The importance of Change

Nick Warner, Physiotherapist, talks about the importance of progressive loading for injury recovery, strength and a well-functioning body.

Change, it’s a word many of us are wary of, whether that be everyday tasks or our training and exercise habits. Without change, our bodies will plateau, leaving us continually fighting against those niggling aches and pains. Too much change to quickly? Well we all know what that can lead to…

This brings us on to the topic of progressive overload, the science of getting change right.

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Overload is a training principle used in exercise in order to allow for adaptations in our muscles. We can see these adaptations as increases in strength, power and endurance, for example. When we perform a certain exercise above or beyond what we have has done before, our body will undergo physiological changes to enable us to complete that exercise with greater ease and efficiency. If we continue to work at the same intensity of that exercise, we will soon reach a plateau, where that movement or exercise no longer stresses the body and further improvements will stop! By making our exercise harder, or increasing the workload on the muscles, we can then again induce these adaptations, which then allows for further progression.

Post injury, we can often find ourselves lacking strength in certain muscles groups. This can be due to lack of mobility and altered mechanics due to pain, decreased training loads due to injury and pain inhibition of certain muscles. Therefore, on the road to recovery, overload can be used to safely return to movement and is critical to return these muscles to optimum function, with decreases in pain and lower risk of re-injury.

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Overload can occur in a number of different ways. The five simplest ways of achieving overload are listed below:

  1. Increase the resistance or weight lifted

  2. Increase the total volume of work (sets and/or repetitions)

  3. Change the exercise

  4. Modify the order of the exercises performed

  5. Modify the rest period between exercises


In order to safely achieve progressive overload, without overtraining or running the risk of increasing the risk of injury, it is important not to rush. You don’t need to try and do more every time you exercise! Unfortunately there is no magic number on how much or when to overload. Small increments can be made weekly if manageable without any increases in pain or soreness. When increases are made, it’s fundamental that you are able to complete that exercise with the same technique.

Give yourself time, stay consistent and happy loading!