The main goal when trying to build muscle is to find ways to apply overload every workout. Without overload, your muscles have zero reason to change, and you will see no progress in your training.
Many times, people are going all-out in the gym, training to failure and giving it everything they’ve got, but they are actually applying insufficient overload to their muscles, and because of this fail to see results for the work they are putting into their training.
The 3 Main Forms of Overload Are:
- Intensity: The amount of weight you are using, commonly expressed as a percentage of 1RM (one rep maximum)
- Volume: the amount of work done (weight x reps x sets)
- Density: (volume/time)
The definition of intensity, as it relates to strength training, is what percentage of your 1RM you are lifting, not the amount of effort you are exerting when you are lifting.
Simply put, the more weight you can lift, the more overload you are providing to your muscles. For example, bench pressing 150 lbs. for 10 repetitions will provide more overload than benching 135×10. To progressively overload intensity, a person bench pressing 135×10 would seek to eventually bench press 140×10.
Volume is the amount of work you are doing in any given workout, which is usually expressed as the amount of weight you are lifting, multiplied by the number of repetitions performed in each set, multiplied by how many sets of each exercise you are performing.
For example, doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions of bench press with 150 lbs. yields a total volume of 4500 pounds of volume (3 x 10 x 150 = 4500 lbs). By adding one more set (4 x 10), your volume will increase to 6000 lbs. That’s an increase of 1500 lbs in work performed.
Volume is a very powerful way to increase muscle growth (hypertrophy), as well as fat loss, because you are physically doing more work.
Density is simply the volume of work you performed in your workout, divided by the amount of time it takes to get it done. If it takes you 10 minutes and 43 seconds to perform 3 sets of 10 with 150 lbs. on week 1, but you perform the same volume of work over 8 minutes and 41 seconds in week 2, your density has increased.
Increased Density = More Overload = More Muscle and Strength = Faster Fat Loss
By simply manipulating one or more of these variable of progressive overload on a regular basis, and tracking your progress, you can ensure that every workout you are doing is going to result in muscle growth and progress over the long term.
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Author: Chris Friesen
Chris Friesen is a gym owner, personal trainer, online fitness coach and former “fat dad” living on 60 beautiful acres of countryside in rural Canada.
He specializes in helping busy parents shed body fat quickly, WITHOUT becoming gym rats OR giving up the foods they love to eat.
In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids, sitting in his hot tub out in the snow with a glass of bourbon, and yelling at his (many) misbehaving barn cats.