Overload for Strength

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Overload for Strength

Postby Canuck Singh » Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:45 pm

More than any other principle, overload is the key to big gains in muscle. However, many lifters confuse muscle fatigue with overload. They mistakenly assume that in order for a muscle to grow, they must perform more sets and reps, “go for the burn” and work that muscle to complete fatigue. However, this is not the case, and recently a group of researchers from the United Kingdom demonstrated that working a muscle to fatigue is not a critical stimulus for producing effective strength gains from resistance training.

Using 23 healthy males, the researchers compared a highly fatiguing weight lifting program to a far less fatiguing program. The high-fatigue program consisted of performing four sets of 10 repetitions with 30 seconds rest between sets. The low-fatigue training program consisted of 40 separate repetitions with 30 seconds between each repetition. Both protocols used the same amount of overload on an isotonic leg extension machine. The subjects worked at 75% of the 1-rep max, three times per week for nine weeks.

Although these exercise protocols are not ideal, the idea of the training study was to determine whether or not fatigue is required to produce gains from resistance training. Performing four sets of 10 repetitions with 30 seconds rest between sets would cause a lot of lactic acid build up and muscle fatigue. Whereas the other protocol would ensure far less localized muscle fatigue.

Strength tests before and after the program revealed that the high-fatigue program did not produce any additional strength gains. Based on their findings the researchers suggested that fatigue isn’t a critical stimulus for strength gains, and effective strength gains can be produced without creating unnecessary fatigue. Exercising to fatigue is fine if you’re training for endurance but it does not help muscle growth. High overload is the number one priority for muscle growth, fatigue short circuits your potential to exert maximum overload.

Structured overload without excessive volume will make the difference to unlock your potential and experience dramatic progress in workouts.

Ref: Br J Sports Med;36:370-373, 2002.
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