5 Methods to Program Progressive Overload for Shoppers with out Including Weight


The method of designing a consumer’s health program can really feel somewhat like constructing with Legos.

Each brick you ultimately resolve so as to add to the undertaking must account in your consumer’s occupation, distinctive life-style points, present health degree, and even particular person preferences and tendencies when figuring out, amongst different components.

That’s why each consumer’s “completed constructing undertaking” (i.e., custom-made coaching plan) is exclusive.

However regardless of how completely different a consumer could also be from the subsequent, you’d discover that there’s one constructing block you need to use—no exceptions.

Are you aware what that’s?

It’s progressive overload. In different phrases, the energy and conditioning precept that states we have to improve the calls for on the neuromuscular methods over time to create and maintain physiological diversifications from resistance coaching. 

And opposite to standard perception, progressive overload isn’t nearly including weights.

This text outlines 5 methods you’ll be able to maintain your purchasers progressing—with out resorting to heavier dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells. 


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Have Your Shopper Carry out Extra Reps

Let’s say your consumer is deadlifting 235 kilos. Including 22 kilos to the barbell is only a 9% improve in weight—and, typically, your consumer would have the ability to deal with the load.

Nevertheless, in relation to isolation workout routines (e.g., bicep curls, triceps pushdowns, lateral raises), implementing the identical diploma of improve is not possible. Having your consumer go from 10- to 15-pound dumbbells on these includes a whopping 50% bounce in load.

There’s no method your consumer would have the ability to carry out the train with correct kind and method. If in any respect.

So, how do you get your consumer to progressive overload on this case?

Ask them to get one other rep (or two) with the identical load. For instance, say your consumer is performing the dumbbell lateral raises with 10 kilos for 10 reps. As an alternative of handing over a heavier dumbbell the next week, get them to carry out 12 reps with the 10-pound weights.

You will know it is time to (lastly) improve the load when your consumer can carry out wherever between 15 to twenty reps—with nothing lower than good kind—on all their working units. 

Program Shorter Relaxation Durations

Get your consumer to work tougher throughout their classes by slicing down on their inter-set relaxation intervals.

This forces your consumer’s muscle groups to work “extra time,” considerably growing metabolic stress—one in every of three key contributing components to muscle hypertrophy (the opposite two being mechanical stress and muscle harm).

There’s an essential disclaimer right here, although.

Don’t be over-enthusiastic about decreasing your consumer’s relaxation occasions. Doing so can harm their general coaching quantity—since they’d be fighting a excessive degree of collected fatigue throughout their working units—and make them concern turning up for his or her classes!

However this begs the query: Simply how a lot can you narrow your consumer’s relaxation occasions by?

That relies on the kind of workout routines they’re doing. Right here’s a basic guideline that will help you resolve:

  • Single-joint workout routines: 2 minutes
  • Compound workout routines: At the very least 3 minutes

On the whole, you’ll be able to afford to be somewhat extra “beneficiant” along with your consumer’s relaxation intervals on compound actions. Whereas extreme fatigue and the ensuing form-breakdown are unlikely to trigger severe accidents on the lateral raises, the identical can’t be stated for deadlifts or squats.

Change Up Your Shopper’s Train Tempo

Get your consumer to raise to a hard and fast tempo.

That is significantly helpful for purchasers who like to “cheat” and bounce out of the underside positions of their lifts (e.g., squats and bench press) as a result of tempo coaching is all about transferring slowly and underneath management—which will increase time underneath stress (TUT).

TUT refers back to the period of time a working muscle is held underneath stress throughout an train set.

In different phrases, growing your consumer’s TUT raises the calls for you’re inserting on their muscle groups. And that’s basically the crux of progressive overload. As soon as once more, although, don’t take this technique of progressive overload to the intense.

There’s usually no must have your consumer carry out any section of any motion for greater than 10 seconds.

Along with being an disagreeable expertise general, having your consumer decrease themselves for 12 seconds on a pull-up solely hurts their coaching quantity and reduces the effectiveness of their exercises (in the event that they’re even in a position to do it within the first place).

Enhance Your Shopper’s Vary of Movement

Take note of how your consumer is performing every train. Are they struggling to hit a full vary of movement (ROM)?

If they’re, then bettering your consumer’s ROM is among the best methods to assist your consumer progressively overload with out including weight.

For example, let’s assume your consumer can’t go deep sufficient (i.e., greater than a 90-degree bend within the knees) on the leg press due to overly tight hip flexors and restricted ankle mobility.

They’re solely transferring the load, say, 40 cm on the leg press machine.

Now, think about that you simply then have your consumer stretch out their hip flexors (with one thing just like the lunge stretch) and work on their ankle mobility (with one thing just like the knee-to-wall drill or weighted ankle stretch). 

What occurs? Due to improved mobility, they’re in a position to—on the very least—hit a 90-degree bend of their knees on the backside place.

So, as an alternative of solely transferring the load 40 cm, they’ve now elevated the “efficient working distance” to 50 cm on the machine. And that is basically progressive overloading: getting your consumer’s muscle groups to work tougher over time.

Additionally, generally, all of your consumer wants is a cue to make use of a full vary of movement on their actions.

As an example, with an train like bicep curls, you’ll be able to say one thing like, “Be sure you decrease the dumbbells again to the beginning place earlier than beginning on one other rep.” 

Keep Coaching Quantity At the same time as Your Shopper Loses Weight

In case your consumer has been sticking to the weight reduction exercise plan you’ve created, chances are high they’ve misplaced weight. Congratulations!

Right here’s one thing price remembering concerning the course of: When your consumer loses weight, they’d inevitably lose a proportion of muscle mass together with fats—even when they’re nonetheless coaching laborious and preserving their protein consumption excessive.

Do you know that having your consumer carry out their exercises with the identical workout routines, together with units and rep ranges, now can be thought of progressive overload?

Let’s assume that your consumer had a lean mass of 88 kilos after they began coaching with you. They had been in a position to squat 220 kilos. After three months in your exercise plan, their lean mass now is available in at 77 kilos as an alternative. And guess what?

They’re nonetheless in a position to squat 220 kilos for a similar variety of units and reps as earlier than.

However wait. How’s that progressive overload? It is all acquired to do with relativity. A easy method to consider it could be with the “load lifted to lean mass ratio.” Let’s calculate the ratios collectively:

  •  Earlier than your consumer misplaced weight: 220/88 = 2.5
  • After your consumer misplaced weight: 220/77 = 2.86

There you may have it: As a result of there’s much less lean muscle mass to “shoulder the burden,” your consumer’s muscle groups need to work tougher now!


As you’ll be able to see, there are numerous methods to realize progressive overload with out growing weights.

That’s why it’s so essential to undertake a holistic view of your consumer’s coaching—doing so means that you can resolve on essentially the most appropriate strategy that’ll get your consumer the outcomes they’re trying to find.

Simply bear in mind this: Progressive overload (with or with out further weights) ought to solely be achieved on the inspiration of correct lifting kind and good method.

There’s little level in inserting further calls for in your consumer’s muscle groups only for the sake of it. You’d be dishonest your self, shortchanging your consumer, and, worse, placing them at elevated danger of accidents.  


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