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

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

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

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 following, you’d discover that there’s one constructing block you could 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 methods over time to create and maintain physiological variations from resistance coaching. 

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

This text outlines 5 methods you may maintain 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, typically, your consumer would have the ability 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 entails a whopping 50% leap in load.

There’s no method your consumer would have the ability 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 may know it is time to (lastly) improve the load when your consumer can carry out wherever between 15 to twenty reps—with nothing lower than good kind—on all their working units. 

Program Shorter Relaxation Durations

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

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

There’s an necessary disclaimer right here, although.

Don’t be over-enthusiastic about decreasing your consumer’s relaxation instances. Doing so can damage their general coaching quantity—since they’d be combating a excessive stage of collected 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 instances by?

That depends on the type of exercises they’re doing. Right here’s a common guideline that will help you determine:

  • Single-joint workouts: 2 minutes
  • Compound workouts: No less than 3 minutes

Basically, you may afford to be a bit extra “beneficiant” along with your consumer’s relaxation durations on compound actions. Whereas extreme fatigue and the ensuing form-breakdown are unlikely to trigger severe 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 notably 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 underneath management—which will increase time underneath pressure (TUT).

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

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

There’s usually no have to have your consumer carry out any part 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 in a position to 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 without doubt one of the best methods to assist your consumer progressively overload with out including weight.

For 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 simply 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 in a position to—on the very least—hit a 90-degree bend of their knees on the backside place.

So, as an alternative of solely shifting the load 40 cm, they’ve now elevated the “efficient working distance” to 50 cm on the machine. And that is basically progressive overloading: getting your consumer’s muscle tissue 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 example, 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 At the same time as Your Shopper Loses Weight

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

Right here’s one thing price 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 arduous 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 may 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 in a position to squat 220 kilos. After three months in your exercise plan, their lean mass now is available in at 77 kilos as an alternative. And guess what?

They’re nonetheless in a position to 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 method to consider it will 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 tissue need to work tougher now!


As you may see, there are a lot of methods to attain progressive overload with out rising weights.

That’s why it’s so necessary to adopt a holistic view of your client’s training—doing so lets you determine on probably the most appropriate method that’ll get your consumer the outcomes they’re looking for.

Simply keep 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 tissue only for the sake of it. You’d be dishonest your self, shortchanging your consumer, and, worse, placing them at elevated threat of accidents.  


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