Stop Before You Hurt Yourself Part 1: 5 Steps To Proper Overload During Resistance Training
By Erik Strouse, MS
VIDA Fitness Master Trainer
Hello VIDA members! It is a commonly known principle that to build a stronger, fitter body, you have to challenge it with loads that are greater than the body is currently capable of performing. This is called the Overload Principle, and it is widely accepted amongst the fitness and medical fields to be accurate. But what if I told you that this principle is actually misunderstood and presents a danger to people that they do not recognize? More often than not you see people in the gym trying to lift as heavy as they can thinking it will lead to a better, stronger body. Little do they know they are actually causing more harm than good if they keep pushing!!
So how exactly do they cause more harm than good if they are meeting the requirements of the Overload Principle by going heavier? Just because you can lift a heavy object or push the body to a more intense level doesn’t mean you should. The body will always find a way to achieve the action your brain is telling it to (in this case, the lift), even if that means that it sacrifices form and mechanics. This is called the Law of Facilitation, which simply means the body will take the path of least resistance to execute moving the weight. What I am getting at here is, if you are lifting maximal loads, you may actually be altering your mechanics, thus using other muscles to make it through the movements. This ultimately may be breaking down the safest form for the lift to achieve the exercise without injury. Further, you may be training dysfunction INTO the body by continuing to train in a dysfunctional way. So instead of improving your overall fitness, you could be decreasing it!
That poses a challenge… How do you overload the body without breaking form or using the wrong muscles? These five steps will help:
1. Master the Mechanics of the Exercise: To put it bluntly, forget heavy weight until you have the safest, most efficient mechanics for the exercise. This can take several weeks, if not years, to achieve depending on your current flexibility/mobility, base strength and endurance, and experience.
2. Have proper Range of Motion at the Joints: You might not be aware you need to work on this until you actually attempt a specific exercise and realize you have bad mechanics. If you are unsure, ask a trainer! We are always eager to help when people ask should we not be with a client. Take advantage of that complimentary session if you have not already! That’s a full hour FREE to get this type of information.
3. Only Perform Exercise to Volitional Fatigue: Volitional fatigue is the point in the set where you can’t lift one more rep without cheating it up (using momentum, ,changing body position, leaning way back, etc.). That means you don’t break form, EVER!! Err on the side of caution, because if you injure yourself, you may never recover properly. This is no joke…
4. Progress Weight Slowly Over Time: People tend to add too much weight too fast because they want to challenge the body or think it will help them build faster. Realistically, you should only be increasing loads by small increments. For example, I often see guys go from 135 lbs (one 45 lb plate on each side of the bar) on the bench press to 185 lbs (one 45 and one 25 on each side of the bar) just because they want to see the bigger plates on there. Ever see those 2.5 lb plates? They work wonders in adding more overload without adding too much.
5. Listen to Your Body: If you feel things that remotely resemble pain, or cause discomfort after the lift, such as an achy lower back or joint, really rethink what you were doing up until then. Your body always tells you what’s up… Don’t ignore it because you want the numbers to go up…
All in all, follow these steps to make sure you overload the body properly and safely! If you need help with this, shoot me an email or ask a trainer. email@example.com. Last, if you want more free info on a weekly basis, sign up for my FREE fitness newsletter at www.espersonalfitness.com/newsletter!