November 12, 2022

Overload: Training Principle One

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Principle One: Overload

Placing more stress on the muscles than previously accustom to in order to create an adaptation

Overload is simply improving on a set performance that you were able to achieve at an earlier point in time. It's related to the no pain, no gain mentality. From a strength training perspective, this is all about increasing the load required requirements on the body.

Just remember when it comes to overload, it is very important to prioritize doing it safely. There are many choices when it comes to overloading for the body, which includes:

1. Intensity

Intensity refers to the weights or the resistance. The load that you're using matters and how much force you exert matters. So in terms of intensity, as a rule of thumb, when you can do it safely, you should be increasing that load. It's really that simple.

So if you were squatting X amount of weight one week, and you feel like that's got easier and you're not exerting that much effort or force, you should be pushing to increase that weight. That's how your body is going to adapt.

If you are concerned about safety, the general rule of thumb is to increase by two reps every second training session. Or you can increase the load and drop the reps.

2. Volume

Volume can be a bit more complicated, but it includes pretty simple math and it can be a great way to calculate whether or not your overloading correctly. Here is an example of a dumbbell chest press:

15 reps x 3 sets x 15 lbs = 675 lbs of volume

So you can manipulate those variables to increase the total volume. What do you think's going to happen to your body, when you increase the total volume in a training session? It's going to go up! It's going to have to adapt, and it's going to have to change to compensate. So after a couple of weeks, you changed your reps and sets to eight reps, four sets and increased the load.

3. Rest

An easy way to overload is trying this rest schedule. On week one, you're going to rest one minute, and then you're going to drop the rest 15 seconds each week, until that exercise gets more difficult for you. It's going to have a compounding effect, and over time, you're going to get better at the exercise because you have less time to recover.

  • Week 1: Rest one minute
  • Week 2: Rest 45 seconds
  • Week 3: Rest 30 seconds

4. Tempo (4-2-1)

Tempo is extremely underrated, however, It's a really good way to overload your body.

We are going to refer to a squat as an example for this. So you see those numbers above, 4-2-1. The four refers to the down phase of the exercise. So when you're coming down in the squats, the two refers to pausing, and the one refers to the up phase or when you exert the force. So in this specific scenario, you would come down, count to four, pause for two seconds, and then go up explosively for one second. And what that is going to do is it's going to create more time under tension for your muscles. It's going to overload those muscles, as opposed to if you're doing one second up, one second down.

5. Exercise selection

  • Split squat
  • Rear foot elevated split squat
  • Barbell RFESS

Above, we have a really simple progression here of a split squat progression. So you're going to start with a bodyweight split squat and you're going to make that exercise or movement pattern harder by making your foot elevated on a surface. Once you elevate your foot, you can manipulate the sets, or reps.

But as that movement pattern gets easier, you can now add load to it by using a barbell or a weight out in front of you.

6. Exercise order

Lastly, a lot of programs will go something like upper body, lower body, upper body, lower body, and you're changing muscle groups throughout the program. So changing the order in which you do exercises can also create overload for you. So, for example, doing three upper body exercises in a row that target the same muscle group is a great way to provide that overload

Read Principal Two: Progression >

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