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  • Natalie Gagnon

To get big and strong I need to lift heavy for EVERY exercise... right?

There is a little term called PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD. It refers to a process really, the process is that you gradually increase the load that any given muscle has to move. By doing so, you’re forcing hypertrophy within that muscle because you’re constantly making it work harder. We know that we purposely do this in order to break down the muscle knowing it will grow back bigger, thicker, and stronger. The only problem with this is that some people don’t understand that “overload” can be applied in various ways and that my increasing the weight isn’t always the best option for certain exercises.

In my opinion, there are some exercises that are meant for adding heavy weight over time, and others; not as much. Take rack pulls vs. face pulls on the cable for example. Rack pulls are clearly an exercise where you can challenge yourself to overload with heavy weight over time, whereas the cable face pulls the better option to overload would be with repetitions.

When I enter a strength phase, or task myself with a program where progressive overload will be applied, I THINK about the exercises that are included. The type of exercises which believe are best to maximize weight overload are always the compounds (multi-joint). This is simply because you’re allowed to use more of your overall strength throughout your entire body to move the heavier weight. So squats, deadlifts, shoulder press, rack-pulls, bench press, leg press! That’s where the Makaveli is blaring in my ears and its move the damn weight time! The compounds are great for this because you’re actually causing stress across your entire central nervous system and this helps recruit more muscle fibers.

So what about the other exercises… Do I just move baby weight and move on? How is the progressive overload applied there?

Since the compounds are just that (multi-joint) they are far from isolation, but they are causing damage to the entire muscle to when you do the isolation exercises the muscle is that much more responsive. This is where the added volume comes into play. Overload the muscle with heavy weight, then overload the muscle in an isolation exercise with tension and the massive blood volume! These isolation exercises are where the drop sets and high reps are crazy.

Progressive overload isn’t just weight, it’s taking multiple factors into consideration when creating a program. Keep your joints healthy, force the body to grow by utilizing multiple means of progressive overload.

- Natalie Gagnon

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