Powerlifting

Smart Training is Hard Training: The Principle of Overload


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How much volume do you need to get bigger? How much intensity do you need to get stronger? The principle of overload dictates that training must be sufficiently difficult to drive adaptation and must get more difficult over time.

In this video you’ll learn:

-The definition of Overload.

-The parameters of Overload for Hypertrophy, General Strength and Peaking.

-How Overload relates to Maximum Recoverable Volume.

-What Proper and Improper Application of the Principle of Overload looks like.

The second ranking principle among the Scientific Principles of Strength Training is Overload. Remember that each training principle must fall within the parameters of the next, so having an overloading structure to your training is a great thing, but it doesn’t matter much without specificity. I can overload on my mile time every week, but that doesn’t make me a better strength athlete.
Training with overload means that we are training hard enough to warrant adaptation (within the maximum threshold for strength) and that training is getting periodically harder over time. When reading the book you might see it in a bit more fancy writing, but in layman’s terms, this is a good definition.
The best thing that we can do is train as close as possible to our MRV (Maximum Recoverable Volume). The closer we can get to an individual’s MRV, the closer we can get to optimizing an individual’s gains. Training at your minimum effective dose is okay, and often argued as superior, BUT you will get the minimum results if you’re training for the minimal effect of your training. For those of us reading this, or watching the series over the scientific principles of strength, I imagine we want to get as strong as possible as fast as possible. Training minimally cannot guarantee the later. You want to push the limit of MRV, and even at times, we may intentionally exceed our MRV in a process that we call functionally overreaching. This is not overtraining, but it is a strategic point in time when training is intentionally harder than what we could recover from to elicit what is called a super compensation effect, in which we will be able to express our newly found strength adaptations after a deload.
To push you MRV the training is going to be very hard, and maybe harder than ever before. The old saying, “Train smarter, not harder” might be somewhat true, but the reality is that the smartest training you can do is also very hard training.
There are different overloading parameters for each different phase of training.
During hypertrophy phases, we want to overload the amount of volume that we are doing microcycle to microcycle (week to week). This could be done via, more weight, more sets, or a combination of the two.
Hypertrophy overloading parameters (meeting both parts of the definition) are as follows:
1.) Training should be done in the 60-75% intensity range of your 1 rep max (within the maximum threshold).
2.) Training should be in the 6-12 rep range.
i) These two things refer to the specific exercise you are performing in that specific phase, because if you’re aiming for 60-75% on a high bar variation, but you are taking that 60-75% from your best low bar in wraps squat then you’re going to be over the maximum threshold for hypertrophy for your high bar squats.
3.) There can be 15-30 sets per week of directed work at each lift, and these should be overloading in nature. For an exercise to count towards your total MRV for the week it would need to be taxing on the prime movers involved in the execution of one of the three lifts. For example, Flat DB flies would count towards your pec MRV but not your back. Fifteen to thirty sets seem like a wide range, but everyone has a different MRV based on a variety of factors. Genetics, lifestyle factors, nutrition/sleep, supplement use, how advanced they are, size, strength, gender, fiber type, etc. All of these things will play into an individual’s MRV.

During General strength training the same idea of overload applies, except the main overloading stimulus comes from the intensity that you are using. During hypertrophy phases, we try to increase the total volume, and during strength training, we increase the weight used from session to session.
General Overloading parameters for strength training are as follows:
1.) Intensity used should fall in the 70-85% range for intermediate/advanced athletes and 75-90% range for females and novice lifters. Females can tolerate relative intensities for more reps.
2.) Training should be within the 3-6 rep range for this phase.
3.) Training should be done around MV or 10-20 overloading sets per week, directed at each lift.
The final phase of training is called peaking. Our two goals during peaking are to develop technical prowess and neural adaptations. This is when we have the high force lifts. There isn’t as much neural stress in the training when training the other two modalities.
Overloading parameters for peaking phases are as follows:
1.) Training is within the 85% and above intensity range for intermediate/advanced lifters, and 90% and above for females/beginner lifters.
2.) Sets will fall in the 1-3 rep range. Keep in mind that the more advanced a lifter is, and the stronger a lifter is, the more damaging a single set can be and therefore they will require a lower number of sets to reach their MRV.
3.) A lifter could tolerate 5-10 sets per week, depending on experience/strength, to peak properly for a meet.
As you see, there are a variety of different parameters for each different phase of lifting. It is very important to do these at the proper time during your training span. The further from a meet you are the higher the volume can be (due to fatigue accumulation interfering with the ability to produce high forces, which will be talked about during the “fatigue management” and “phase potentiation” articles). It is very important that we do not under-apply or over-apply these principles. As mentioned earlier, we should try to adhere to each principle without violating any of the rest.

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