Overtraining: The Demon Of The Natural Trainer!

While a drug-using athlete can train twice as hard as the natural and make gains, overtraining is probably the number one reason for frustration with naturals - simply because the body never gets the time and rest needed to rebuild itself and grow.
Last week I compared "All-Natural" to "Pro-Drug" magazines and concluded that you usually find quite a difference in the recommended training dose. While a drug-using athlete can train twice as hard as the Natural and make gains, overtraining is probably the number one reason for frustration with Naturals - simply because the body never gets the time and rest needed to rebuild itself and grow. Not enough rest = No gains = Urge to train harder and more often is the formula that has brought just too many aspiring bodybuilders into a dead end that usually ends up in giving the whole thing up.


How To Grow!

In a way, our bodies aren't too happy about our training. We have only so many resources available for repairing ourselves, not to mention the incredible luxury of GROWING! Growing is not a given thing - it's something you FORCE your body to do in order to handle a certain kind of stress put upon it, namely lifting weights, and like I said, it's a luxury since it makes your body "bigger than necessary" and therefore consumes more energy than you should elsewise. Every time you've worked out, you've torn down a lot of tissue that has to be repaired, you've burned valuable energy and you've brought the entire immune system to its knees (remember, weight training is a kind of STRESS on the body). And on top of all this, we not only expect our bodies to recuperate but to GROW!

Looking at the workout in itself, it's a very negative thing for your physique. All the gains come days, sometimes up to a WEEK afterwards, and until that point the body has been perfectly busy just repairing all the damage you caused during the workout! So what happens if you decide that your biceps is lagging, and start training it TWICE as often as triceps in the hope of making it grow faster? Right - you're only making the biceps lag even more behind, as it's doomed to not even get back to square one again, while the Triceps grow - given time to rest so it gets to square one and beyond after every workout!

Simple logic overthrows the good intentions pretty much right away, I think. So what about the workout itself? What was I talking about at the beginning of the article, comparing Natural and druggie-programs? What do I mean by training HARD? The answer lies in the number of sets and the effort you put into them.

As a general principle, the sole purpose of the workout is to trigger the body into growth. The lesser sets and reps you can accomplish this with, the less time is wasted on mere rebuilding before the actual growth begins. Pretty simple - if you take only three steps back from square one, you get back there and beyond into the growth zone faster than if you go FIVE steps back!

Personally, I have studied the Heavy Duty system and found it a good base for a training program. The Heavy Duty system goes to extremes, suggesting only ONE heavy set carried out with maximum intensity and then up to weeks of rest before training the same bodypart again. This would be great if we lived in a perfect world, but both my personal experiences and scientific studies have shown that only one set isn't enough to get the desired effect. After all, you want to get your body triggered for maximum growth, right?


What Works?

The formula which has worked best for my clients, and myself for that matter, is to stay in the four to six sets range per bodypart, with four to eight reps each (with a few exceptions). For biceps, which is a relatively small muscle, four sets is enough, and after a proper warmup a good program could be two sets of straight barbell curls, one set of cable concentration curls and one set of seated hammer curls. That's it! Use heavy weights, keep strict form and apply forced reps once in a while (but not always!) and you should feel pumped, a bit numb - and an urge to go for another few sets! DON'T! That's exactly when you should stop and hit the showers instead! You've triggered growth, which was the goal, so conserve the energy you have left for bebuilding and GROWTH!

Back is slightly different, as it consists of so many muscles, so six to eight sets is all right here. However, there are two bread-and-butter exercises you should ALWAYS include, namely two sets of deadlifts and two sets of one-arm dumbbell rows. Then vary with latpulls, shrugs, hyperextensions and various rowing machines. Calves is another thing too, since as little as two working sets can be enough. Forget fancy foot positioning - stand naturally, load up with plates and go strict and heavy until your eyes bleed. One set of standing and one set of sitting calf-raises usually does the trick.

Avoid training for more than 45 mins straight, preferrably 30 mins. Don't train more than two muscle groups at the same day, except if you have three very small ones, like biceps, forearms and calves. Avoid weight training two days in a row - rest totally one to two days between each workout, or do some light cardio once or twice a week in-between the weight training days. Rest AT LEAST one week between training the same bodypart, preferrably 10 days.

Getting the idea? Drop the seven-days-a-week, two-hours-a-day thing! It's fun to train, it's good for the ego, it makes you feel healthy. But I bet you'd feel even BETTER growing quickly instead! And let's face it - when you're on your 14th set of barbell presses, you have a hard time "igniting" don't you? But if you know you're only going to do two sets, you can put a lot more effort into those few sets! Train heavy and with an intensity so bad you feel like your muscles are gonna burst. Think of yourself as a bomb going into the gym to explode - A sudden outburst of energy, not a long process of low-energy output.

This is how you trigger yourself to grow. And giving yourself the time to rest makes it happen!

Be sure to also check out:
Rest & Recovery! :: Are You Working Too Hard?

Good Luck,