July 4, 2017 Avi Silverberg in Programming

Overload is a key concept in strength.

It means that you're doing more of something over a particular time frame (typically a training cycle). In simple terms, we can think of overload as being able to do more weight for the same number of reps.

For example, on week 1, you do 400 for 3 reps, and on week 2, you do 415 for 3 reps.

However, the approach just described can be downright frustrating because, at some point, you won't be able to 'lift more weight' than you did the previous week. This is where we must think of 'overload' on a deeper level.

Let's look at 3 things you can do to start overloading your volume in more effective ways.

1. Linear Volume Increases with Static Intensities

Linear means progressing in a single series of steps that represent a straight or nearly straight line. Static means not moving or changing.

With these definitions in mind, the goal over a training cycle would be to bring your volume levels up while maintaining the average amount of weight you lift each week.

Over 4-weeks of training , you might implement the following progressions:

• Week 7: Train at baseline volume (e.g . 10,000lbs)

• Week 2: Train at baseline volume + 5% (10,500lbs)

• Week 3: Train at baseline volume + 10% (11,000lbs)

• Week 4: Train at baseline volume + 15% (11,500lbs)

Meanwhile , the average intensities that you lift would maintain around the same level. For the sake of argument, perhaps you maintain 75-80% loads during these planned and incremental increases in volume .

For example, you might maintain similar loads from week-to-week or implement small increases, but do an additional set or rep to mainly progress your volume .

2. Increase Relative Intensity Zones with Static Volumes

Remember from our last article on Putting Context to Your Volume that relative intensity is a prediction of how close you were working to fatigue when accumulating your volume . Relative intensity takes the number of reps and intensity (bar load) used in calculating overall volume .

You can accumulate 10,000lbs of volume in multiple ways. If it were achieved with light weight and low reps, then this would be considered 'deload volume'. However, if it were achieved using higher intensities with rep range that caused fatigue, then this would be considered much harder volume.

Let's assume that over 4-weeks of training you maintain around 10,000lbs of weekly volume. You might implement the following progressions in relative intensit y:

• Week 1: Train in 100% yellow zone

• Week 2: Train in 50% yellow zone, 50% red zone

• Week 3: Train in 100% red zone

• Week 4: Train in 25% yellow zone, 50% red zone, 25% black zone

Here, you can see an increase from relative intensity zones that are much easier to recover from, to more challenging zones where it should be harder to recover.

3. Pushing Capacities Over Baseline

Baseline volume, is the average amount of volume you typically do within a particular timeframe. We mentioned in Article 2 that the higher you train above your baseline the more it challenges your recovery. In overloading your volume, you must look at how it relates to your baseline. If you want to 'push' your volume you will need to push it above your baseline.

Athletes differ in how much and how long they can train above their baseline and still feel 'recovered'. Broadly speaking, athletes who train 20% above their baseline might start to experience a recovery deficit, especially if that volume was accumulated in yellow, red, or black relative intensity zones.

Over 4-weeks of training, you might implement the following progressions:

• Week 1: Train at baseline volume

• Week 2: 10-20% above baseline

• Week 3: 20-30% above baseline

• Week 4: Maintain 20-30% above baseline (or increase/decrease based on fatigue indicators)

The most important element here is the percentage increases above baseline. The overall volume isn't as important as the relationship with your average .


So there you have it! Three ways you can start overloading your volume today.

• Increasing volume linearly while maintaining similar average intensities.

• Accumulating your work in harder relative intensity zones while maintaining similar overall volumes.

• Thinking about how your volume relates to the average amount you normally do.

Remember, everyone is different. The examples above are not exact prescriptions , but are for demonstration purposes only. In our next article we will investigate how volume should be managed depending on the goal of the training cycle.

See you in our NEXT ARTICLE where we cover some more volume examples.  

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