The overload principle sure sounds like a dry subject. You think you will be bored to death learning about the principle of overload, right? So did I!
You might be surprised that understanding the dull sounding overload principle can explode your fitness.
The Overload Principle is the key to getting into the best shape of your life. Once I understood the overload principle, I realized why I was still overweight. And why my body never seemed to change, despite working out often.
However, once I applied the overload principle to my training, I lost 30 pounds in 3 months. I had been trying to take off that 30 pounds for 3 years!
This is why I want you to know about the powerful overload principle and how it can skyrocket your own health and fitness.
Application of the “Richard, don’t put me to sleep with your overload principle talk” will help you lose fat and build muscle. Remember, muscle is your friend and fat, well too much fat is not.
Having more muscle is always a benefit to your health. More muscles means a higher metabolism. Increased muscle mass means greater protection from falls. More muscle means more mobility and functionality.
A higher resting metabolic rate helps to burn more energy every day. Building more muscle will help you tackle your daily activities with more energy and still leave you with energy to spare.
Table of Contents
- What is the Overload Principle?
- Is Your Body Lazy or Ingenious?
- The Answer is that Your Body is Amazing
- Muscle is Expensive
- Progressive Overload Principle Results in Hypertrophy
- How to Apply the Overload Principle
- Start Keeping Records
- Training is Hard
- SAID Principle
- Conclusion of the Overload Principle
- A Small Request
- PS: Additional Resources for the Overload Principle
- PPS: More Tools for the ‘Fit Apprentice’
What is the Overload Principle?
So let’s talk about the overload principle.
What is the meant by the overload principle? How do you define the overload principle?
Simply put, the principle of overload states that to change your body, you have to overload. In order to burn fat and build more muscle, you must challenge your body to adapt to increased resistance or intensity.
The progressive overload principle is the first fundamental concept that any training enthusiast needs to know.
Whether you are a personal trainer or a weekend warrior, you must implement the overload principle. If you want to see changes in your health, fitness and/or physique.
My hope is that you will apply the overload principle to your training. You will see results if you do, I promise.
Is Your Body Lazy or Ingenious?
As you know, your physique never seems to change no matter what you do. How many hours have you spent in the gym lifting weights? If you are not a weight lifter, perhaps you have spent a lot of time on the treadmill.
But you still cannot lose the spare tire.
Does that sound familiar? How many new year resolutions have you made to get fit this year that went unfulfilled?
The Answer is that Your Body is Amazing
And your body is a lot smarter than you are.
Right now as you read this, your body is pumping 5 liters of blood through your cells. Your cells are in the process of metabolism, building tissue and creating energy.
Muscles in your body are activated by electrical impulses from your brain. The neuromuscular system, through unbelievable precision, enables you to move.
All for you, and you have little clue these big miracles are even happening.
You think that your star athletic days in high school and college should carry over to the present. All the muscle you had back then, the great physique that you had.
So what if you do not workout now?
Why did your muscles turn into fat? The truth is that muscle and fat are completely different body tissue.
Muscle cannot turn into fat or vice versa.
Muscle is Expensive
Your body does not waste energy. Everything that your body does is for one purpose – to keep you alive. Staying alive is the name of the game for your body.
Having said that, your body does not expend more energy than necessary on keeping you alive. What you ask for is what you get.
So, if you ask your body to support your trips to the fridge and cupboards for snacks, then your body will oblige.
To maintain the muscle you had when you were a teenager is an expensive proposition. Every pound of muscle is going to require additional energy.
Some say that a pound of muscle requires up to 50 or 100 calories a day. That is a stark contrast to the amount of calories needed to maintain a pound of fat.
You only need approximately one calorie a day to maintain an entire pound of fat. One pound of fat is a reservoir of 3500 calories of energy.
Whereas, muscle is not one of the body’s preferred energy systems.
As a result, when your body does not think you need the muscle, then your muscles shrink and your bodyfat increases. When you lay around the house all day, your muscles shrink.
Or, if the majority of your day is spent sitting, then your body will oblige. And just leave you with enough muscle so you can continue to sit.
Sit at the table, in the car, on the bus, on the train, in your office and on the couch. What will happen? As you can guess, your body will leave you with just enough muscle to keep sitting.
This is called atrophy, the wasting of your muscle tissue.
Progressive Overload Principle Results in Hypertrophy
The progressive overload principle will help you train for more muscle. And you always want more muscle, because muscle is your friend. More muscle means higher metabolism, better daily functionality and protection from falls.
Not to mention looking and feeling more youthful.
Once you understand that muscle is expensive, and that the body mainly wants to keep you alive. Now, you know why your body is not concerned about keeping your muscle around.
Fat tissue holds thousands of more calories and is one true energy supply system for the body. The other two being glucose and AdenosineTriPhosphate.
The bottom line is that to build muscle, you must apply the progressive overload principle.
How to Apply the Overload Principle
Challenge your body and force your body to adapt. That is how to implement the overload principle. Start off by figuring out your 1 rep max for a particular exercise.
Let’s say that you have heard about the amazing benefits of deadlifts and your goal is to do get stronger in your deadlifts. Now, your 1 rep max might be 100 pounds for a deadlift.
You want to be able to deadlift 200 pounds. Of course, the goal is to deadlift with the best form possible.
And muscle strength is one of the 5 components of fitness:
- Cardiovascular health
- Body Composition
- Muscle Strength
- Muscle Endurance
These are the 5 pillars of fitness. Improving your deadlift is going to improve your muscle strength. In fact, deadlifting can add slabs of muscle onto your body.
Start Keeping Records
It is time to start keeping records of your workouts. In this case, we are speaking about improving your deadlift.
Or any other exercises which appeal to you.
The days of going into the gym, doing a few sets with the same weight as the last five years is over. From now on, go into the gym, do a few warm up sets.
Then start your working sets. To build strength, 4 to 6 reps is sufficient.
And 3 working sets should be sufficient as well. Record your warm up sets and your working sets.
Training is Hard
Stop believing those who say that they built a great physique without hard work. Training by the overload principle means that you will feel the effort by your last rep.
If you are doing 5 reps, by rep 4 or 5, you are going to struggle a bit to move the weight.
This concept applies to any of your workouts.
In the deadlifting example, let’s say that you can deadlift 100 pounds for about 6 reps. Make a note of your sets and the weights that you choose should cause you to max out at 6 reps.
Once you can do 3 working sets of deadlifts of 6 reps, then you increase the weight. Increasing the weight by 5 pounds a week is sufficient to begin to see results.
Do not think that a weight increase of 5 pounds a week is too small. Gradual overload is much safer than attempting to do your maximum lift every training session.
What is the SAID principle? The SAID principle is the result of applying the principle of progressive overload.
The SAID principle is:
- S pecific
- A daptation (to)
- I mposed
- D emand
You challenge your body by using progressively heavier weights. Your body will adapt to the imposed load and burn fat and/or build more muscle in response.
You will get leaner and stronger, no matter what your age, even if you are over the age of 50.
Conclusion of the Overload Principle
The principle of progressive overload states that your body adapts to imposed load. Gradually increase your resistance load to spur muscle growth. Increase your cardio load to burn more fat.
The fruits of following the overload principle will be more muscle and less fat.
Stop doing the same workouts with the same weight. Stop wondering why your body is not changing even if you go to the gym often. If you are not following the overload principle, now you know why your body is not changing.
If you adhere to the rules of overload, your body will adapt. Your muscles will be forced to get bigger. You will get leaner.
You must get up off of the couch, get moving and start strength training. Yes, I was just talking to myself as well! Magically, in the span of 3 to 6 months, you can completely transform your physique.
You can use the overload principle from now on in every workout, for strength training or cardio.
For cardio, you can increase distance, or decrease time as I write in this article: 5 cardio workouts to shred fat in just 12 weeks.
Make sure to record every workout. Do a couple of warm up sets. Do 3 working sets of 4 – 6 repetitions. By rep 5 or 6, you should be putting in effort.
You should not be able to do 10 more reps at rep 6. If you can do 10 more reps by rep 6, then the weight is too light.
Once you can do 3 sets of 5 or 6 reps, then increase the weight by 5 pounds and start over at 4 reps. How can you get leaner and stronger? Now you know the answer.
Follow the overload principle.
A Small Request
My purpose in writing this article on the overload principle is to help you improve your health and fitness. I struggled for many years to find the magic formula that would help me lose weight and get fitter faster.
Of course, I am still a work in progress. But I have benefitted so much from what I have learned over the years about weight loss and fitness, that I want to share it with you. Perhaps this information will be helpful to you or someone you love.
I’d appreciate if you could let me know if:
a) you learned something new about the overload principle
b) you have additional points to make about the principle of overload
c) I need to correct some of the information I just gave you about progressive overload and how it might help you
If you did not learn anything new or benefit from this article, my sincere apologies, I will do better in my next post!
Also, if you prefer to read articles about different health and fitness topics, please comment below or contact me.
Last, I’d absolutely love it if you also came back later and let me know what your results are from applying the overload principle to your training program. I hope they will be great!