Progressive Resistance


Definition: This is a strength training method in which the overload is constantly increased to facilitate adaptation. Progressive resistance is essential for building muscle, losing weight and getting stronger. The body adapts to exercise and needs to be constantly challenged in order to continue to grow and change. Doing the same thing day after day puts you at risk for a weight loss plateau, that frustrating time when your weight loss starts to stall.

There are many ways to achieve progressive resistance:

  • Increase the weight you're lifting. Do the same number of reps and sets each week, but increase your weight.
  • Increase the number of reps. Use the same weight for each workout, but increase the reps each week.
  • Decrease the number of reps
  • Increase the number of sets.  A typical weight training workout for people with the goal to lose weight will involve about 2-4 sets of each exercise.  If you're a beginner, one set may be enough to build strength and endurance but, as you get stronger, you'll want to eventually work your way up to 2-4 sets, resting about 20-60 seconds, depending on how heavy you're lifting.
  • Shorten the rest between the sets.  If you're doing straight sets, e.g. three sets of squats or three sets of pushups, you'll typically have a rest of about 10-60 seconds between sets. One way to challenge your body and increase intensity is to shorten the rest between sets.  If your form starts to suffer, increase the rest period or drop a little weight.
  • Lengthen the time under tension - or how long your muscle fibers are under stress. Use the same weight and reps, but slow down the exercise. For example, 1 count to lift the weight, 3 counts to lower the weight.

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