Gym 101: Progressive Overload

Whether you’re a recreational fitness enthusiast or an elite athlete in order to make the most out of any training programme it is crucial to have a well-structured plan that follows fundamental principles of training. One major component in all training programmes is the principle of progressive overload.

What is the principle of progressive overload?                                                                                        

“Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed on the body during resistance training. In reality, resistance training is only effective for improving health and performance if the human body is continually required to exert a greater magnitude of force to meet higher physiologic demands. Thus, a gradual increase in demand of the resistance training programme is necessary for long-term improvement in muscular fitness and health.” (Kraemer, Ratamess and French, 2002)

This principle isn’t necessarily limited to only resistance training, and can be applied to any type of physical training (running, jumping, lifting, etc.) where the goal is simply to “improve”. There are various ways to implement the principle of progressive overload in your workout regimen and lucky for you below you can find a short list that I prepared for you:

  • Intensity:

You can manipulate the intensity of the exercise by increasing the weight/resistance. Heavier weights or an increased resistance will over time lead to an adaptation by your muscles, connective tissue, bone and nervous system. In other words you will get bigger and stronger!

  • Volume (aka Sets & Reps) :

There are situations where increasing the intensity of the exercise is out of question. Or you may simply want to play around with other aspects of your training. Then increasing the number of repetitions in a given set or increasing the total number of sets for a given exercise is a good option which will eventually lead to improvements in muscular endurance and hypertrophy (increase in muscle size).

  • Tempo:

Tempo is another aspect that could be manipulated to achieve progressive overload in your training. As far as lifting is concerned tempo indicates the time spent in concentric, eccentric as well as isometric parts of the exercise. A quicker concentric contraction will lead to improvements in power while a slower is likely to lead to a longer “time under tension” and eventually to muscular hypertrophy. 

  • Frequency:

This is basically how often you work out in a given time. Let’s say if you work out 3 times a week, then an additional 4th day would lead to an increase in frequency and various adaptations. But this one is a bit tricky as you may not want to increase the frequency forever and end up living in the gym. This can not only hurt your life, but many other aspects of your health as well. So, my advice is to be very mindful with this one and listen to your body. If you constantly start feeling fatigued, don’t see any improvements in the gym for an extended period or struggle with your sleep, these are all your body telling you to slow down a little.

  • Exercise Variety

Last but not least, you can implement different exercises in your routine. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should change your entire routine every session, but once the improvements plateau in your existing plan then you may want to consider replacing some of the exercises with alternatives.

References:

Kraemer, W.J., Ratamess, N.A. & French, D.N. Resistance training for health and performance. Curr Sports Med Rep 1, 165–171 (2002).

Aydin Parmaksizoglu

Nutrition Strategies For Bodybuilding

Unlike most other sports that use resistance training as a part of their training routine, sports like bodybuilding, powerlifting, and Olympic lifting solely focus primarily on resistance training with very little accessory work. Among these sports bodybuilding’s primary goal is to induce skeletal muscle hypertrophy.

Bodybuilders follow a special type of training style, usually of a greater volume with higher numbers of repetitions and sets per each muscle group, with very little rest times in between. This leads to the fact that the sport of bodybuilding also requires a hypertrophy focused diet. Therefore it is widely accepted in literature that high carbohydrate and high protein intakes are crucial for bodybuilders in that they help fuel demanding workouts, whilst also boosting recovery, and maintaining anabolism. 

Helms, Aragon and Fitschen (2014) claim that most bodybuilding athletes would respond best to consuming 2.3-3.1g/kg of lean body mass per day of protein, about 15-30% of estimated energy intake from fat, and the rest of calories in the form of carbohydrates. On the other hand Lambert, Frank and Evans (2004) argue that bodybuilders should consume about 55-60% of their EEI (Estimated Energy Intake) in form of carbohydrates, about 25-30% in form of protein and the remaining 15-20% as fat, for both the off-season as well as the pre-contest phases (see table below).

Table 1. Comparison between recommended macronutrient breakdowns from literature

MacronutrientHelms, Aragon and FitschenLambert, Frank and Evans
Protein2.3-3.1g/kg BW25-30% EEI
CarbohydrateRest55-60% EEI
Fat15-30% EEI15-20% EEI

As pointed out earlier during both off-season and pre-contest phases 25-30% of calories should come in the form of protein. This is not only because of proteins contribution to optimal hypertrophy and prevention of muscle loss, but also due to its relatively large thermic effects which could assist in reducing or maintaining body fat levels. Antonio et al. (2015) also suggests that the consumption of a high protein diet (3.4g/kg/d) whilst following a resistance-training programme may aid with regards to body composition. Antonio et al. (2016) also denies the claims that a high protein diet might have negative health effects due to a lack of evidence in scientific literature.

The consumption of 55-60% of calories in form of carbohydrates in both off-season and pre-contest periods is considered to be beneficial in regards to maintenance of training intensity. Guidelines on this field suggest an intake of carbohydrates up to 6g/kg of body mass for male strength athletes.

When it comes to the third macronutrient that is fat it is important to find the optimal range for the individual athlete as excess dietary fat (especially saturated) can increase the occurrence of coronary artery disease whilst an intake below requirements can result in a reduction in circulating testosterone, which is extremely counter-productive. That is why Lambert, Frank and Evans (2004) recommends an intake of fat that would comprise 15-20% of the athletes’ off-season and pre-contest diet.

Finally the fluid consumption also requires close monitoring. Leiper, Carnie and Maughan (1996) express that the daily amount of fluid loss can exceed 3L in inactive populations, and this number in active populations can almost reach up to 5L.

Aydin Parmaksizoglu

IG: aydinpar

References:

(Slater and Phillips, 2011)

(Lambert and Flynn, 2002)

(Lambert, Frank and Evans, 2004)

Exercise of the Month: Bear Complex

The Bear Complex is lifting move that is suited for more intermediate/advanced gym goers. The 5 lift involves 5 different parts which are: A power clean from the floor, front squat, push press (bringing bar behind head to rear rack position), back squat, and push press (bringing bar to chest to front-rack position) and then back to the floor. The completion of all 5 moves counts as one repetition (rep). There is the option to perform this exercise with a pause after each of the moves (to break them up) or it can be performed as one continuous movement with no pauses.

It is important to be well accustomed to all the individual parts of the complex, on their own, before attempting to do the full movement. It is also advised that if this is the first time you are performing the complex, you should start with a lighter weight than you usually squat or power clean with. This is to ensure that you are safely able to perform the complex and then you can gradually begin to increase your weight as you get used to the movements.

1) power clean

2) front squat

3) push press (to behind head)

4) Back Squat

5) push press (to chest)

The Bear complex is good for developing power and strength. It is also good for conditioning your full body due to having to stabilise yourself whilst performing the movements. It can also be used for development of muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness if the weight is kept light and performed at a faster rate.

So if you’re looking for a way to take your Olympic/Power lifting to the next level, try incorporating the Bear Complex into your workout.

 

by Beverley