Are you guys ready for the super exciting second installment of the training for strength series?! Woot, woot talk technical to me. Okay, so just in case you guys missed the first and most important part of training for strength go check it out my first post on specificity.

I just finished reading the chapter on overload and doing some research outside of the book so I could put this post together. Let’s start out by defining what overload means for strength training:

  • Training must be heavy and voluminous enough to add mass, heavy enough to add the most strength and near limits enough to practice technique under load.
  • Training must get more difficult with time (not necessarily every workout or every week, but over the course of a macrocylcle/year your training should increase in difficulty).

In order to train optimally with overload one needs to find their maximum recoverable volume (MRV), which is essentially how much work you can do before you overreach. Once you find your MRV all you have to do is stay near that volume in order to maximize your gains. The idea is simple but the application is not, in that respect its like pleasing your girlfriend. The idea of how to do it seems easy until you realize you’ve been over/under doing duties and she’s pissed as hell either way. Yes this applies to boyfriends too, we are also a pain in the ass, but if we cook and are nice to you we’re worth it ;). Find your MRV scale the easy way by taking 65% of your max and doing sets of 10 until you can no longer do ten reps. That is your MRV for that movement, and make sure you keep track of it.

Overload for hypertrophy requires a high volume and relatively low intensity. If you are chasing muscle size you can add weight each week, add sets or do both slowly. All three of these methods are very effective so pick one and have fun. The most effective range to train your man boobs and biceps in is 65%-75% for sets of 6-12. Keep that in mind on Monday when your bro tells you that your 315 pound bench was, “all you.”

In order to train your strength systems you require less volume than your hypertrophy range, but you require a higher relative intensity that resides in the 75-85% range for 3-5 reps per set.

Last but not least if you are trying to peak for a competition you require a very high intensity and very low volume. Your intensity should be 85%+ for the peaking cycle, but your reps will be in the 1-3 range with very few sets. This is the time where you will probably want to kill yourself because the weight on the bar feels like it’s crushing you. The cycle should be relatively short and you should peak if you are going into a competition.

There’s one thing that I would feel like an ass for leaving out of this post, and it’s the psychology of overload. For many this aspect is greatly underestimated… As a strength athlete your goal is to constantly push your body to do things that it has never done before, whether it’s a 10 rep max or an all time PR. The goal is to get stronger and its mentally exhausting, if you aren’t prepared to hit the, “fuck it” button and take that 500 pound squat into the hole then strength training isn’t for you. There’s something terrifying and beautiful about lifting a weight you’ve never done before, when that bar bends around your back or off the ground and every fiber in your body is telling you to quit but you push through and finish the rep, you get a high like you’ve never had before. However, if that weight staples you to the ground or bench then you feel like you just lost a war. Don’t underestimate the weight, if you do it will beat you down until there’s nothing left of your fragile ego. Play the long game and accept failure but don’t forget to learn from it.

If you aren’t overloading in your training then your body will never grow and you won’t get stronger. However, if you aren’t ready to step into the world of heavy ass weights then there will always be a treadmill and donut for you.

Until Next Time,

“Maximum Effort!”

PS- if you can name the movie/character I will be your best friend.

Israetel, M., & Smith, C. (n.d.). Scientific Principles of Strength Training.