overload on this case?

Ask them to get one other rep (or two) with the identical load. For instance, say your consumer is performing the dumbbell lateral raises with 10 kilos for 10 reps. As an alternative of handing over a heavier dumbbell the next week, get them to carry out 12 reps with the 10-pound weights.

You will know it is time to (lastly) improve the load when your consumer can carry out anyplace between 15 to twenty reps—with nothing lower than excellent kind—on all their working units. 

Program Shorter Relaxation Intervals

Get your consumer to work tougher throughout their classes by reducing down on their inter-set relaxation durations.

This forces your consumer’s muscle groups to work “extra time,” considerably growing metabolic stress—one of three key contributing factors to muscle hypertrophy (the opposite two being mechanical rigidity and muscle harm).

There’s an essential disclaimer right here, although.

Don’t be over-enthusiastic about lowering your consumer’s relaxation occasions. Doing so can harm their general coaching quantity—since they’d be battling a excessive degree of accrued fatigue throughout their working units—and make them worry turning up for his or her classes!

However this begs the query: Simply how a lot can you chop your consumer’s relaxation occasions by?

That depends on the type of exercises they’re doing. Right here’s a basic guideline that can assist you determine:

  • Single-joint workouts: 2 minutes
  • Compound workouts: A minimum of 3 minutes

Generally, you may afford to be slightly extra “beneficiant” together with your consumer’s relaxation durations on compound actions. Whereas extreme fatigue and the ensuing form-breakdown are unlikely to trigger critical accidents on the lateral raises, the identical can’t be mentioned for deadlifts or squats.

Change Up Your Shopper’s Train Tempo

Get your consumer to raise to a hard and fast tempo.

That is significantly helpful for purchasers who like to “cheat” and bounce out of the underside positions of their lifts (e.g., squats and bench press) as a result of tempo coaching is all about shifting slowly and beneath management—which will increase time beneath rigidity (TUT).

TUT refers back to the period of time a working muscle is held beneath rigidity throughout an train set.

In different phrases, growing your consumer’s TUT raises the demands you’re placing on their muscles. And that’s primarily the crux of progressive overload. As soon as once more, although, don’t take this technique of progressive overload to the acute.

There’s sometimes no must have your consumer carry out any section of any motion for greater than 10 seconds.

Along with being an unpleasant experience overall, having your consumer decrease themselves for 12 seconds on a pull-up solely hurts their coaching quantity and reduces the effectiveness of their exercises (in the event that they’re even capable of do it within the first place).

Enhance Your Shopper’s Vary of Movement

Take note of how your consumer is performing every train. Are they struggling to hit a full vary of movement (ROM)?

If they’re, then bettering your consumer’s ROM is among the best methods to assist your consumer progressively overload with out including weight.

As an example, let’s assume your consumer can not go deep sufficient (i.e., greater than a 90-degree bend within the knees) on the leg press due to overly tight hip flexors and restricted ankle mobility.

They’re solely shifting the load, say, 40 cm on the leg press machine.

Now, think about that you just then have your consumer stretch out their hip flexors (with one thing just like the lunge stretch) and work on their ankle mobility (with one thing just like the knee-to-wall drill or weighted ankle stretch). 

What occurs? Because of improved mobility, they’re capable of—on the very least—hit a 90-degree bend of their knees on the backside place.

So, as a substitute of solely shifting the load 40 cm, they’ve now elevated the “efficient working distance” to 50 cm on the machine. And that is primarily progressive overloading: getting your consumer’s muscle groups to work tougher over time.

Additionally, typically, all of your consumer wants is a cue to make use of a full vary of movement on their actions.

As an illustration, with an train like bicep curls, you may say one thing like, “Ensure you decrease the dumbbells again to the beginning place earlier than beginning on one other rep.” 

Keep Coaching Quantity Whilst Your Shopper Loses Weight

In case your consumer has been sticking to the weight loss workout plan you’ve created, likelihood is they’ve misplaced weight. Congratulations!

Right here’s one thing value remembering in regards to the course of: When your consumer loses weight, they’d inevitably lose a proportion of muscle mass along with fat—even when they’re nonetheless coaching onerous and keeping their protein intake high.

Do you know that having your consumer carry out their exercises with the identical workouts, together with units and rep ranges, now will also be thought-about progressive overload?

Let’s assume that your consumer had a lean mass of 88 kilos after they began coaching with you. They have been capable of squat 220 kilos. After three months in your exercise plan, their lean mass now is available in at 77 kilos as a substitute. And guess what?

They’re nonetheless capable of squat 220 kilos for a similar variety of units and reps as earlier than.

However wait. How’s that progressive overload? It is all received to do with relativity. A easy manner to consider it might be with the “load lifted to lean mass ratio.” Let’s calculate the ratios collectively:

  •  Earlier than your consumer misplaced weight: 220/88 = 2.5
  • After your consumer misplaced weight: 220/77 = 2.86

There you have got it: As a result of there’s much less lean muscle mass to “shoulder the burden,” your consumer’s muscle groups must work tougher now!


As you may see, there are various methods to attain progressive overload with out growing weights.

That’s why it’s so essential to adopt a holistic view of your client’s training—doing so lets you determine on essentially the most appropriate strategy that’ll get your consumer the outcomes they’re trying to find.

Simply bear in mind this: Progressive overload (with or with out extra weights) ought to solely be achieved on the inspiration of correct lifting kind and good method.

There’s little level in putting extra calls for in your consumer’s muscle groups only for the sake of it. You’d be dishonest your self, shortchanging your consumer, and, worse, placing them at elevated danger of accidents.  


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