Overloaded

Exercise is a metaphor for life. You can go through the same routine day in and day out for years and wonder why your situation is no different. It’s the same with fitness. You can do the same program workout after workout or you can challenge your body with variety and intensity. Your choice depends on how fit you want to be.

In order for any fitness program to be successful it must adhere to one very important principle. The Overload Training Principle is the foundation of all training.

The Overload Training Principle is just a technical way of saying your exercise program must progressively increase in intensity if you are to see positive changes in your fitness. Using the same amount of weight, the same number of repetitions and sets, or the same running speed workout after workout will not yield results.

The Overload Principle – The Science Part

When you stress the body it gets stronger. For progress to occur you must disrupt your body’s happy state of equilibrium. The Overload Principle applies to any type of athletic training, whether it’s CrossFit, strength training or sport. We’re going to use the deadlift as an example. When you increase the load (weight) of your deadlift you will initially feel fatigue and muscle soreness. As your body adapts to the new stress there is little or no fatigue or muscle soreness. In order to improve your deadlift you must increase the load again and allow the body to adapt to the new stress.

Not Too Little. Not Too Much. Just Right.

There are no shortcuts to improving your fitness and the overload principle highlights this truth. But how much overload is enough? Too little overload and you see no improvement. Too much overload and you risk overtraining and injury. The magic amount is an individual thing. It really depends on your current fitness level

The newbie CrossFit athlete’s fitness will improve with consistent weekly effort. Progress will be very rapid for this athlete. PR’s will be made nearly every workout! The risk for the newbie in the excitement that is CrossFit is overreaching. The temptation is to try all the new skills without becoming masters of the basics. You need to get your air squat to below parallel before becoming friends with the wall ball.

Eventually progress will stall. The intermediate athlete will see slower progress and will require a methodical approach to training. This is where keeping a detailed workout journal and following a progressive training system is vital. Yes, even in CrossFit where routine is the enemy, there is a need for (a little) routine. Your deadlift will not improve without planned progression. While improvement is slow a planned progression will see the intermediate CrossFit athlete set new PR’s in a few weeks.

The advanced athlete is the one who has maxed out his Cindy score and can deadlift double his bodyweight. There is still room for progress and new skills can always be learned. It just takes longer. Here the rules of planned progression still apply, but overall workout volume may be greater. Simply stated, this athlete can workout more, log more training sessions and work more skills in a single workout that a newbie or intermediate athlete. It also means that the risk for overtraining is just as high. Periodizing the workout plan with high volume weeks followed by low volume weeks yields results over the course of several months.

Putting It in Action 

Regardless of your current fitness level you can put the Overload Training Principle to use right now. One of the first things you need to do is keep a workout journal. Record your workout and how much weight you lift for each exercise. Include the number of repetitions and sets. Note your CrossFit workouts in the same way. How will you know if your Cindy score improved if you don’t write it down?

Set some goals. Perhaps you want to squat one and a half times your body weight but are struggling with the 45lb bar. Your first step will be to get comfortable with proper form with the bar alone. Set a rep scheme like a five sets of five repetitions format and work heavy loads adding five to ten pounds to your squat workout each week. Throw in the occasional seven sets of three reps and the odd one rep maximal effort for variety. Within a few months you will have reached your goal. These rules apply to any athletic skill. Drill muscle up or clean progressions as part of your warm up to establish proper mechanics.

Hitting deadlift pr's require planned progression and systematic overload.

Hitting deadlift pr’s require planned progression and systematic overload.

Without consistent overload there is no improvement in your fitness level. Set a goal, create a plan and do it.

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2 Responses to “Overloaded”
  1. club online says:

    Hello! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick
    shout out and say I truly enjoy reading through your posts.
    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the
    same topics? Thank you!

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  1. […] Exercise is a metaphor for life. You can go through the same routine day in and day out for years and wonder why your situation is no different. It’s the same with fitness. You can do the same program workout after workout or you can challenge your body with variety and intensity. Your choice depends … Read more […]



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