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When it comes to training, progression is essential if you want to support fitness for life. However, it’s important to realize that there’s more to it than just the typical notion of progressive overload.

In this article, we’ll dive into the various facets of progression and introduce a fresh perspective on how to approach it with our clients.



Progressive overload, a foundational principle in resistance training, revolves around gradually increasing the training stimulus to challenge the body’s adaptive capacity. By pushing boundaries and introducing new stimuli, we compel our clients’ bodies to adapt and grow. While this principle remains crucial, let’s explore two vital aspects of resistance training where progression truly shines: hypertrophy and strength.

Hypertrophy, the quest for muscle growth, can be classified into two types: myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Myofibrillar hypertrophy involves increasing the number of myofibrils within muscle fibers, while sarcoplasmic hypertrophy focuses on augmenting the non-contractile components of muscle cells. Although the precise mechanisms behind these adaptations, including the debated topic of hyperplasia, are not fully understood, they play a significant role in muscular development.

Meanwhile, strength gains are influenced by both hypertrophy and neural adaptations. Hypertrophy enhances muscle mass, thereby increasing the potential for generating force. On the other hand, neural adaptations optimize the body’s ability to produce force through factors like rate coding, motor unit recruitment, coordination, and efficient technique. It’s worth noting that neural adaptations are exercise-specific, emphasizing the importance of specificity in training.

Now, let’s dive into how we achieve progressive overload in resistance training. We’ve got a few things to consider: exercise selection, rep ranges, loads, volume, and rest. 

When it comes to exercise selection for hypertrophy, we’ve got some flexibility—the goal is to stress the muscle group which can be done in various ways. But for strength gains, exercise selection needs to be specific to the exercise you’re trying to build strength in. For example, if you want a stronger deadlift, you need to train the deadlift. 

When it comes to rep ranges and intensity, hypertrophy training allows for a wide range of reps (somewhere within 5-25 reps is best practice), while taking sets close to failure (with 2-3 reps left in the tank). Strength gains, on the other hand, call for low volume, heavy lifting to maximize neural efficiency. Volume plays a big role in hypertrophy—more volume generally means faster growth, but we also need to consider the principle of diminishing returns, individual recovery capacity, and genetic and hormonal factors.

When it comes to optimizing rest periods for different training goals, there are variations to consider. For hypertrophy-focused training, rest periods don’t play a significant role as they are not a major variable. However, when prioritizing strength gains, longer rest periods become crucial to facilitate neural recovery and ensure full recovery between sets.



While progressive overload remains a cornerstone of training, it’s crucial to broaden our perspective and recognize that progression encompasses much more than physiological changes. As coaches, we have the opportunity to guide our clients on a journey of holistic progress, encompassing physical, mental, and emotional aspects of growth.

To embark on this journey, it’s essential to understand what progression truly means to each individual. It extends beyond traditional metrics and taps into the profound impact fitness can have on their lives. Here are practical steps to uncover the unique dimensions of progression for your clients:

Personalized Connection and Understanding: Through comprehensive consultations, assessments, active listening, and thought-provoking questions, create a deep understanding of your clients’ backgrounds, goals, desires, and motivations. This personalized connection establishes a foundation for tailored progression.

Goal-oriented Approach: Guide your clients in setting meaningful and personalized goals that align with their aspirations and encompass their holistic vision of growth. Regular check-ins allow for evaluation, feedback, and necessary adjustments to ensure continued progress.

Relationship Building and Comprehensive Coaching: Foster strong client relationships in a supportive and empowering environment. Balance challenge with support to encourage trust and engagement. Tailor your coaching approach to address the multi-dimensional nature of progress, encompassing physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being through strategies that integrate exercise, lifestyle, nutrition, and alignment.

By expanding our perspective on progression, we elevate the coaching experience and empower our clients to embark on a comprehensive journey of growth. Progression becomes a personal voyage, guiding individuals toward their unique definition of success. Let’s embrace this multi-dimensional approach and pave the way for transformative progress in fitness coaching.



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