Progressive overload must be applied to each and every trainees program in order for adaptations to occur. This principle states that there must be a gradual increase in the demand of a particular bout of exercise in order for continued increases in strength or fitness. This is one of the most fundamental principles in strength training and conditioning. For novice trainees, applying a brand new stimulus (aka strength training) may induce some muscle soreness. This soreness is normal and is caused by tiny micro-tears to the muscle fibers. As a result of this, the muscle adapts by rebuilding itself a little bit bigger and little bit stronger.
The application of this principle could be as simple as this; if last week, you did a set of push ups and got 10 repetitions, this week try and go for 11 repetitions. This applies not only to strength training but also to any type of cardiovascular exercise as well. If last week you ran 1 mile in ten minutes, this week run 1mile in nine minutes and thirty seconds or cover more distance in that 10 minutes. Always strive to do just a little bit better than you have done previously. Small progressions are the key to continued success in any type of training endeavor.
This will probably disappoint those trainees who have not made a shred of progress in the gym in the last 20 or 30 years. You know who I am talking about; the guy who has come to the gym every Monday for the past 5 years and done 3 sets of 10 reps on the bench press with 135 lbs when he could probably do 3 sets of 30 reps. I mean think about it…does it really make sense to do the same thing day after day, week after week and year after year? This is also why the lady on the treadmill, who has been walking 3mph for 30 minutes 3 x/week just like her doctor said, has not lost a pound in the last decade. Initially, the 30 minute walk at 3mph may have been enough to elicit an adaptation. However, years later, that particular stimulus is no longer enough of an overload on her body. (Just as a side note, walking is a primitive form of locomotion. It is how man was intended to get around. For anyone to say that there main exercise is walking is just plain sad. Ok, enough ranting.)
Every subject in school is progressive. Each grade builds upon the previous to ensure continued success. In mathematics, you start with addition and subtraction and progress to multiplication and division. In English, you learn vocabulary before you begin to form sentences. Strength training and conditioning is the same way.
Remember this…if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got. Small progressions are the key. Now get out there and work a little bit harder.