Project Overload: Superior Training for the Advanced Lifter:
Written by MVP
Progressive overload is the most essential part of resistance training when it comes to hypertrophy. It is often the most under-looked element to gaining mass and is without a doubt the best thing you can do for yourself while in the gym. Some of the most effective routines in the world like Bill Starr's 5x5, Max-OT, and HST require that the muscle be overloaded each workout. If you fail to increase the overload (the work the muscle does) from the previous workout then you fail to give your bodies anything new to grow from. Due to beginner gains, beginners can often make linear increments in resistance alone, sometimes weeks and months straight without a single plateau; for intermediate lifters it's not that simple.
Beginner gains are nothing more than the body's nervous system activating more motor units in the muscle fibers. It can also be caused by the anabolic release of testosterone that causes contractile proteins to multiply. Progression cannot always be due to hypertrophy but if the caloric requirements are being met with the specific overload principle then hypertrophy is the result. It's more difficult for a natural lifter to go from 17 inch arms to 18 than it is for someone to go from 13 inch arms to 14 inch arms. One variable of all must be met in order to increase overall circumference and that is weight must be gained. It's a general rule of thumb you gain an inch to your arms every 15 pounds you gain. With this in mind, if you were 180 pounds and you're still 180 there is no wonder you haven't gained any muscle. Do you honestly think muscle is weightless? That someone when you're lifting you're converting fat to muscle? If so, don't, it's simply misleading information.
Intermediate lifters have gotten to the point where their bodies can't activate anymore motor units, it can also add new muscle mass in order to do so and therefore it's a slower progress. A person that trains naturally will then have to learn his body and it's genetic response to specific stimulus to specific movements and adaption. We already know that the best way to overload a muscle is by increasing the amount of work it does through resistance. They say 6 reps at 225 is the same as 5 reps with 227, although it might not always be accurate, they also say that increasing the volume is a form of overload and it is. There comes down to a point where isolation movements can be the most important thing to a lifter, it's when the person becomes intermediate.
Increasing overload on a specific movement can be difficult when you reach the point where your 1rm bench press is 100 pounds more than you weigh, your 1rm squat is twice your weight and your 1rm deadlift is a little over that. This is where those movements cannot be overloaded easy and either the lagging area must be brought up through focus of increment on a weak muscle or the entire agonist and it's synergists must be isolated in order to increase overload. Let's say for instance you worked out with 225 pounds last week, let's say you are 6'0" and weigh 185 pounds and your last bench session was three sets of ten with 225. It might be difficult to get to the point where you reach 230 pounds next week, so you can either:
A) Reduce the volume: increasing to 230 anyway and switching to 3 x 9, 2 x 10-12, or 3 x 8
B) Increase the volume: complete 225 for 3 x 10 anyway and then do another set until failure.
C) Incorporate more movements: finish your workout off with some side lateral raises, skull crushers, weighted dips, or fly's.
Those are the choices. My best choice would be to do something different each workout until I can increase the stalling lift. Now, when a lift stalls even if you're a profession it should not be for more than 2-3 weeks, if you're stuck with the same resistance for 6 weeks straight you either need to grow some balls and just try more weight or you have something missing from your nutrition and most likely need more calories. You can even incorporate creatine to break a plateau. My best bet would be to use an ABC method where you would try the ABC technique here break your plateau. I'll give you an example...
I just finished 225 for 3 x 10 on my bench press session on Monday, my next bench press session is on Thursday and I know I won't get 230 for the same resistance; I'm going to use this ABC technique. Thursday, I'm going to increase the resistance anyway and let's say I complete 3x8 with 230 pounds; the following week I'm going to increase the volume to 3 x 10 with the same resistance, if this fails, I'll incorporate more movements. Let's say normally on upper body days for my triceps, anterior deltoids, lateral deltoids, and chest I use a flat bench, incline bench, parallel dips, and side lateral raises. This week I would incorporate skull crushers and chest fly's. If I stimulate my chest in any other way that adds to the amount of work it had to do last week I met the requirement of progressive overload, so I have then given my body something new to grow from. Iím going to give an example of a routine that calls for overload
Monday- Workout session 1- Project Lower Body
Quad Work: **Front Squat: 3 x 5
Hamstring Work: **Squat: 3 x5
Glute Work: **Deadlift: 1 x 5 >>>> ramping sets
Calf Work: **Standing Calf Raises: DC (to target more of the gastrocnemius)
Abdominal Work: **Hanging Leg Raises: 3 x 15
Tuesday- Workout session 2- Project Upper Body (Push Dominant)
Chest Work: **Flat Bench Press: DC
Back Work: **Barbell Row: DC
Vertical Push: **OHP: DC
Vertical Pull: **Chinup: DC
Tricep Isolation: **Skull Crushers: DC
Wednesday- HIIT, stretching, or rest
Thursday- Workout Session 3- Project Lower Body
Hamstring Work: **Squat: 3 x 10
Quad Work: **Front Squat: 5 x 5
Posterior Chain: **Power Clean: 4 x 3
Calf Work: **Seated Calf Raises (to target more of the soleus)
Abdominal Work: **Hanging Leg Raises: 3 x 15
Friday- Workout Session 4- Project Upper Body (Pull Dominant)
Back Width (Vertical Pull): **Chin-up, Pullup, or Pulldown: DC or 2 x 10
Vertical Press: **Standing Barbell Press: DC
Back Thickness (Horizontal Pull): **Barbell Row: 3 x 10 (can be replaced with cable rows, dumbbell rows, or face pulls)
Horizontal Push: **Incline Barbell Bench Press: 3 x 10
Biceps Isolation: **Barbell Curls, preacher curls, or cable curls: DC or 3 x 10
You can switch up exercises as necessary when you plateau, you can also incorporate more movements by incorporating an accessory day although that would demand a change of routine. You cannot replace lunges with leg presses, nor can you replace them with leg extensions, both movements are dangerous. A leg extension is dangerous because during the leg extension the loading is applied perpendicular to the long axis of the tibia and fibula creating shear force to the patella. It "pushes" the patella back onto the femur potentially damaging the anterior cruciate ligament. Loading during a squat on the other hand is compressive due to the multi-joint nature of the movement itself. The forces are applied parallel to the long axis of the tibia. The joints in the knee are better to withstand forces from compression in comparison to shear forces; therefore, squats are actually easier on the ACL and knees than the leg extension. Due to the multi-joint nature as mentioned earlier, the hamstrings are activated by movement of the femoroacetabular and the ability of the iliopsas (anterior of the hip) to surpass the patella eccentrically activating them as the eccentric stabilizers, this allows the hamstrings and posterior chain in general to act as stabilizers eccentrically and concentrically the glutes are activating as synergists involving them as a prime mover.
Leg presses are bad because they're a machine based exercise. You're isolated a seat and the external resistance is being pushed over 45 degrees factoring in half the gravity of a real life situation. There will be no other carryover other than hypertrophy itself. The core is not activated during the lift either since the center of gravity has no resistance placed above it causing the upper back muscles and abdominals to somewhat "relax" under tension. It's a movement that also has been known to damage the back to the awkward placement. They too should be avoided, they're pretty much a worthless exercise. The only other quad movement you need are lunges. When the time comes to include another quad movement, it's time to consider front squats and explosive box squats, not machines.
The following diet plan is designed for someone 6'0" 200 pounds 10% bodyfat with a fast metabolism.
Nutrition with Project Overload:
Meal 1- 6:00 AM- Pre-workout
4 eggs, 2 cups of oats, almonds, grapes
Meal 2- 8:00 PM- Post workout
1 scoop of whey protein in milk, banana, 2 fish oil tablets, multi-vitamin, creatine with a bottle of water for absorption
Meal 3- 11:00 AM- Lunch
Tuna wrapped in lettuce with mayonnaise and a protein bar with a small salad
Meal 4- 2:00 PM- Snack
1 scoop of whey protein in milk with 1tbsp Olive oil
Meal 5- 5:00 PM- Dinner
Chicken breast with brown rice with veggies (lettuce, broccoli, spinach)
Meal 6- 8:00 PM- Before bed
1 scoop of muscle milk in milk with cottage cheese and 1tbsp fish oil
Make HIIT only last around 10-15 minutes, anything more then that and you'll be burning too much glycogen. HIIT on Saturday is left optional; it can be replaced with grip work, core work, or stretching, but you could also rest.
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