Understanding the Overload Principle and Putting it to Practice

October 02, 2021

While we may not fly or shoot laser beams from our eyes, the human body does have a superpower — adaptability

This incredible quality is the reason why humans can withstand so many changing environmental stresses. For example, when traveling to high altitudes, our bodies adjust so that our cells still receive sufficient oxygen

We are also constantly responding in physiological ways to internal and external stress such as viral and bacterial infections, overcrowding, air, water, and dietary imbalance.

In other words, when we expose ourselves repeatedly to stress, the body will remodel itself to handle the challenge at hand. 

With this in mind, it makes perfect sense that when you start to lift weights, the muscles and nervous system begin to evolve to tackle the increased stress on them —however, since the body is also undeniably efficient if your workouts become too routine. Your muscles adapt to the stress; a plateau is sure to follow suit. 

You see, to make fitness gains, you need to give your body muscles a reason to continue growing — and one surefire way to do just that is by applying the overload principle.

Interested in learning more? BioHealth can help! Read on as we explore the overload principle and teach you how to put it into practice.

The Overload Principle: Everything You Need To Know 

Arguably the most important law of fitness, the overload principle is defined as the systematic increase in training frequency, intensity, time, and type in various combinations over time. In short, it requires you to regularly escalate the challenge to your muscles to see adaptations. 

What are those adaptations, you ask? Improvements in strength, endurance, or muscle size.

How Do We Build Muscle? 

The overload principle is an incredible technique that pushes the body past its limits, further breaking it down to force these coveted adaptations that lead to glorious fitness gains — but how does it do this?

The skeletal muscle that makes up your body is composed of fibers that contract when the muscles are put to work. When we engage in strenuous exercise, these muscle fibers break down, causing micro-tears. The body naturally responds to the microtrauma by sending good nutrition to the muscle fibers to heal. 

This, in turn, causes the muscle to rebuild stronger to protect itself from future microtrauma with new muscle-building protein. The rebuilt fibers increase in number and thickness, which ultimately results in muscle growth. 

To support this incredible phenomenon, it’s of the utmost importance to fuel your body with enough protein to ensure the rate of muscle protein synthesis is higher than the rate of muscle protein breakdown. Why? Because this is how our muscles grow!

After a tough workout, we recommended fueling your body with our high-quality Precision ISO Protein to help give your body the fast-digesting nutrients it needs to repair, rebuild, and grow. 

Made with premium Pasture Fed Whey Protein, in each scoop, you’ll find 27+ grams of clean protein to nourish your muscles and help your body transform like no other protein on the market.  

Putting The Overload Principle Into Action 

If you’re on a mission to progress in your fitness journey, putting your body under additional stress is key. There are many different strategies that you can adopt to do this, but we suggest the FITT principle:

  • Frequency. How often the physical activity is performed, usually measured per week. Increasing your frequency could mean going from two to three lifting sessions per week, for example.  
  • Intensity. How hard an individual exercises during physical activity. For strength training, you can increase the intensity by using progressively heavier weights. For cardio, you can look at your heart rate to monitor increasing intensity. 
  • Time. The duration of physical activity. Experts suggest engaging in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise a week. 
  • Type. The specific physical exercise you choose — generally speaking, resistance training and cardio are the two most common types of exercise. If you’re looking to improve strength, you might overload weight and reps. If you’re looking to improve endurance, on the other hand, you might overload distance and time.

The FITT method provides an excellent way to approach overload training strategically and safely by overloading these different aspects of exercise. In addition, it may also help with burnout. 

10 Quick Tips On Applying The Overload Principle   

Tip #1: Increase loads gradually and progressively. Never try to increase too abruptly — your training loads should become more intense over a period of time. 

Tip #2: Test your maxes. Find your maximums to decide on weight amounts and appropriate increases in intensity. 

Tip #3: Allow ample recovery time. While it might be tempting to hit the weight rack right after a day of strength training, too little recovery over time can cause an overtraining effect that can hinder your results. If you simply can’t stay out of the gym, turn your recovery day into an active rest day with a gentle workout like a light jog.    

Tip #4: Avoid muscular failure. Despite what you might think, burnout sets are not necessary or even advised for most sports training. 

Tip #5: Alternate activities. Organize your workouts to allow recovery on some aspects of training while increasing intensity on others so that you’re not training the same muscle groups every day. 

Tip #6: Track your progress. It’s a good idea to keep a fitness journal so that you can track your progress. This makes it much easier to see whether you’re on track to reach your goals or if you need to make a few adjustments to get better results.  

Tip #7: As soon as it gets easy — make it harder. To keep overloading your body, you need to keep progressing rather than repeat the same workout over and over again — you have to take your workouts up a notch. This might mean going from knee push-ups to toe pushups, running on a flat surface to running on an incline, or progressing from chair squats to dumbbell squats. 

If you hit a plateau, sometimes it’s as simple as changing the movements you’re doing or even changing the order of your exercises. So, if all of a sudden you’re flying through your workouts with ease, it’s time to take it to the next level; you’re always overloading your muscles and adapting to get stronger. 

Tip #8: Train with like-minded individuals. If you want to be successful in reaching your fitness goals, it’s wise to surround yourself with like-minded individuals who can help motivate you to stay on track.  

Tip #9: Don’t forget — routine is the enemy. Remember, the body’s superpower is adaptability. Sticking to the same exact routine for months at a time won’t cause any change to the body. So if you want to see muscle growth, you need to mix it up! 

Tip #10: Support your body with protein. The building block of your muscles, a diet rich in protein is essential to help you maintain and grow muscle mass. Reach for a high-quality protein powder like our Pasture-Fed Precision ISO Protein to make a delicious shake after your workout. 

Our phenomenal tasting protein won’t just treat your tastebuds to a tasty experience. Still, the protein will get absorbed quickly by your body to aid in recovery while boosting muscle mass.  

A Final Word 

Applying the overload principle just might be the best way to break the body out of its routine and ignite the growth that you’ve been after. By pushing yourself past your limits, your body will adapt to be able to handle that stress by becoming stronger. 

Thinking about implementing the overload principle into your fitness routine? While this is a great way to boost performance and muscle mass, we suggest drinking a delicious shake with our Pasture-Fed Precision ISO Whey Protein Isolate after your workouts to nourish your body with the nutrients it needs to build strength while fueling recovery. 

Made with premium pasture-fed whey protein and no icky chemicals or questionable ingredients, with BioHealth Nutrition, your choice is simple, your nutrition is second-to-none, and your body is better than it was yesterday!



How much physical activity do adults need? | CDC

How Microtears Help You to Build Muscle Mass | UH Hospitals

Human Biological Adaptability | Palomar.edu

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