| | Gen Pop Training: Overload Principle

Author / Adam Campbell

At Power Athlete there are a few things we are openly passionate about: the Fast and Furious documentaries, Flat Earth, and the idea of being wedded to principles, not philosophies. Philosophies require you to think a certain way, while principles allow you to sift and wade through the bullshit, finding the truly useful and enhancing your game. It’s no secret that we here are performance whores; what matters to us is how you play on Game Day. But what happens if performance isn’t the main focus of some of your clientele? What if they just want to look better naked and feel healthier?

We use the nine principles outlined in the Power Athlete Methodology to bring you programs, training, and knowledge designed to build you and your clients up to be the biggest, baddest guys and gals on the block. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still apply them to individuals who might just want to lift some weights and drop a pant size. In this short series, we’re going to explore some of the principles we here at Power Athlete hang our hat on, and how you can apply them to the Gen Pop, regardless of what brought them through your doors.

Overload: Stress to Progress

The principle of Overload is fundamental to all serious strength and conditioning programs. Simply put, it’s the idea of doing a little more than you did before, in order to keep driving adaptation. Training stimulates a stress response in the body, and the body reacts by building itself up to handle this stress if and when it shows up again. Doing a little more each time ensures you keep this process going. There are two ways you can increase the stress on an athlete, to keep them moving forward: increase intensity, or increase volume. Increasing volume means increasing the number of repetitions the athlete does; if they squat 100 pounds for 5 reps in session one, then they’ll squat it for 6 reps in session two, and so on. Increasing intensity is increasing the weight an athlete uses, for the same number of repetitions. So, the athlete in the previous example would squat 100 pounds in session one, and then 105 pounds in session two, 110 in session 3, etc. etc. The key here is we are progressively moving forward, gradually adding a little more each time; this is termed “progressive overload”.

Overload for Performance

Our Bedrock program bakes in Overload via a linear progression, driving inter and intramuscular coordination, hypertrophy, and strength for the Novice athlete. Jacked Street does it by playing with volume and intensity to put on slabs of muscle, and Field Strong relies on it to enhance movement coordination, making you an unstoppable force on the field. Bottom line, if performance the driving factor for training, most clients coming to the gym will understand the importance of Overload. They’re the ones who will meticulously track their progress, knowing exactly what numbers they hit on their last lift, how fast they sprinted, or how long a particular condardio piece took them to complete. As a coach, your best option is to offer some thoughtful feedback (ex “That weight moved pretty quick, why not toss on a few more plates”), tighten up their movement, and let them keep on keepin on.

Overload for the Population

Sometimes though, performance isn’t the Kobe Tomahawk on someone’s plate. For those working in gyms that serve the Gen Pop, I would almost guarantee you can think some folks who really couldn’t care less about performance, at least in the sense that we do. Maybe they want look better naked (probably why most of them joined), or to try something new they haven’t done, or just move the needle on their health a bit in the right direction. There’s no wrong answer to why they joined. But, it’s important that we as coaches understand this why, if we hope to have any success in applying this principle to help unlock their potential. Here are a few easy ways the everyday Gen Pop can apply Overload and carry them closer to whatever their goal may be:

More Time at the Bar

This is the lowest hanging fruit that people can attack first. If they’re coming two days a week, see if they can squeeze in a third. Already at three days? How about four. For someone who falls squarely in the Gen Pop category, just getting more quality movement in is the easiest way to move the ball forward. Usually the first concern that comes up is whether these extra sessions will be to much for them. It takes a lot of effort to overtrain. A LOT. And you’ll see it coming from miles away, so you can safely put this objection to rest.

Dear Diary…

If you’ve got a member who’s already coming on a regular basis, the next hurdle is to have them start journaling their progress. I mentioned this as a staple for the performance-minded, but journaling is the easiest way to have something tangible that shows their progress. I personally still carry a physical journal that I write my workouts in, along with using the TrainHeroic app. Both my gyms provide tools online or via apps to our clients so they can track your progress. Hell, you could use bar napkins and just save them in some weird napkin storage bin. Long and short, there’s no shortage of resources available to help them track; they just need to do it.

Materialize the Moment

This one falls strictly on you, Coach. These are your clients and athletes; you see them week to week, and know what they are capable of. If they are moving quickly and easily under a light load, time to make them uncomfortable and encourage them to toss some weight on. They may be hesitant, timid, or downright afraid. As Power Athlete legend Dr. Bill Hatfield said, people are only afraid of a weight because they haven’t done it yet. Encourage them to throw some more weight on the bar, stand next to them when they lift, and high five them when they crush it. They’ll be more bought in to you as the coach, and the self-confidence boost they’ll receive will outpace any pump-up, rah-rah speech you give.

Small Steps, Big Leaps

Progress in the gym isn’t made by leaping tall buildings in a single bound; it’s made by small, incremental steps. You climb up the fire escape of the first building to the roof, and in front of you is a second, taller one. So you climb up that fire escape, and find another, slightly taller building. The only way your clients are going to go from the curb on the street to the top of the Burj Khalifa is via these small steps. Your athletes understand this, but sometimes the Gen Pop just needs to look at the bigger picture. Want to lose weight? More muscle mass means a higher basal metabolic rate…aka more calories burned. Want to look better naked? Get jacked. Want to get healthier? Build more muscle; your biomarkers will improve exponentially. What’s an easy way to accomplish all that? Just do a little more than you did yesterday.


Welbourn, J., Summers, L., & McQuilkin, C. (2017). Power Athlete Methodology: Level one workbook. Austin. Power Athlete, Inc.

Related Content

BLOG: Gen Pop Onboarding by Ben Skutnik
BLOG: Principles of Training: Science vs. Practice by Tex McQuilkin
BLOG: Drive Adaptation, Enhance Performance by Don Ricci
PODCAST: Power Athlete Radio Episode 127 – Greg Everett
EDUCATION: Power Athlete Methodology – Level One

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Adam Campbell

Adam grew up a lifetime athlete, playing soccer, baseball, basketball, and practicing martial arts, earning his black belt at age 12. While in college, he decided to join the Navy and earned his commission in 2008. While on active duty earned his CrossFit Level 1 in 2010 and CrossFit Football certification in 2012. He was part of the first class to go through the Power Athlete methodology course, and the first group to earn their Block One certification in September 2017.

Adam continues to stay active, earning a spot on the All Navy Rugby 7s team in 2023 and playing Rugby for a local men's club in San Diego, California.

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