Overload is one of the key principles of training, whether you are training for fitness, weight-loss, strength, flexibility, balance or anything, really. If you want to improve, then mastering the principle of overload is essential.
Overload works as result of forcing your body to adapt to ensure it is able to handle what you are going to throw at it next; it’s a kind of defence mechanism for the body. Take a resistance training session for example: during the session you will overload your muscles, causing minor damage to the muscle tissue. Your body will react by repairing the damaged muscle and adding in some slight improvements in strength, size, etc. to try to make sure that if you were to do the same thing again, your body will be able to handle it without as much damage occurring.
Although the mechanisms of damage and repair will differ, the same principle applies when training other fitness components such as cardiovascular fitness, flexibility and balance.
But how to overload your training? There are three main ways in which you can continually overload your body while you are training and they are all pretty self-explanatory.
Intensity – The intensity at which you are training. This can be measured by the speed at which you are running, riding, rowing etc. For resistance training, it is a combination of the weight you lift and the number of sets and repetitions performed.
Duration – How long your training session lasts for. This can also be further broken down into the length of each interval, or rest period, or even into the tempo of a single repetition of a strength session.
Frequency – How often you are performing the same program. When altering the frequency of an exercise program, special consideration should also be paid to allowing enough recovery in between sessions, particularly sessions working the same fitness component and muscle groups.
So by changing these three variables in your workout you will be able to continually overload your body, improve fitness and increase weight-loss. It would also be recommended that frequency should only be increased on rare occasions as your fitness and recovery measurably improves. You should also only overload one aspect of your training per session, writing down the info from your workout (such as speeds, weights, sets, repetitions and durations), to make sure you don’t go backwards; you should always look to improve on the previous sessions in some way.