One of the phenomena of the human body is its ability to adjust to the demands of physical stress placed upon it. A person’s level of fitness is imaged in the specific adaptations made to their shape, weight, body flexibility and movement, related to the level of physical activity habitually encountered in their work or leisure pursuits. The body can also respond by adapting to meet the demands of planned diverse physical activity. It may register an improvement in muscle strength, endurance, speed, flexibility and co-ordination, dependent on the type of activity being undertaken and the intensity and progressions entailed. Conversely, inactivity will produce adverse changes in these areas and a decline in the body’s efficiency.
The concept of progressively increasing the load and its training effect is known as the ‘overload principle’. It can be defined as ‘the application of any demand or resistance that is greater than those levels normally encountered in daily life’. The degree of intensity with which the system is overloaded wil1 affect the rate at which physiological adaptations take place. The closer the overload is to maximum, the greater the physiological improvement, provided that the overload is applied in gradual progressions and can be tolerated by the body for it takes time for the human body to adapt to additional exercise without experiencing fatigue or excessive muscle soreness. Below a certain stress level a person will show no improvement and merely maintain his current level of physical fitness.
The Overload Principle
This is probably the most important principle of exercise and training. Simply stated, the Overload Principle means that the body will adapt to the stresses placed upon it. The more you do, the more you are capable of doing. This is how all the training adaptations occur in exercise and training. The human body is an amazing machine. When you stress the body through lifting a weight that the body is unaccustomed to lifting, the body will react by causing physiologic changes to be able to handle that stress the next time it occurs. This concept is similar in cardiovascular training. If you ask the heart, lungs and endurance muscles to do work not previously done, it will make changes to the body to be able to handle that task better the next time. This is how people get stronger, bigger, faster and increase their physical fitness level.
When you are working out, you want to strive to somehow increase the workload you are doing above what you did on your previous workout so you have overloaded your body to create a training adaptation. This increase in workout stress can be a very small increase, as many small increases over time will eventually be a large increase or adaptation.
The stress placed upon the body in a workout relates to numerous factors such as:
Some ways to increase the workload of a training session over a previous workout session include:
- Decrease Workout Time
- If you perform the same exact workout on two days, but on one day it took less time, you have increased the workload on the day that it took less time for the workout. This is due to the fact that time is a component of determining workload, therefore; you have increased the intensity of the workout by decreasing the amount of time to complete it.
- Increase Force Generated During an Exercise
- This can be as simple as adding more weight or resistance to an exercise or to the body as in cycling, running or stair climbing. Adding just a small increase in weight, resistance or incline, whenever possible, to an exercise will soon accumulate to large gains in workload performed. Other methods to increase force include performing exercises with accelerating speed and a greater range of motion.
- Increase Total Workload
- Some examples of increasing a training session workload include doing more exercises, doing more sets, going farther or going faster. Some of these benefits can be offset by a corresponding substantial increase in time to perform the increased workload as time is a component in work performed. The goal is to increase work while decreasing time to a point that determines a maximum workload for a training session. This provides for maximum intensity and efficient, productive training.
Remember, if you do not stress the body enough it will atrophy (deteriorate) to the point it needs to perform normal daily functioning and nothing more. Hence the aging process!
Two ways of looking at the same thing similar yet different! The Overload Principle is the key to superior athleticism!