In the previous post about the power rack, we spoke about how to use it in order to overcome sticking points. In this post we are going to talk about overload training.

Overload training is very simply using more weight than you can normally handle in the target exercise. Typically trainees perform 2-3 sets of 1-2 reps. This is done for the following reasons-

  1. To acclimatize the body to the heavier weight.
  2. To build tendon, ligament and bone strength.
  3. To build confidence with heavy weights.

Overload training can be a tremendous tool and will allow the trainee to develop a contempt for heavy weights. There are typically four ways of overloading the body using the power rack-

  1. Partial Movements And Supports
    A partial movement is very simply any movement in which the range of motion is reduced. The shorter the range, the more the weight that can be handled. In extreme cases the range can be reduced to just an inch, so that you are just supporting the weight. In such movements weights as heavy as 50% greater that your normal maximum can be used.

    Squat Support- source
  2. Partial Movements from the Bottom
    This is the same as the previous technique, except instead of using the J-hooks to unrack the weight first, the trainee places the barbell directly on the support rods and starts the lift from the bottom. The weight used here is typically slightly lesser than the previous style.

    Bench Press lockout from the bottom- Source
  3. Heavy negatives
    In this style, the support pins are set at the bottom of the exercise and the J- hooks at the normal height to do the exercise. The trainee unracks the weight and goes down as slowly as possible, fighting the weight every inch of the way. Finally when the trainee reaches the bottom he/she simply places the bar on the supports and lets go of the weight. In this method only 1 rep can be done and while multiple sets can be performed, it is a tedious task to set up. Typically 110-120% of the maximum in the normal lift is used.
    See video here.
  4. Band Assisted
    While this method is not exclusive to the power rack, it is easy to apply with it. In this method the barbell and support pins are setup as is normal for the exercise. Then rubber bands are tied from each end of the barbell to the top of the power rack. Needless to say the same strength rubber bands should be used on each side. A single rubber band can also be toed to the center in exercises like the bench press, where the band wont get in the way. The band will help you lift the weight, providing the greatest assistance at the bottom and the least at the top. This method will allow you to use more weight, while still supporting the whole weight at the top and using the full range of motion.

    This method is also used to develop speed and acceleration (a topic for another post), in which case lighter weights are used. For overload purposes, depending upon the strength of the rubber bands, 90-120% of the maximum weight can be used, for 2-3 sets of 2-3 reps.

    Band assisted Bench press- Source

All these methods are great and it is really a matter of preference as to which method you want to use. It is only over time and with experimentation that you can tell which method works better for you. As they say, the method is fine but its application is not. Here are a few things to watch out for when using overload training-

  1. This is not for beginners. Or even early intermediates for that matter. You need atleast 2 years of real training under your belt before using these methods.
  2. Do not become good at overload methods and awful otherwise. A lot of people take overload training too far and do every exercise this way. This only strokes your ego and overtrains you. People only do it because they can use more weight.
  3. When doing an overload version of an exercise, always combine it with its regular counterpart.
  4. Do not perform more than 2 overload exercises a week and try to restrict it to 5 heavy sets a week.

With this in mind here is a sample program using overload methods for the bench press and the deadlift. Here i have also shown how to combine it with regular training. I have not specifically mentioned the assistance work.

4days/ week

Day 1

Bench Press Day

Close grip Bench press- 3 inch lockouts from the bottom position in the power rack

Work up to 110% for 2 sets of 2

Regular Bench Press- Work up to a max set of 5/4/3 reps, trying different reps every week. Every 8-12 weeks go for a new max.

Assistance work- Some kind of press, some lat, upper back and bicep work- 3 sets of 15 each

Cardio- 20 mins

Stretching- 10 mins

Day 2

Squat Day

Regular Squat- Work up to a max set of 5/4/3 reps, trying different reps every week. Every 8-12 weeks go for a new max.

Assistance- Some single leg exercise, some ab work, some lower back and hips work- 3 sets of 15 each

Cardio- 5-10 sprints

Stretching- 10 mins

Day 3

Overhead press day

Shoulder Press- Work up to a max set of 5/4/3 reps, trying different reps every week. Every 8-12 weeks go for a new max.

Assistance work- Dumbbell work for chest, shoulders and arms, chin ups and pulling work- 3 sets of 15 each

Cardio- 20 mins

Stretching- 10 mins

Day 4

Deadlift day

Deadlifts from knee level- work up to 4 sets of 1 with 100% of your regular deadlift max

Regular Deadlifts- 3 sets of 5-6 reps with 75-80%. Every 8-12 weeks go for a new max.

Assistance work- Some single leg exercise, lower back and hips work, maybe front squat too, plus abs- 3 sets of 15 each

Cardio- 5-10 sprints

Stretching- 10 mins

Only attempt a new maximum in one exercise in any week. Do not try to max out in multiple exercises in the same week. You may also not attempt any maximums for as long as 6 months if you feel burnt out. Also take a complete week off every 5-6 weeks.

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