The key to gaining strength and building muscle, “the progressive overload principle says that in order for our muscles to change and get stronger, we need to work them harder.”
That probably makes sense to you intuitively, but to understand physiologically why and how this works, you need to understand how muscle growth happens. During a workout, your muscles fibers actually begin to breakdown. After the workout, your body calls upon something called satellite cells to help fuse the damaged muscle fibers.
Once fully repaired — which October 2016 research published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science says takes three days — these muscles fibers are thicker and stronger than were there before. And if the muscle fibers are stronger, you’re stronger.
But (and this is important!), “In order for that process muscle growth and breakdown to happen, you have to challenge your muscles fibers.” You have to push them past the threshold they’ve previously adapted to. “Simply put, your body will not change until your force it to.” And that’s where progressive overload comes in.
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