Joe Weider (November 29, 1919 – March 23, 2013) was a Canadian bodybuilder and entrepreneur who co-founded the International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB) alongside his brother Ben. He was also the creator of the Mr. Olympia, the Ms. Olympia and the Masters Olympia bodybuilding contests.
Joe’s most indelible addition to the science and sport of bodybuilding is the Weider Principles: over 30 theories and techniques that forever changed the means by which someone could build a strong, muscular body.
The progressive overload principle
To increase any aspect of physical fitness (muscle mass, strength, stamina, etc.), your muscles need to be continually put under increased stress.
Today, I want to focus on muscle mass, to keep it simple for beginners. To achieve more muscle mass, the number of sets is key.
In the early years of bodybuilding, most experts believed that to increase muscle mass, we should only complete one set of each exercise per workout. If the whole body is to complete twelve exercises, this would mean twelve sets per workout.
Weider saw it differently. He was the first to recommend working out using several sets of one exercise (3-5 sets per exercise) to exhaust each muscle group and to stimulate maximum muscle growth.
Start with three sets of each exercise and continue increasing the number of sets until you make five. This strategy will also help you increase your muscle strength gradually without obsessing with the weight you lift. It´s no magic, it´s the progressive overload principle: once your muscles are used to perform three sets, you have to push them to do four sets and then five.
When you are able to do five series with the same weight with which it was hard to do three series the first week, it is time to add more weight.
I know that most bodybuilders speak wonders and encourage you to lift heavy, and so do I, but in due time. The word “heavy” means “difficult to lift or move” and this is a different weight to each person. Whatever is difficult to lift today for you, it will be easier to lift next month.
First, progress from 3 to 5 sets. Then progress to heavier weights.
The progressive overload principle is the core of all physical training and forms a solid basis for successful training.