Tip: Axial Loading – What You Need to Know

You need it, but it can also wreck you as you accumulate more years under the bar. Here's how to manage it.

What's Axial Loading?

If you're unfamiliar with the term axial loading, the concept is simple. Axial loading is top-down loading – meaning the weight during the lift is moving vertically instead of horizontally. Examples include back squat, cleans, deadlifts, and overhead presses. And as you get older, it'll be wise to reduce the amount of axial loading you perform in the gym.

Now, in small doses, axial loading exercise is excellent for men and women. They're big, compound movements that improve bone density, total body strength, muscle mass, and give you the most "bang for your buck" in the gym – which is exactly what you want if you're the aging meathead because the more time you spend in the gym, the greater risk you have of overtraining (1).

Plus, the older you get, the less tolerant your body becomes to explosive exercises such as squats, cleans, deadlifts, and overhead presses. If you perform these movements too intensely and too frequently, when other stressors in life are much higher, your CNS will get fried. When your CNS is constantly bombarded with more stressors, your hormonal systems are taxed as well.

Try This

Don't ditch axial loading, but reduce how often you go balls to the wall. Consider dialing back your training maxes 5-10%, similar to a 5-3-1 program, so you can still perform your favorite lifts without undue stress.

If you fail to plan and don't allow yourself enough recovery time in between axial training, you put yourself at risk irritating chronic injuries, burnout, and hard-to-conquer training plateaus.


  1. Cadegiani FA et al. Hormonal aspects of overtraining syndrome: a systematic review. BMC Sports Sci Med Rehabil. 2017 Aug 2;9:14. PubMed.
Eric Bach is a highly sought-after strength and conditioning coach, located in Colorado. Eric specializes in helping athletes and online clients achieve optimal performance in the gym and on the playing field. Follow Eric Bach on Facebook