Am I exercising enough each week? What are the best exercises to do? What weights should I be lifting? Are my exercise sessions long enough?
These are questions that are often asked, and are part of the reason many people may choose to be guided by a Personal Trainer or a group exercise class.
The question of ‘enough’ relates to one of the most important principles of fitness and exercise; Progressive Overload.
Progressive Overload means that the body must continually be challenged in order to keep changing. The body will adapt only to the level of challenge that you give it. Once achieved, the stimulus must increase in order to improve.
This means that even if an exercise routine was ‘enough’ when you started it, once your body has adapted to it, it will no longer have the same effect. 12 weeks, 6 months or even years down the line, if you’re still doing exactly the same thing, you may no longer be seeing progress. Something must be added, or varied.
So how do you progress your exercises?
Some examples include:
- Increasing the amount of weight that you are lifting (if using external load such as dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells)
- Increasing the amount of repetitions or sets (volume)
- Increasing the duration of your exercise (e.g. 40 minute run instead of 20 minute)
- Adapting the speed (both slowing down and speeding up exercise can make it harder OR easier depending on what movement you’re doing and what you want to achieve)
- Adding complexity to the movement
Remember that progressive overload isn’t just about muscle strength or building muscle mass (although this is where it is traditionally used). Progressive overload is also important for other health and movement related goals such as mobility, muscle power, gait, motor control or proprioception.
So if you’re starting to get frustrated that you’re no longer seeing the benefits of your exercise program, maybe it’s time to think about adding something new or something more into your fitness routine. If your workout feels easy, boring or bland – it probably isn’t enough!