Over the decades, bodybuilding has evolved into a leisure sport to a professional science. Bodybuilders follow training and nutrition advice to the letter, believing that if they eat the right foods in the right amounts at the right times and successfully complete each exercise, rep, and set they are supposed to they will get huge.
Following this formula to extreme growth is beneficial and commendable, yet many people leave one precious piece of the formula out of the equation: recuperation. If you do not recuperate you will not build optimum muscle. Recuperation is much more important and complex than most bodybuilders acknowledge.
What Is Recuperation?
Recuperation is the point in your training where your body actually does regenerate and repair the muscle fibers that you tore when you were training.
The entire muscle-building process can be broken down into three phases:
Stimulation is basically training. It is achieved by putting a training stress on the muscle/body. The body begins to recover from your workout after the stimulation during the recuperation phase. Only after the recuperation phase is complete does growth in muscle size and strength occur, and only after the recuperation phase is complete should the muscle be stimulated again.
Anyone's training can basically be broken down into some broad categories: training, nutrition, and your daily life outside of the gym. To assess whether you are not getting proper amounts of recuperation look in these three categories and apply these strategies.
Limit The Amount Of Exercises Per Workout So You Do Not Overtrain.
Now we all know that overtraining is a pretty subjective topic, it changes with each individual so there is not golden number of sets, but you need to find your own. Not overtraining during individual sessions is key to maximizing muscle response. Since different exercises stimulate muscles differently, some people tend to think, "Well the more exercises I do the better, right?" Not exactly.
The result from performing this philosophy is a catabolic response that ears down muscle tissue rather than rebuilding it. For large muscle groups such as the legs and chest, it is a good measure to perform 3-4 exercises. For smaller muscle groups such as biceps and triceps, it is a good measure to perform 2-3 exercises.
Limit The Amount Of Sets You Perform Per Workout.
When you are training, maximum stimulation comes from the intensity you achieve during individual sets, not from the cumulative effect of your entire workout. So basically you are stimulating your muscle to the max during those last couple of reps that you body is not used to, not during your entire workout. That is the reason bodybuilding is considered an anaerobic sport, not an aerobic sport.
You need to pace yourself during your workouts to perform each set and rep so that you have intensity in each rep so that you properly stimulate the muscle. This will stress your muscles more efficiently and it will allow for more effective recuperation and growth.
For larger muscle groups, try to keep your sets between 10 and 12. For smaller muscle groups, go for 8-10 sets. If you are trying to pack on mass try to avoid high rep strategies. High rep strategies can lead to a more defined muscularity, but should not be employed when you are trying to gain mass.
Nutrition plays a big role in recuperation as well as growth. Almost every person I know is very aware of the importance of proper nutrition, but it is also valuable to understand how nutrition impacts your recuperation.
Consume Plenty PO Protein.
Protein is one of the most obvious and well-known facets for growth and is key for recuperation. Generally bodybuilders try to consume about 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, which is generally split over 5-6 meals throughout the day and this should be the same for you. Each day you need to supply your body with ample amounts of protein. Consuming a large amount of protein after your workout is extremely necessary, but it is also necessary to consume protein throughout the day to fuel your recovering muscles.
It is also a smart idea to consume a meal of protein with a small amount of carbohydrates before you go to bed. This meal could consist of a protein shake or foods such as cottage cheese or egg whites. This late-night meal will provide your body with protein and amino acids to assist in your recovery.
Consume Plenty Of Complex Carbohydrates.
Your body does not grow on protein alone. Carbohydrates fuel your muscles and help them recover. After training, sugar or simple carbs start the process of recovery and complex carbs continue the process. Complex carbs give you a slower burning form of fuel. Excellent sources of complex carbohydrates include brown rice, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and real oatmeal (not the sugar packet stuff).
Consume Essential Fatty Acids.
Not all fat is bad. EFAs play an important role for a healthy body and aid in recovery. Providing your body with the fat it needs helps maintain cell integrity and since every cell membrane is composed of fat and controls the influx of nutrients into the cell, it is important to consume EFAs. Dietary fats also play a crucial role in immune function. Some good sources include flaxseed oil, fish, vegetable oils, and nuts and seeds.
Postworkout nutrition is extremely important to growth. Your recovery from a workout begins after you stop training, and this is an ideal time to use nutrition to progress your recovery. After you are finished training, consume 50-80 grams of protein. Your postworkout meal so also include simple carbs to help replenish the deplete glycogen stores in your muscles. Generally an hour after your postworkout meal, consume another meal of protein, complex carbs, and EFAs.
This second meal provides your body with another stream of nutrients to fully amplify the recovery process. Some supplements that aid in recovery are a good multi-vitamin, glutamine, branch-chained amino acids, liver supplements, and creatine.
Daily Life Outside The Gym
Schedule Your Day.
Everyone's life gets busy at times and therefore it is crucial to have a plan of when you should work and when you should relax. You should plan parts of your day where you can simply relax and recuperate. Now I am not saying you should turn your self into a couch potato, but during these times you could passively or actively relax. When I say passively relax, I mean exactly what it says. Simply sitting down reading, watching tv, talking with friends, etc.
When I say actively relax, I mean you should do things that are enjoyable yet relaxing. Things such as acupuncture, stretching, or sitting in a hot tub or sauna fit the mold. Doing these things will help you recover more quickly and your body will thank you in the long run. These techniques create physiological responses tin the body and in the muscles that help prime them for your next workout.
Get Plenty Of Sleep.
Most people do not get enough sleep because it is simply hard to get enough sleep when your day is full of work, school, family, friends, and training. Yet you should try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. During sleep, the body's recuperative processes hit full speed and growth hormone is released. When cut down the amount of sleep, you disturb to physiological mechanisms that allow you to reach your muscular potential. Do not forget about napping either. Taking a nap every once and while is a good time-efficient way to increase the amount of rest you get.
Signs Of Overtraining
- Increased heart rate when you wake
- Joint aches
- Decreased strength levels
- Less enthusiastic for next workout
- Not sleeping well or constantly waking up
- General lethargy and being tired
You will not build optimum muscle if you do not allow your body the proper environment and ample amount of time to recover. By being conscience of your recuperation and your, you will ensure yourself enough time to recuperate and grow.
- Columbu, Franco. Fragomeni, Lydia. The Bodybuilder's Nutrition Book. McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Books; September 1985. 2003.
- Schwarzenegger, Arnold. The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. Simon and Schuster. 1985, 1998.
- Schwarzenegger, Arnold. The Education of a Bodybuilder. Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition January 1, 1993. 2003.
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