Progressive Overload and Overreaching.

August 1, 2017

"Meh... gotta add another 10 miles to todays ride" I say to myself coming off 4 hours of sleep getting back from Chicago early this morning.


I'm feeling it today. Glutes are really sore from yesterdays leg training consisting of sprints, pistol squats, and lots of lower body dynamic movements.


As I question my programming and sanity, I remember it's the final day of my macro-cycle and I should be feeling somewhat burned out. Remembering that your performance is meant to plateau and decline a bit over the course of your training brings me to the topic of this article.

Planned overreaching.

Often confused with overtraining, overreaching- in my view- is just a planned way to ensure you're applying progressive overload effectively within a certain time frame. You get to the point where the stress your body endures begins to over accumulate and, hence, you begin to decline in performance/overreach your recovery capacity. Once this point is reached, reducing your training (deload) in some aspects is required.




Looking at the figure, we can see that as we start to train (and apply progressive overload each week) our level of fitness increases. However, there comes a point where we start to get diminishing returns. As we continue to get better and do harder things, we begin to regress in our progress/performance.


You start feeling achy, sore, joints hurt a bit, etc.


More importantly, you start performing worse on the compound exercises and more intense anaerobic activities. In severe cases, like olympic athletes or extreme fitness enthusiast, you can overtrain which is a topic for another day (your average person won't ever overtrain by power walking too much).

Once this point of overreaching is reached, you take a break. In my progress post, I touched briefly on my training which includes a deload week every 4th week which I think is a common protocol for many people.


In my set up, Week 1-3 is a pretty linear approach to progressive overload with the intention of week 3 being really tough. I vary the intensity as follows:


Week 1- Go hard. Feeling fresh after a deload.
Week 2- Go harder. Okay, beat last week's numbers
Week 3- Hang in there buddy. Aim to match week 2's numbers and add a couple drop sets to increase the volume.
Week 4- Deload (reduce training days, and intensity). Enjoy a deserved break

Of course, since I'm rebuilding strength and endurance this method will work for now. Once harder skills are achieved and more weight is added to compound lifts, this scheme will probably need to change. For now though, we'll keep the ball rollin.


Although feeling sluggish isn't ideal, it's a good sign nearing the end of a hard training cycle. As long as you're improving and maintaining new fitness progressions, expecting to feel worn down can propel you further in your training.


My mindset is always don't be afraid to push yourself. If it's nearing the end of a training cycle, do your best to at least match your previous performance. However, no attempt in improving fitness is worth an injury- so know your limits :}.

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