What is Progressive Overload?

Progressive overload is a periodisation method that advocates for the gradual increase of the stress placed upon the nervous system.

Progressive Overload is an important principle in cognitive training. Without progressive overload, you won’t create enough cognitive stress, and training results will be minimal. However, too much overload can lead to under-recovery and mental fatigue.

The challenge, therefore, lies in getting the balance right, so that you keep improving without exceeding the brain's capability to recover. Following trends in your athlete's cognitive and physiological measures will ensure that your programming is spot on.

🔗 Understanding your Athlete's Cognitive Data.

Cognitive Progressive Overload can happen in 3 ways:

  1. Increasing Task Intensity: Increase the intensity of a cognitive task.

  2. Increasing Task Duration: Doing more cognitive reps.

  3. Increasing Task Frequency: Increasing the number of cognitive training sessions per week, compared to previous weeks.

Increasing Task Intensity

Increase the intensity of the cognitive tasks each week.

For example,

  • Week 1 70%

  • Week 2 80%

  • Week 3 90%

  • Week 4 100%

Increasing Task Duration

Doing more cognitive reps by increasing task duration and even pairing together different durations to optimise the cognitive load.

Week 1 - 3 sessions

  • 3m cognitive task duration x6 sets

  • Total session duration 18 mins

Week 2 - 3 sessions

  • 5m cognitive task duration x6 sets

  • Total session duration 30 mins

Week 3 - 3 sessions

  • 3m cognitive task duration x3 sets

  • 5m cognitive task duration x5 sets

  • Total session duration 34 mins

Week 4 - 3 sessions

  • 10m cognitive task duration x4 sets

  • Total session duration 40 mins

Increasing Task Frequency

Increasing the number of cognitive training sessions over the training weeks,

  • Week 1 2 cognitive training sessions

  • Week 2 3 cognitive training sessions

  • Week 3 4 cognitive training sessions

  • Week 4 5 cognitive training sessions


Under or overloading your athlete for too long will always result in the stagnation of results. Your athlete's data will guide you. No matter what, without data on your athlete's performance, you will be guessing and it can be difficult to accurately periodise when you guess. Paying attention to the data makes your job easier and keeps those performance improvements coming.

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