Overload Principle Info: Ultimate Weider Training Principle Explained

Overload Principle

Massive Size, Power & Density with the Overload Principle

The years between 1939 and 1960 were a period of enlightenment for bodybuilding. It was during those years that the Weider System of weight training evolved as the brainchild of Joe Weider. Prior to that, bodybuilding was shrouded in a hazy mysticism, overloaded by mountebanks who used the sport solely as a commercial vehicle to purvey magic potions of all sorts.

With his incisive elucidation of the Weider Principles, Joe Weider threw back the ignominious curtain of ignorance and let the bright light of science illuminate what had been in the dark for so long. No longer would those in search of great strength and a Herculean physique have to grope blindly in a dungeon of darkness until they happened upon an effective method. The Cheating, Instinctive, Iso-Tension and many other Weider Principles put a halt to all of that desperate clutching for something concrete and effective.

The central and crowning glory of the Weider System is the Progressive Overload Principle. Drawing upon a vast range of influences and knowledge, Joe Weider distilled this most far-reaching and effective principle, from which all the other Weider Principles derive.


This most important principle is based upon a couple of fundamental physiological concepts that are the cornerstones of all efficient and productive strength and muscle- building programs. The first of these concepts states that the demands imposed by training must be of a magnitude sufficient to force the body to adapt. The second concept follows from the first, stating that if a person wishes to make continuous increases in muscle size and strength, the demands imposed by training must be of progressively increasing magnitude. Strength and size will not increase by merely repeating what is already easy. Increases in size and strength will come only when you go all out and constantly attempt the momentarily impossible.

Applying the Overload Principle to your bodybuilding routine necessitates that you make unceasing efforts to increase the workload of your workouts. When you find that your strength has increased to the point where you can handle a weight for 12 reps in an exercise that initially allowed only eight, then you should increase the resistance by approximately 5%.

The amount of time it takes to perform your workouts is another variable that can be progressively altered. As you reduce the amount of time it takes to perform a certain workout, the workload increases. Such is the nature of progressive weight training.


Progressive overload training is an absolute necessity for the creation of density, mass, power and more permanent size increases. So many of today's younger bodybuilders have fallen prey to the seductive charm of instant gains that result from bloating the tissues with anabolics and doing innumerable sets of light pumping movements. These gains are ephemeral and will disappear once a few workouts are missed or a trainee "goes off the pill." Overload training causes "true" growth of the myofibril, the contractile element within a muscle.


It is a readily observed fact that common laborers performing highly repetitive tasks show little gain in muscle size as a result of their work. The reason for this, of course, is that the intensity of effort produced by common labor is too low to stimulate muscular growth.

Since the overload technique is required to stimulate size and strength increases, and since such training is difficult and of a high intensity, the amount of training performed must be minimal or you will overtrain. Three sets appear to be optimal when super intense overload is the goal. The first set should be a warm-up, light enough to allow 15 reps. The second will be heavier and allow a maximum of only 10 reps. The third set will be your maximum effort with enough weight to allow from six to eight reps. This progressive increase builds shape and size and will help prevent injuries.


The best results will be produced if the reps are kept between eight and 12. Anything less than six repetitions of an exercise will not impose a sufficient demand upon the body's reserve abilities to stimulate any worthwhile response. Too many reps - more than 15 - will probably tax the cardio respiratory system more than it will tax the muscular system.

The first several reps should be performed in a relatively slow and deliberate manner, preventing outside forces from assisting in the work. Once you've reached a state of momentary positive failure, where you can't raise the weight for another strict rep, do two more "cheat" reps. If you have a training partner, you might even have him help you lift the weight once you've reached positive failure, so that you can lower it slowly for a few negative reps, concentrating on the muscles involved in the movement.


Lifting progressively heavier weights with proper form will definitely increase your size and strength. Gradually reducing the amount of time it takes to perform a given workout will also overload the body with the demands needed to stimulate a positive change. If you were to reduce the amount of time it takes to perform your present workout by a third, you would effectively almost double the intensity of your workouts, making them much more productive.

Decreasing the time it takes to perform a workout must be gradual, or you will experience extreme discomfort, such as nausea, dizziness and acute fatigue. Rushing headlong into a high-intensity overload workout could leave you on the gym floor in a state of severe physical shock. Ease into it gradually to keep from exceeding your physiological limits.


Watch it! Constantly attempting to increase weights and decrease training time will expose your body to high levels of stress. Over enthusiasm can lead to a deterioration in proper exercise form just for the sake of increasing weights. Too heavy a weight might force you to fall out of the "groove" and crash down on your noggin or tear a muscle.

Warm up before moving on to heavier weights. Concentrate! Don't let your mind wander during an all-out effort or you will lose control of the weight. Don't let a ram- pant ego lead you to attempt using weights you know are beyond your existing capabilities. Injuries are the bane of all athletes. A torn shoulder ligament, for instance, could sideline you for up to a year.


While every safety precaution should be taken to guard against injury, you must not baby yourself, either. You will have to develop the physical courage required to handle heavy weights. As children, we were told by our mothers not to push it, or little Johnny might hurt himself. Well, if little Johnny wants to be big Johnny, he'd better become accustomed to the stress of an all-out physical effort. And this will require a certain amount of courage as well as concentration and dedication to the Overload Principle.

Bodybuilding is not a hit-and-miss affair. Properly conducted, a set of high-intensity overload exercise should force you to find a seat as soon as possible or you will fall down. Following an overload set, you should be sweating profusely and breathing like a man who has just climbed the Empire State Building with two automobiles on his back.


This training principle should not be used by a beginner, but only by those with at least six months of regular training behind them. You must first know how your muscles work and the groove of movement the exercises take. The first six months of training will enable a beginner to develop the strength and toughness of tendons and ligaments needed to withstand the rigors of overload training. Those first months of training will also improve a trainee's endurance and give him the time to develop an understanding of his recuperative powers. This should provide him with the knowledge he'll need to make an honest commitment to the principle.


All of your nutritional needs will be amplified while training with the Overload Principle. Because of the extraordinary demands that this type of training imposes on you, requirements for all the basic nutrients will increase. You'll need carbohydrates for the energy you'll be expending. Fruits and starches are best for providing you with the ready calories you'll need without making you fat.

Because of the growth you'll be stimulating while on this program, you must be sure to take in enough protein to allow for growth to take place. An exceedingly important discovery made by research scientists is the body's need for extra vitamins, especially B vitamins, when exposed to high levels of physical and emotional stress.

Most important, you must eat a well-balanced diet while engaged in overload training. Get enough of everything; don't overemphasize anything. Proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water are all very important and should be derived from a wide variety of sources: leafy greens, dairy products, poultry, fish, lean beef, vegetables and grains.


It is very important to keep an accurate record of your progress when employing the Overload Principle. This will provide a retrospective account of what weights, sets and reps have worked best for you. When looking back over the previous week's record, you'll know whether you were slacking by reviewing the weights used and the reps performed.

Also, no new exercise should be worked into a routine, even by the most advanced bodybuilder, unless he has first practiced it for a while. This will allow him to gain the necessary control over the movement. Keep in mind that it is not only strength that is required to use the principle properly; an understanding of the exercise and its functional relationship to a certain muscle must also be taken into account.

Employed properly and with circumspection, the Overload Principle is undoubtedly the most effective of the Weider Principles. Learn from it! Profit from it! Grow from it!

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