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Nova Performance Weekly Blog

by Adam Smith on Aug 3, 2021

So you wanna know how to get strong?

This is a question everyone is asking. Unfortunately the short answer you probably don't want to hear is “time and perseverance”

I will go into this in more detail in a minute.

So the question you’re asking yourself now is “if I just keep doing what I am doing now, then will I get stronger?”

The only way you can get stronger over time is by using a method called “PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD” - This phrase is going to come up a lot in this. So let me explain what “Progressive Overload” is.

Progressive overload is a method of strength training that advocates for the gradual increase of the stress placed upon the musculoskeletal and nervous system.

The principle of progressive overload suggests that the continual increase in the total workload during training sessions will stimulate muscle growth and strength gain.

This improvement in overall performance will, in turn, allow the athlete to keep increasing the intensity of his/her training sessions.

How to apply this to your training

There are many ways to include progressive overload in your training.

For example increase of load, increase of time under tension, increase of Volume and decrease of rest time.

The most common ones that most people use are; increase of load and volume. In fact if you want to use them all you can.

Load and Volume

This means over a set time frame. Lets say that we have 6 weeks and our main focus is to improve your 1 rep max.

Your 1 rep max Back Squat is 100kg.

Most training programs for strength sit at around 80%-95%, and often if you want to improve on a set lift you want to be performing this lift 3 times a week. Depending on the athlete and their goals, this may change.

Take the Russian Squat program for an example.

It's a 6 week program to improve your Back Squat by 5%. So if your hitting 100kg already the aim on week 6 is to hit 105kg

Now in this program the first 3 weeks are all 80%.

The way this program works.

Week 1 : 80% x 6 x 2 / 80% x 6 x 3 / 80% x 6 x 2

Week 2 : 80% x 6 x 4 / 80% x 6 x 2 / 80% x 6 x 5

Week 3 : 80% x 6 x 2 / 80% x 6 x 6 / 80% x 6 x 2

You can see the ones in bold have more volume but the same load. This is to create more stimulus in the working muscles preparing them for a mini tapering phase in the next 3 weeks.

Week 4 onwards it changes to Load and we now drop the amount of volume per session.

Week 4 : 85% x 5 x 5 / 80% x 6 x 2 / 90% x 4 x 4

Week 5 : 80% x 6 x 2 / 95% x 3 x 3 / 80% x 6 x 2

Week 6 : 100% x 2 x 2 / 80% x 6 x 2 / TEST (Should be around 5% increase)

As you can see again in bold the percentages have gone up every 2nd session.

In all of these the sets come before reps. But I will explain how to write a basic strength program in another article.

After completing a program this intense I would advise to complete a deload week. Again this will vary athlete to athlete. Some may need longer, but yet some might only need a couple of days.

Would recommend just doing 1 session that week at 70% for 3 x 3

Time Under Tension and Rest Time

Now how can this be used to create overload and to stimulate your muscles more?

Good question.

I like to program and use these 2 variations in my accessory work. I'll explain why in good time. But first, what are they?

Time under tension (TUT) is the amount of time you spend contracting the working muscles whilst doing a set exercise.

In my accessories I would program lets say a Dumbbell Bulgrian Split squat.

I would program the athlete 3 x 8 (Per Leg) for 3 seconds down, 1 second pause, then 1 second up at an RPE 8. This means there is not a set load but how they feel on the day.

Now how would I make this harder?

I would program for the next week an extra second in the eccentric phase and at the pause in the bottom.

So it would look like this 3 x 8 (Per Leg) for 4 seconds down, 2 second pause then 1 second up.

But I would ask for them to use the same load as last week instead of an RPE 8.

You can use this method on a compound lift also. But I normally recommend going up in weight or volume to a certain extent. This does not mean max out.

What is an RPE?

The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a way of measuring physical activity intensity level. Perceived exertion is how hard you feel like your body is working.

Rest Time

Rest time is very important. For a powerlifter I like to recommend around 3-5 minutes rest between heavy sets. Due to the stimulus being very high therefore the body needs more time to recover.

However there is a time where I will drop the load and decrease the rest time.

So instead of hitting 90% for 3 singles and resting 5 minutes. We will do 80% for 6 x 2 with 2-3 minutes rest. The following week we can do 83% for 6 x 2 with the same amount of rest time.

To summarise, progressive overload is a method used to slowly progress the Load, Volume, Time spent under load and rest time. These are all good in their own ways. Don't just rely on one method, mix it up from time to time.


I hope you enjoyed the read and stay posted for the next one, I aim to get one out weekly so stay tuned. If you have any questions just shoot me an email on

If you want to see some of my training logs and videos follow me on Instagram @thicc__astley

See you all soon!

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