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You Must Use The Overload Principle If You Want To Get Better At Anything

No, not this kind of stress

The overload principle is the most important thing when it comes to answering the question how to get muscles. The bottom line to getting big muscles is you have to do better than you did previously or your progress will come screeching to a halt.

No, not this kind of stress

Training is a form of stress. When your muscles are exposed to the stress of training, they fatigue, the muscle fibers break down and they recover with the aid of nutrients from food to come back stronger than before.

What Is The Overload Principle?

The overload principle is that a greater than normal stress on the body is required for training adaptation to take place. The body will then adapt to this stimulus, and once adapted a different stimulus is needed to continue the adaption. This is how to get muscles, but also how to increase your fitness. If the stress placed upon the body is too small, it wont cause a disruption and adaption will not occur. The opposite also occurs in that if the stress is too large, the body will simply fail.

How To Get Muscles Using The Overload Principle Works Best Using Small Increments

Bodyweight training and weight training can cause this stress and the body reacts to this by preparing itself to be better equipped next time the stress occurs. When using the overload principle it is best to increase the kilos or pounds in small increments. Here is a rule that has served me well in my training days. For smaller muscle groups such as your biceps, increase the weight by 2.5kg. For larger muscle groups such as the back increase the weight by 5kg.

How To Use The Overload Principle?

There are three main ways on how to get muscle using progressive overload:

  1. Increase the reps- If you are after hypertrophy training where you are lifting a moderate weight for higher reps to really fatigue the muscle, this is the best time to increase reps to induce stress. An example could be on workout 1 you did reps of 13, 11 and 10, in workout 2 you should aim to beat that by maybe doing 15, 12 and 11 reps.
  2. Increase the sets- if you are training for strength you will be doing heavier weights and fewer reps. Adding another repetition next workout is going to be very difficult so adding another set will be easier for progressive overload to occur.
  3. Decrease the rest time- this is better to do when training for hypertrophy as decreasing the rest time will fatigue the muscle quicker and induce growth. You can also try to finish the workout in less time. These are all ways of using the overload principle to make the conditions harder on your body.

As The Months And Years Go On, Progressive Overload Gets Harder

This affects every trainer so don’t think you are the only one in this boat. The longer you have been training, the harder and slower you will progress. When you initially start training, progress is easy as the initial adaption to the stress of weight training is from nothing to something. You can never replicate this again, much like a junkie chasing his first heroin hit. The body has a limited capacity for adaptation, wouldn’t make sense to gain muscle forever and because of this stumbling block, body builders take steroids to get past this. Don’t stop because you aren’t seeing any progress but do stop at your natural limit guys. Too much muscle makes you look cheesy.

Persistence Pays

Persistence has got me so far in life, and it should be no different in your quest on how to get muscles. Persistence and consistency together make for an ideal mindset and doing your workouts each and every week will see you progress. There will come times when you hit plateaus and this is where you can become creative by using different techniques. One such technique is superset and triset training.

How To Get Muscles- Alternate Between Size And Strength

Regular readers of my blog will know there are two types of muscles growth. These being sarcoplasmic (fluid increase in muscle) and myofibrillar (increase in number and size of muscle fibers). For best results in gaining muscle, you should alternate between size and strength. By building size, your muscles get bigger and then you can later tweak and tune this muscle by training for strength.

  • Adonis Effect- This workout program alternates light, moderate and heavy weight to avoid plateuas. The idea of the program is to give you the golden ratio or adonis index to build a v tapered body. To see your adonis index click here.
  • Visual Impact- Very similar to the adonis effect but doesn’t have a specific measurement target, but has a really cool bonus phase to enhance the look of your muscles by shrink wrapping the skin around them. Watch the video below to learn more about this.



I hope you enjoyed the post and found it informative and now know how to get muscles using the overload principle.

3 comments… add one

  • Nice tips on gaining size and strength. Wish I had those earlier years of my life back where I could get all those great beginner gains!

  • Ah yes, progressive intensity! It really is for me the key to building muscle mass. I focus more on increasing the weight but like you’ve said, there comes a point when you simply can’t increase the weight anymore. I focus more on rest-pause and drop sets to bump up the intensity

  • Good tips on how to gain muscle mass and strength consistently. There’s really no other way to make good progress if you don’t increase the amount of work done over time.

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