Your body wants to spend the least amount of energy to do any task and will adapt to whatever exercise program you do. Once your body adapts, your results plateu and you stop making progress. This is fine if you just want to maintain your current level of fitness, but if your goal is to lose fat, build muscle, or improve your fitness level you will have to change your program. This seems pretty straight forward but it’s amazing how many people I see who do the same thing every time I see them in the gym.
There are many ways to change up a program but I want to introduce you to the Overload Principle. The Overload Principle is the most fundamental principle important to getting results from your exercise program. Whether you want to look better, get stronger or rehab an injury you must progressively overload to keep from hitting a plateau. Here are 2 simple ways to utilize the overload principle in your exercise program:
1. Increase the Resistance
This just means lifting more weight. Lifting heavier dumbbells, wearing a weighted vest for body-weight exercises, increasing the incline on a treadmill, increasing the resistance on a bike or elliptical machine, and using heavier resistance exercise bands are all examples of increasing the resistance to get better results. You don’t even have to increase by much, even making small increases over time will help you get better results. Try it!
2. Increasing the Volume
In other words: Do More Work! The two ideas here are to 1) Do more work in the same amount of time or 2) Increase your workout time. I’m really only a fan of the first one. Doing more work in the same amount of time by increasing your repetition speed or reducing your rest time is the way to go here. Working out for 90 minutes instead of 60 is usually a bad idea. Working out for a longer amount of time raises cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. Back when I first started working out in high school, I used to do epic 3-hour workouts. Many people might think you would get into great shape by doing this. My results? I stayed scrawny and hardly changed at all!
The idea of the Overload Principle seems very simple but it’s amazing how many people don’t apply it. I see doing the same workouts year after year and they look the same year after year. This is especially true with people who mostly use the cardio machines. Next time you go to the gym, try lifting a little more weight, adding a little incline or resistance to your cardio machine, and try to get more done in the same amount of time. Try it and let me know how it works!