#1 Reason Why People Never Reach Their Fitness Goals | Progressive Overload | The Fit Facility

Progressive Overload

Progressive Overload states “the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training…In order to achieve more strength, as opposed to maintaining current strength capacity, muscles (see skeletal muscles) need to be stressed in such a way that triggers the body's natural, adaptive response to new demands placed on it.”

Also known as the principle of “Overload”; it is the most basic of all strength and conditioning principles. A failure to recognize and adhere to said principles will yield unfavorable results. A great and classic example of this principle can be found in Science and Practice of Strength Training.

“Identical triplets possessed equal levels of strength; each was able to lift a 57.5-kg barbell one time. They began to exercise with a 50-kg barbell, lifting the barbell in 1 set until failure five times. After a period of time, the athletes adapted to the training routine, their preparedness improved, and they were able to lift a 60-kg barbell one time. However, despite continued training, they did not make further gains in performance because they accommodated to the training program. At this stage, the three athletes made different decisions. Athlete A decided to increase the training load (weight lifted, number of reps in a set, number of sets) or change the exercise. The new load was a stimulating one for this athlete and performance improved. Athlete B continued to employ the previous routine and performance results were unchanged (retained load). Athlete C decreased the training load and strength performance declined. (detraining load)”.

This is a great example because it also details a general law of biology known as “Accommodation”.

Simply put, the response of a biological object to a constant stimulus decreases over time. You can think of this like building a tolerance to something.

Remember the first time you tried a pre-workout supplement and you had the same experience as the Nazi commander from Raiders of the Lost Ark when he stared into the Ark of the Covenant?

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Now when you take it, you feel like you’re chasing the dragon trying to find the next high?

Simply put, what did it for you then, won’t do it for you now. You have adapted.

So why do people fail?

With that being said, a lack or progressive overload can be the number one reason why people never reach their fitness goals. Whether it’s due to ignorance or simply being comfortable, people not pushing themselves in an intelligent, thought out way, is responsible for the stagnant gains they’re receiving in the gym.

Coach Robert Dos Remedios sums up this principle simply by stating…

“With strength training, you can elicit an overload response by pushing harder during workouts. Increasing loads, increasing volumes, or even decreasing rest periods can accomplish this overload”.

So How do you keep improving?

So once we have a grasp on principles such as: overload, accommodation, and adaptation. It’s important to also recognize the “Principle of Diminishing Returns”. This is especially important for beginning athletes. Simply put, for beginners, relatively small training loads will yield the largest gains. In advanced and experienced athletes, the gains are much less.

Once this is understood, it’s important to make sure that you’re manipulating variables such as: loads, volume, and even rest periods. The systematic organized of this, is known as periodization.


This is the tell tale sign of a successful program.

Periodization is a theoretical and practical construct that allows for the systematic, sequential, and integrative programming of training interventions into mutually dependent periods of time in order to induce specific physiological adaptations that underpin performance outcomes.

Without any sort of periodization, you’re essentially doing random workouts. At best, random workouts are good for exercise (effective for weight loss), but aren’t really going to contribute to long-term success. The principle of diminishing returns holds true here.

Here at The Fit Facility, we have our entire year laid out in an annual plan. This helps our Sports Performance athletes, as well as our General Fitness athletes continue their progress and ensure long term success!

If you’re interested in participating in our Adult Fitness training sessions, or you’re a middle school/high school athlete looking to take their training and progress to the next level, reach out and click this link to schedule a FREE consultation and introductory session.


Zatsiorsky, V. M., & Kraemer, W. J. (2006). Science and practice of strength Training. Champaign: Human Kinetics.

Remedios, R. D. (2009). Mens health power training: Build bigger, stronger muscles through performance-based conditioning. Emmaus, PA: Rodale.

Baechle, T. R. (2016). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.