Thursday, December 1, 2016

Principles of Overload

Overload is the threshold prescription to cause a desired outcome.  A muscle will only strengthen when forced to operate beyond its customary intensity. The load must be progressively increased in order to further adaptive responses as training develops, and the training stimulus is gradually raised.
For most people, the term “load” makes them think of a weight.  That can be true in regards to resistance training, however in the Cardiorespiratory Fitness sense, load can mean the amount, distance, type, and/or the intensity of the exercise.  So to see an improvement in Cardiorespiratory Fitness in a particular event, as well as improvement in resistance training, you need to examine the type of training you are doing, determine your goal in that type and go from there.2
A way to ensure that you are following a progressive overload is by remembering and following the acronym FITT.  FITT stands for: Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type.
Frequency increasing the number of times you train per week.
Intensity increasing the difficulty of the exercise you do.
Time also known as duration, is increasing the length of time that you are training for each session.
Type Increase in the difficulty of the training you are doing.
Think of progressive overload like building a house.  You lay a few bricks the first day, go away, rest, recover. Come back the next day and add some more bricks. Over time you have a house.  Another example is from Greek history; the Myth of Milo and the Calf 1.

    “To become the greatest wrestler in Greece, to win six Olympic laurels, Milo had to train like the rest           of us.  His method?  Borrow a new-born calf and carry it around Croton day after day, week after week, and month after month.  As the calf grew, so did Milo’s strength, until he was the strongest wrestler in Greece and could carry the now full grown bull upon his back.”1
This is a slightly extreme example, but the principle is the same.  Try to do more each time in order to see results.  This can be for anything and not just for resistance training, you don’t try to run a marathon right at the start.  You build up to that distance over time.

1 About. (2016). Retrieved November 20, 2016, from

2 Baechle, T. R., & Earle, R. W. (2016). Essentials of strength training and conditioning (4th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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