The Molecules Follow The Overload Principle, Do You?

The Molecules Follow The Overload Principle, Do You?

In 1919 Lange wrote a scientific treatise entitled ‘About functional adaptation’…Uber Funktionelle Anpassung. This is what he said:

“Only when a muscle performs with greatest power,i.e. through overcoming of greater resistance in a unit of time than before, would its functional cross section need to increase…. If, however, the muscle performance is increased merely by working against the same resistance as before for a longer time, no increase in the contractile tissue is necessary.”

describe the image

This thinking when applied to weight training became systematic and progressive resistance exercise (PRE). The magnitude of which PRE had to be  sufficient enough to cause physiological adaptation. As mentioned it was first described by Lange….and became recognized as the ‘Overload Principle’.

In Physical Education students learned to index their activity systematically and progressively by multiplying the three components of the overload principle together to foster physiological adaptation.

AI (Activity Index) = Load or Intensity or Tension x Frequency x Duration

Somehow, we began thinking overload was something extrinsic to the organism and it was about sets and reps. In strength training the word Load became Weight, Intensity became Effort and Tension was thought of as and rightfully so, Muscular Tension. The words Frequency and Duration became synonymous with WorkoutsSets and Reps.

College ‘Exercise Science Programs’ have worked to say NO to the above. No we must look inside the cell and manage time under tension. The muscle does not understand sets and repetitions it only understands the time it is being stressed or the amount of strain. Thus, the activity index for the modern physical educator leaving a college in exercise physiology strength training has become:

AI (Activity Index) = Load or Intensity or Tension x Time

More accurate yes, but what has happened is that strength training is still monitered  pretty much the same way as it was 30 or 40 years ago.

In order to advance as science has in indexing the overload principle physical educators, coaches, and strength coaches must develop methods that match the science as taught…The question is then, How are you addressing time under tension?

The conundrum for the coach who doesn’t address time under tension, is that no matter what their moledules do.  Molecules obey the same rules of chemistry and physics that all biological systems obey and they are intrinsic to the organism… that is within their molecular enviroment.

tensi1Outside the internal organism you may be getting results with intensity, frequency and duration.  You may be managing exercise how it has been done for the past three decades, but the molecules are feeling their own time tension.

The athlete just lifted 7 repititions with 225 pounds on the bar and the molecules may be saying, that felt more like 40 seconds of lifting practically nothing.

As a nation of physical educators we must work together to get better at administering exercise addressing time under tension. Physiology dictates that we do.

Dr Keith Baar from UC Davis describes the overload principle for molecules in the most important paper since Lange, “The signaling underlying FITness.”

Overload within the cell = Load x metabolic stress x calcium flux

For the Molecules, when they index their activity it is:

AI (Activity Index) = Strain on tensiometer x ATP x Calcium

describe the imageMuscle tissue on a tensiometer


Any questions, ask  Molecules,  because they know how to GET STRONG.

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