Progressive Overload

Raising the Bar ( How Much?)

At some point, after getting started lifting, everyone wonders when to up the ante. After all, we aren’t going through the motions for the sake of it – we want results. For those looking to build solid, lean muscle learning when to add weight is key for muscle hypertrophy. (Growth)


Sensei Says 

Building muscle requires a combination of variables, all fine-tuned and adapted to each of our metabolisms and body types, based around specific goals. Proper diet and nutrition, intervals, workout splits, and rest days, just to name a few. If I had to pick two of these to live by they would be a. protein intake b. progressive overload. For those who may question my choices, protein for the obvious – our bodies require it, and progressive overload because without providing constant tension, the muscles simply will not grow.

I remember the days when, after spending serious time in the gym and giving it my all, pushing out those last few reps and feeling proud of myself – someone would inevitably walk in and warm up with the weight I had just pushed that last set out with. Ego check.


Check Your Ego At The Door

Forget the weekend warrior who tells you to, “go big or go home.” You, my friend, want actual results. Go bigger, but do it smartly.

Slow and steady wins the race.

NASM defines progressive overload as: “The Principle of Overload is that in order for a tissue (bone, tendon, ligament, etc.) to adapt to a demand, it must be progressively overloaded.) Sounds simple enough, right. Not really. The body has an amazing ability to adapt to what ever it is we are doing to it. Perhaps you have noticed those at the gym who seem to go through the same routines week after week. I make it a habit not to criticize others, especially when it comes to gym time – they are there and that speaks volumes. After all, “A little progress everyday adds up to big results.” At some point though, we want the muscles to grow.

So When Do I Add More Weight?!

Conventional training advice, which I still adhere to, recommends dding ten pounds to your working set once you can comfortably perform three sets. Three sets of ten repetitions with excellent that is. No jerking swinging, or yanking the weight. Now lets expand on that.

As we work out we make tiny tears in the muscle fibers. (micro-tears) Those tears heal themselves and the muscles grow.


Gaining Muscle

The pumped look you get after a workout is one thing.  That’s  blood rushing to the muscle. That will go away. Dem tears tho, their another thing. When they heal they build new ones. And abracadabra, muscle.


Giving the muscle a significant amount of time to adapt and then adding more weight is key for achieving results. Start small. Start with a 4 – 6 week plan. OR, when you can easily perform 3 sets of 10 reps with near perfect form then up the weight by 10lbs.

And remember,

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying breaks everyday”

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“You must do the things you think you cannot do” – Eleanor Roosevelt



We’ve all done it. Scoured fitness websites, magazines, and the like for the perfect routine that will give us “Monster traps in 6 weeks!”  There is useful information in those articles. Plus, many of those insanely ripped, shredded fitness models are really motivational. The symmetry, the definition, and those freakin’ monster traps.

More often, what they inevitability fail to detail, or what the average Joe and Jane does not take into account is: A. Their own genetic disposition B. Diet C. Why 10 – 12 reps? D. All of the above.

If I were to pick one of the most important steps that can help take someone from just going through the stack slamming motions to achieving a ticket on the gains train:


Related Articles

We are all different. That’s what helps make the world go round. For most of us non fitness model, common folk just trying to build as much lean muscle as possible, it boils down to two (2) basic areas.

Fat Loss

Building Muscle

Broscience aside, there is such a thing called conventional wisdom. It is called this because over time, study, and a heckuva lot of shrugs, certain methods have been shown to be extremely effective time and again. No PhD. here, just lots of OJT. This article and the series to follow is meant to be an overview of all you really need to create a plan, expand on it, and:

Getting Started

Dedicate a certain amount of time each week to your plan – and stick to it. For maximum optimization I suggest three (3) times a week. If you can only start with two (2) it’s okay. I also recommend 75 minutes each session. 2 3 hours a week?  You’ve got the time.

“There are three types of baseball players: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happens” Tommy Lasorda

Know Thyself

Know your natural body type Are you a Meso? Excuse me? This is crucial to know right out of the gate for several reasons. For now, take a good look in the mirror. Know what your strong points are, as well what needs to be developed more. Maybe you have natural brotraps but need to work on the chest more.

Take a focused approach. The three (3) basic types:

  • Ectomorph thin, naturally lean, harder time putting on mass and size


  • Mesomorph naturally defined, athletic


  • Endomorph portly, high body fat, stout

Know some basic lingo A 101 type of approach is really all you need. Over analyzing anything can cause frustration. At the bottom of this article is a checklist ✔ as well as a glossary of terminology you’ll want to become acquainted with. It’s not an encyclopedia – just the basics.

Warm up Always have some sort of a warm up period. Dynamic stretches, a few minutes of cardio, it’s always good to get the blood going as opposed to just relying on preworkout.

Pick a muscle group  Unless your session for the day is an all over body workout, avoid aimlessly going from one rando move to the next. I am a huge advocate of the “Push/Pull” theory, or working opposing muscle groups after each other.

  • Monday Back/Biceps (Muscles used in “Pulling)


  • Tuesday – Off


  • Wednesday -Chest/Triceps (Muscles used in “Pushing”)

Start your workout split with a muscle group that’s lagging and that needs the most work. Build from there.

Strategy The real meat and potatoes here. Why 8 – 10 reps? Hypertrophy, or muscle growth stems from stimulation to the slow-twitch or fast- twitch muscle fibers. So what the hell do I use?

10, 10, 10? 

10 – 12,

12, 10, 10,

12, 10, 10, 8…..and on and on and on.

The most frequent question I get to date is how to build size. Therefore, variations ranging between 8 – 10 reps have been shown to be effective in building muscle. Why? Simply put, using heavier weight in this range gives a good pump utilizing more fast-twitch fibers.

5 x 5 ?

Five sets of five repetitions is a tried and true, old school technique for packing on size. Typically reserved for compound movement such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, this method really fires up the fast-twitch muscle fibers. Think bodybuilders with MONSTER quads. They are staying in the 3 – 5 rep range. You need spotters, you need experience. You need a few things.


A general rule: Start with a lower weight and focus on form. Who cares what the people around you are lifting. Focus on you. Rest periods in between these sets are longer as you are utilizing more muscle groups and heavier weight.

Drop Sets

Pulling yet another old school technique out of the old hat (that works) these beasties are excellent for building muscle. What is it? A “drop” means starting at a higher weight, doing as many reps as you can, lowering the weight, doing as many years reps as you can, and repeating the process for a third time. That’s one (1) set.

Space your sessions with enough rest in between. A traditional approach would be: 24 – 48 hours between muscle groups. Aim for this.


JwillTrain’s Checklist 

Desire to Build

Set Goals ✔

Commitment ✔

Towel to wipe the sweat ✔

Dedication ✔

Keep it Simple. Keep it Real.

Know your body type ✔


Split Your training schedule/routine

Isolation Exercises that are intended to target one specific muscle group i.e. Triceps

Compound Exercises in which multiple muscle groups are worked at the same time. i.e. Deadlifts and Squats

Hypertrophy Muscle growth

Progressive Overload Adding more weight but knowing when to do it.

Rest Periods The time taken off in between each set.

Sets The amount of repetitions being performed.

Taking this all under your belt your ready to get started.

Part II


“So you wanna get shredded?”


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