Progressive Overload and Why I Stopped Adding Weight to the Bar

progressive overload

If the term “progressive overload” doesn’t make you think of jacked guys struggling under tonnage that would crush a lesser human – that’s probably ok because it means you’re not spending all your time browsing the #getswoll hashtag on Instagram.

For people with meatier proclivities, progressive overload is the term we use to justify stacking on more weight every set of the workout, because if you’re not constantly improving, than why even bother, bro?

If the idea of more than two plates on a bar is terrifying and deeply unsettling to you, stick around because we’re still using universal principles that you can apply to Suspension Training, boot camp, or barre.

Kidding, barre doesn’t qualify as training.

progressive overload

Generally my workouts would look something like this when it came to the big movements:

In Example A, lets say we’re Squat/Bench/Deadlift-ing for 4 sets of 6

Bar x 10 (warmup)
95# x 8 (warmup)
135# x 6 (warmup)
185# x 6
205# x 6
225# x 6
235# x 6

I see a lot of people at the gym use the same style of lifting. The problem here is that it’s only 1 set at your top end weight of 235#, which doesn’t give you enough practice at the weight that’s actually challenging to you.

Progressive Overload – You’re Doing it Wrong


The problem is that most people are pretty cashed after their last set, and might not be able to get another solid 6 reps at that weight.

Example B is a better way:

Bar x 10 (warmup)
95# x 8 (warmup)
135# x 6 (warmup)
185# x 2-5 (warmup)
205# x 2-5 (warmup)
215# x 6
215# x 6
215# x 6
215# x 6

So even though you’re not constantly 
adding weight to the bar every set, you’re getting more practice at a challenging weight. This style of training will actually provide you with the ability to overload and get stronger over time, rather than trying every workout to push the envelope and take yourself to the overload

The key here is that every rep should be good quality, and your form never breaks down.

This might not seem like that big of a deal to a lot of people, but if you’ve been training like Example A, and continue to get injured, tweaked, or generally feel a little beat up after your workout, switch up to this style.

Going #BeastMode is great every so often, but since we know that sustained progress is preferable in terms of muscle building, fat loss, and injury prevention, going #BoringMode can actually help you get bigger and stronger.

Since we’re all about getting Better Every Damn Day and not blowing our load on a 120 minute grueling Smolov squat workout that smashes our quads and adrenals from the 4 scoops of C4 you just took – This is how you should be structuring your big lifts 90% of the time.



  1. I like that example. I also think that as you get to know yourself and your body, you can work up to a max weight for your sets, and then back off a little. I.e., the last set doesn’t need to be the heaviest.

    E.g., on back squats with 4 work sets of 5 reps and 3 warm up sets:

    Bar x 6
    135 x 5
    225 x 5
    275 x 5
    285 x 5
    275 X 5
    265 x 5

    All 4 works sets are within 10% of the top work set. I feel it out based on how the last rep or 2 of a work set feels – if I am grinding I move the weight down, whereas if they all move well I will add some weight. =)

    • I agree, it’s super important to listen to what your body is telling you.

      I actually really like to pull 30-50% off on the last set and go for as many clean reps as I can get. #ThePumpisReal

      • Yeah – pump it up! Particularly on the last week’s workouts in a month-long program, I will try to add a burnout set like that on to the end of the major movement(s).

  2. This has nothing to do with progressive overload.
    Progressive overload is increasing the load workout to workout, not from set to set during a single workout.
    That would be called pyramid-setting and includes also reducing the reps, so all sets stay of similar difficulty.

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