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Fundamentals # 1: The “overload” principle

September 22, 2012

One of the most basic of all strength-training principles is the overload principle. Simply stated, this principle tells us that our bodies will adapt to whatever rigors we place on them. In other words, the more work you do, the more you will be capable of doing over time.

With exercise, you can elicit an overload response by pushing harder during workouts. Increasing loads, increasing volumes (reps), or even decreasing rest periods can accomplish this overload. The bottom line is that you need to push your body harder over time if you want to see improvements. Every time you repeat a task, your body becomes a little more accustomed to doing it, and therefore uses less energy to complete that task.

The overload principle is not just specific to strength training; it can be applied to any physical training from flexibility to cardiovascular exercise. So, whether we are discussing lifting a weight, or doing a 5 km run, or taking a bikram yoga class, the universal laws of science and human adaptation remain the same.

I can't stress this principle enough in the training programs I make for my clients as it will be the key component to reaching their training goals. This is what’s missing in a HUGE percentage of people’s exercise plans.

So how do you use the "overload" principle in your training?

You can either lift more weight, perform an exercise in a faster time, perform more repetitions of an exercise or have less rest in between exercises.

How often should you progress?

Every. Single. Workout. NEVER do two identical workouts! The exercises and basic program can stay the same, but you should always ensure that you overload your body just that little bit extra. Whether it means doing more work, taking less rest time, or doing the same amount of work in less time. Simple as that.



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