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The Flipping 50 Show

Let's start Flipping 50 with the energy and the vitality you want for this second half! I solve your biggest challenges and answer questions about how to move, what to eat, and when, along with the small lifestyle changes that can make the most difference in the least amount of time. Join me and my expert guests for safe, sane, simple solutions for your second (and better) half!

May 12, 2023

It’s resistance training for women over 40 Q and A time! An attendee at the What, When & Why to Exercise for Women 40+ asked this question and other trainers and you may also have this question. 

Q: Can you explain how 'progressive overload' builds strength/gains muscle (hypertrophy)? 

Is it possible for someone who is working out at home and doesn't have the ability to increase the weight amount itself (eg only has one pair of dumbbells).  Hypothetical individual has a pair of 10lb dumbbells, various resistance mini-bands, 1x 15lb kettlebell, and their bodyweight ;-)

This is a two-part resistance training Q and A. Let's answer progressive training first. 

How progressive overload builds strength/gains muscle 

When the body is subjected to loads beyond daily activities, whether in exercise with a purpose to gain muscle and strength or in some extra effort required for a short time, like the lifting of boxes during a move, or playing the first round of golf after a winter off or playing 36 holes when you’re used to playing 18. Some additional stress is experienced by the muscle.

The body’s response is much like a body’s response to an illness or to a vaccine. Subject to the pathogen the body gains resilience to fight that particular pathogen. 

Muscle subject to additional load beyond normal, also responds with greater resilience. Muscle is damaged under stress. Microtears in muscle from exercise or exertion are normal. Provided there is a period of rest after additional load, the muscle doesn’t just repair. Like immunity, the muscle super-compensates so if it’s exposed to that load again, it can easily handle it next time. 

That means you’ll easily pick up the same load next time. But to make gains in strength you’ll need to increase the load again to achieve the same super-compensation.  

What's Not Progressive Resistance Training

Repeatedly picking up the same load will cause adaptations only to the point there is muscle fatigue. Meaning you could do more repetitions to muscular fatigue. And you’ll gain more muscle endurance. However, it’s not going to increase your strength necessarily. Strength increases usually increase endurance at lighter loads though. 

Progressive overload has to be a part of a successful exercise program to continue to experience benefits. At some point you may reach a maintenance phase, but that isn’t an indication you’ll do the same workouts and continue to hold the same level of fitness. You’ll need to organize and structure workouts that vary the stress placed on muscle or the human body will lose fitness doing the same thing over time. Your adaptation to stress is going to require you continue to challenge it.

Progressive Overload can be achieved by either doing workouts where the repetitions to completion may be 12. As you pick up weights that will help you reach fatigue in 12 repetitions, your body will respond if adequate rest and recovery is provided. (That’s time between exercise as well as rest and nutrition)...(listen to podcast for more)

What is Tempo Training?

One of those techniques that we play with in Flipping 50 programs is Tempo training. It manipulates time-under-tension. It’s the simple idea that holding something that for a short time isn’t heavy, will become heavy the longer you hold it. Take a baby. Holding a baby is awesome… but if you’re doing it in the same position for too long, pretty soon your arm cramps or when you hand them back to mom and dad you are a little sore, right? 

Tempo training makes it easy to get a little more life out of limited weights you may have available when you find you no longer can reach fatigue. 

It’s also helpful when you are at a point that you feel vulnerable, potentially because of injuries, or just have reached a point where you can’t train one muscle group without straining another. Increasing the weight load isn’t an answer so this temp can be. 

With Tempo training you implement pauses at the beginning and or end point of range of motion and manipulate the speed of the concentric and eccentric contractions.

For instance, in a recommended speed of resistance training a repetition takes 1-2 seconds to life and 3-4 seconds to lower or up to about 6 seconds per repetition... (listen to podcast for details)

In a Resistance Training Bicep Curl for Instance: 

As you lift a weight you go from a long arm to a flexed elbow the muscle has to shorten to bring the weight toward your shoulder. 

As you put the weight down, the biceps are still under contraction, but they slowly lengthen again – much like when you take your foot slowly off the brake. The muscle is still controlling the movement. 

There are really four points we can manipulate in a repetition:

·      The initial concentric movement or lift – which is that shortening phase 

·      The end of range of motion opposite of the start

·      The eccentric movement or lengthening of the muscle. 

·      The starting point/which will also be the endpoint.


(Heads up that the order of these concentric and eccentric contractions changes when you’re talking about standing squats or lunges). 

When I designate a tempo workout I would say I want you to do this with: 


The first number indicates the time to (bicep curl) raise the weight toward your shoulder. 

The second number indicates a “hold” at my shoulder while the bicep is fully contracted. 

The third number or “4” is the eccentric movement down with the weight.

The last number is the “hold at the end of the repetition before beginning a new one. 

I could manipulate that by eliminating the hold at the end making it 2-2-4-0.

I can increase the time of lifting and holding to match the eccentric contraction 4-4-4-0. 

I can extend the eccentric contraction 2-2-6-2. 

... details in the audio episode. 

That said… I suggest, a woman is limiting her health by having one pair of dumbbells. If investing in at least 3 sets isn’t possible, look around for backpacks or carry on luggage and ways you can find additional weight. 

Other Episodes You May Like: 

Strength Training Enough for Bones Not Adrenal Fatigue:

Total Body or Spilt Routine: