How to Force Gains through Muscle Overload

The essence of any great weight training program is the overloading of muscle groups so that they respond to that stress and acclimate by growing bigger and stronger. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to initiate hypertrophy and stimulating muscles so that they will respond positively isn’t always an easy task. When you set up your training program, certain training principles lend themselves to this idea of overload a little better than others. Of course, if you know what you’re doing, you can overload your body by just about any means with resistance. If you’re stuck for ideas on how to do this, here are three great training principles that will help overload your muscles and force them to grow at an accelerated rate.

Forced Repetitions

You goal within each exercise you perform in the gym, should be to progressively overload the muscles being worked. You do this by gradually increasing the amount of weight you use with each set you complete up until the point where you are failing within the rep range you have set out for yourself. Once you have found the weight that you can only get let’s say six reps at before reaching positive failure (this means you can’t do it on your own anymore), then have your partner help you through a few more. These are called forced reps in that you are forcing your body to complete more work than it is capable of completing on its own via the assistance of a training partner. This a great way to overload your muscles but keep in mind, you and your partner must have clear communication when doing this so that injury doesn’t occur.

Negative Repetitions

There are two phases of a repetition; the positive phase (also known as the concentric phase) and the negative phase (also known as the eccentric phase). Each has a very distinct influence on stimulating your muscles to grow but one has an advantage over the other for overloading muscles; and that’s the negative. Most people are a lot stronger than they think and this is especially true when referring to the negative phase of a rep. So many people shy away from heavy weights simply because they know that they simply can’t lift it; but that’s not necessarily true. They may not be able to lift it through the positive phase of the rep but on the negative, it’s a whole different story. To overload the muscles by using negative repetitions, all you have to do is be able to control a weight, on the descent of a repetition for a predetermined amount of time. The best part of it all, is nine times out of ten, the weight you’re able to handle when doing this is far greater than any weight you would normally use when only focusing on pushing or pulling through the positive. This in turn, creates a tremendous overload for the muscle being worked and a greater chance at growth. Again, make sure you have a trusted training partner to help you move the weight back up and into place for the duration of the set.

Partner Assisted Tension

Much different from the two training principles mentioned above, where you rely upon your training partner to keep you from getting crushed, partner assisted tension calls for you to ask for more stress or resistance from your training partner as you lift. This added resistance can come during either phase of the rep and all that it takes to do so is a little extra push or pull against the weight that you’re already using. Let’s say, for example, you are performing dumbbell presses and the dumbbells at your gym aren’t heavy enough for you to complete a true heavy set in a six to eight rep failure range. Rather than doubling up the number of reps you perform in the hopes of stimulating growth, simply have your partner provide a little more tension by pushing down on your hands as you press. Or maybe the stack you use at the gym for pull downs is too light for you, have your partner push down on the stack as you slowly move through the eccentric to get an exaggerated stretch in the lats. There are many different options for you here and it just doesn’t have to be when the weights you have at your disposal are too light. Play around with it and see what you can come up with.

In any event, overloading the body is the name of the bodybuilding game and consistently asking your body to perform more work is the key to success. Here at Heyday Footwear, we are always watching what you’re doing in the gym and know that hardcore training requires hardcore footwear. Check out our line of Tactical Trainers and you’ll see what we mean. In the meantime, work hard, keep growing and remember, It’s not Hype, It’s Heyday!


Written by Dana Bushell

Dana Bushell (BAHK, BEd) has been actively involved in the bodybuilding and fitness industry for over 17 years. As a former provincial level bodybuilder, Dana has taken his knowledge of training and nutrition and has applied that to his contest prep coaching and teaching of strength and conditioning principles. Dana works as a high school Physical Education teacher and is sponsored by AST Sports Science and Schiek Sports Inc.

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