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How Does the Overload Principle Work?

“Hi Nick,

Please could you explain an Overload Principle to me. If I understood correctly, for a muscle to grow it has to be exposed to a load that it not accustomed to. So by increasing working weight one aims to get stronger and a stronger muscle eventuallybecomes a larger muscle (providing theproper nutrition and recuperation).

What puzzles me (in example of my German Volume Training – GVT) is that 10×6 DB chest press with 32kg = 1920kg and 10×5 with 34kg = 1700kg. Each week I lift heavier weights for less reps and while the intensity goes up, the total load goes down. I presume I get stronger but where is the overload in that?

If GVT is not relying on the overload, then what is the magic of GVT and how it gets you bigger?

Thank you as always.”

That is a flawed understanding of overload as you are comparing apples with oranges.

Think about it – you could lift 20kg dumbells for 150 reps for 3000kg of so called “overload” but would you stimulate a hypertrophic / strength adaptation? Of course not.

5 sets of max effort 2 rep bench presses at (for example) 150kg (1500kg) versus 5 sets of 20 reps at 50kg ( 500kg)- can you compare the “overload” principle there? Nope.

The way that you are undertaking this version of GVT works primarily by increasing neural adaptations, so that you get stronger with repeated effort and get closer to, and concurrently increase, your 1RM. It is the volume of work (multiple sets with a time under tension of over 20secs) itself that causes growth.

The time for you to consider increases in “overload” is when you are conducting a set in the same rep range and time under tension. So if we were to switch you back to 1 finishing workout of 10×10 at the end of this training cycle I would expect you to be lifting at least 10-15% more weight than when you did your first 10×10 5/6 weeks ago.

Also bear in mind that you answered this question all by yourself – “for a muscle to grow it has to be exposed to a load that it not accustomed to” – ago.what do you think you have been doing every workout by increasing the load 2-4%? 

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