Monday, January 13, 2020

Build Up, Don't Burn Out - Eliot Jordan

February 1992

Arthur Jones used to say that the major mistake most bodybuilders make is overtraining. Jones, the inventor of Nautilus exercise equipment, developed a massive physique, but his bank account would have impressed even Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

Jones hypothesized through what he called "self-evident logic" that the human body has a finite recovery ability from exercise and that if a bodybuilder exceeds his or her recovery ability, muscle gains will screech to a standstill. 

Mike Mentzer later echoed much of Jones' theories about recovery ability. He also espoused Jones' recommended training methods, which consisted of high intensity, short workouts. Mentzer appropriately called his system of training "Heavy Duty." 

Dorian Yates of Great Britain, who won the '91 IFBB Night of Champions and came in second at the '91 Mr. O [article published Feb. '92], is a current superstar who also believes that it's not how much you train that counts, but how much you put into it. [See the March '91 issue of IRONMAN for his routine at the time]. He feels  that the reason why many bodybuilders fail to make regular gains is that they simply do too much. 

For example, Yates' chest routine consists of six heavy sets - and that's a total, not per exercise - whereas most bodybuilders do upward of 15 to 20 sets for chest as well as other bodyparts. 

When you first begin training, just about anything you do will make you stronger. This is because initial gains result more from nervous system accommodation than actual muscle size increases. As your muscles do begin to show changes, however, it's a natural impulse to want to do more exercises. Unfortunately, more is not always better.

Beginners often lapse into overtraining because of what they may read in bodybuilding magazines. They read about a champion's workout and try to duplicate that same routine . . . with the best of intentions. Even if the listed routine is accurate, most top bodybuilders have been training for several years and thus have developed a tolerance (a-hem) for a large volume of training. A novice attempting to use a similar routine will only lose muscle because his or her body isn't ready for that much training. 

Does this mean that Jones, Mentzer and Yates are right? Is intensity more effective than sheer volume for producing rapid muscle gains? 

While it is vital to making gains at all levels of training, intensity is a relative commodity. When Mentzer or Yates train, they go to failure on every set. Many bodybuilders think they are training hard but actually stop a set long before they reach a point of failure. These trainees will make only small gains because one or two sets not worked to failure is just one or two plain sets. For many people this isn't enough to produce size increases. 

Then you have those who claim you can't become overtrained no matter how much you work out. Some of them do, in fact, train with weights for several hours each day and seem to make gains. It could be that these people have developed a high tolerance for excessive exercise. More likely, however, they use substances such as anabolic steroids that artificially increase exercise tolerance and recovery - at least temporarily. 

If you don't want to use steroids but you do want to avoid the effects of overtraining, you must consider stress and its effects on your system. 

The Stress Factor

Former Mr. Universe Mike Mentzer liked to use the development of a skin callus as a metaphor for the effects of overtraining. He pointed out that is you rub a piece of your skin regularly with a certain firmness, a callus will form, but if you rub the area too much, the callus will disappear. 

Exercise is a form of stress, although a potentially beneficial form. Without applied stress, such as training, the body has no reason to adapt. You have to push it to change. According to Dr. Hans Selye's general adaptation syndrome, the body reacts to stress in three stages: 

1) The alarm stage. This is where the body recognizes and begins to make changes to account for a stress factor. 

2) The resistance stage. Here the body adapts to stress by making changes. For example, when you apply stress to a muscle though resistance exercise, the body adapts by increasing the size of the muscle to deal with increased weight loads. 

3) Exhaustion stage. This occurs when the body is overwhelmed by stress and can't accommodate in time - roughly what occurs with chronic overtraining. 

The trick, then, is to apply stress, or exercise, without overwhelming your body's recovery ability. 

Causes of Overtraining

Knowing what causes overtraining allows you to recognize when you're falling prey to the syndrome. The following situations can lead to problems: 

 - Sudden increase in the amount of training. If you add too many sets or increase the frequency of your workouts too quickly, your body may fail to adapt in time. This leads to a catabolic, overtrained condition. 

 - Not enough recovery. Many competitive bodybuilders train twice a day, believing that this method maximizes limited energy stores. If you haven't recovered from the first workout, however, you can quickly slip into a chronic overtrained state. 

 - Monotonous training routines. This is a more subtle form of overtraining in which your nervous system adapts to training and fails to stimulate growth. Some bodybuilders make the opposite mistake of changing their exercise too often. By doing this, they fail to overload the muscle through the gradual weight progression that comes from adding poundage to the same exercises. 

You don't need to change your exercises at every workout, but it's a good idea to vary the weights, repetitions, sets, etc., that you use. This keeps you motivated because no two workouts are exactly alike. You go by the way you feel that day. if you feel strong, train heavier. If you feel off, train lighter and use higher repetitions. This means you must heed your body's signals. Be honest about it, don't cheat yourself by being lazy.

Some signs of overtraining include a lack of motivation, depression, fatigue and the inability to concentrate. In other words, your get-up-and-go feels like it got up and went. 

You may also notice a loss of muscle. What happens here is probably this: When you train intensely, you increase the blood testosterone levels. Since testosterone is an anabolic hormone, it promotes muscular growth. If you overdo the training, however, catabolic hormones such as cortisol, which breaks down muscle tissue, predominate over the testosterone. In addition, since the body secretes excessive cortisol under stress conditions, if you don't overtrain, the body compensates for the increased cortisol by increasing testosterone secretion.

Some researches suggest that a short period of overtraining may even be beneficial for overcoming sticking points. They theorize that the body becomes more sensitive after overtraining ends, and a rebound effect occurs. This translates into increased muscular growth. Many bodybuilders commonly observe increased growth after a short layoff from hard training. The rebound effect theory may explain this phenomenon. 

Does this mean that you should purposely overtrain to foster muscle growth? The problem here is gauging exactly how much overtraining is necessary to get out of a rut. A good method is to occasionally increase the volume of your training for a short time and then return to your usual number of sets, reps and exercises. You must listen to your body, however. Too much of this may do more harm than good. 

Note: for more on this, dig into some of the strength-training info on "overreaching." With a little thought, you can adapt a lot of the techniques used in strength training to your bodybuilding plans. No reason to be afraid of widening your view to include McStuff.

Not following a proper diet causes another type of overtraining. If you don't supply your body with the nutrients it needs, you won't recover properly between workouts. For example, consider what happens when you don't eat enough carbohydrates. Your body needs carbohydrates to synthesize muscle glycogen, the main source of energy for anaerobic weight training. Without glycogen your body can't repair the micro-damage that your muscles incur every time you train. Within a short time you feel the effects of chronic, unrepaired muscle damage. In short, you lose muscle. 

Not getting enough protein can cause an overtrained condition, although this is admittedly rare among protein-conscious bodybuilders. About the only time you may slip into a negative nitrogen balance is when your caloric intake is too low or if you're not eating sufficient carbohydrates. Hard-training bodybuilders definitely need more protein, although exactly how much is still a matter of guesswork. Some experts suggest that 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of bodyweight should cover all needs.      

How to Avoid Overtraining 

The best way to avoid overtraining is to vary your workouts. Many experts suggest a periodization program. This means dividing your training year into sections that emphasize different goals. For example, the first three months may be a conditioning period in which you lift lighter weights and do higher reps to prepare your body for the later, heavier lifting. 

The next phase may be a moderately heavy period in which you use weights that allow for a repetition range of 8-12 and you gradually increase the poundages you lift. 

Next may be a power/size phase in which you train as heavy as possible using a rep range of 6-8. 

From there you can slip into a peaking mode in which you again switch to moderate weights while increasing aerobic exercise. 

This type of training system is ideal for people who want to make maximum muscular gains without using drugs such as anabolic McSteroids. Periodization, which is also called cycle training, works because it allows you to train hard while promoting recovery. The inherent variety in the system also forestalls staleness because you continually change the focus of your training.

Many bodybuilders use a variation on the periodization concept by training heavy at the first workout, then lighter at the next workout for the same muscle. They use this technique to prevent injuries that may occur through constant heavy lifting. 

Another way to avoid overtraining is to gradually increase the volume of your training. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither can your body. You must allow adequate rest time. it's a bodybuilding truism that your body doesn't grow during training; it grows when you rest. This means not just resting between workouts, but also getting sufficient sleep at night. 

You must also heed the signals your body sends. if you feel excessively sore or fatigued, it may be telling you that you overdid it and that you are not sufficiently recovered from the last workout. When that happens, take a day off and let your body recover. Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, pasta and vegetables, to supply your body with the fuel it needs to power hard workouts and to help you recover from them.

Since everyone responds differently to exercise, some people can make good gains on more exercise than others can handle. 

Only you can find the amount of exercise that will allow you to reach your goals. Forget how much training the champion does. Instead, observe your own progress and make adjustments or cutbacks as needed to avoid slipping into overtraining.   

Minimize Stress to Enhance Progress

What is stress? According to bodybuilder Casey Viator, "Sress is the confusion created when one's mind overrides the desire to choke the living crap out of some wiseguy who desperately needs it." 

That colorful description aside, we all know that stress is a fact of life. It is anything tha interferes with the smooth and efficient operation of your cells  and throws you out of balance. 

Bodybuilders are constantly surrounded by it. To be the best bodybuilder possible you must be able to recognize the multitude of daily occurrences called stressors that call upon you to adapt. Often it is not the situation that causes the stress but rather your emotional and physical response to the situation.

The effects of stress include headaches, pounding heart, knotted stomach, nervous indigestion, irritability, anger, anxiety, impatience and insomnia. All of this, of course, can manifest itself in overtraining. 

Stress is generated from two broad areas: 

1) The external, or environmental. These stressors include noise, air, chemical and electromagnetic pollution, radiation, injury, disease, overcrowding, poverty, unemployment, discrimination, monotony and other major life events. Unfortunately, many of these are beyond our control.

2) The internal, or psychological and psychosocial. Psychological stressors include many mind-related factors such as depression, guilt, anxiety and fear. Psychosocial stressors include relationship problems, interpersonal frictions, economic dislocations, feeling of helplessness in the face of national and international events and increasing rates of change in technological innovations. 

According to Dr. Hans Seyle, the man who brought the concept of stress to public attention in the 1939s, "The particular cause of stress seems to make no difference." While intense love, intense anger or intense competition may feel very different emotionally, the body reacts to each almost as if it were the same stressor. 

Control is the core concept of managing stress. Control of yourself and your life is the way to reach your goals. Recognize what you can't control and focus on your training, which you can control. 

Here are actions you can take to improve stressful situations: 

 - Take a second look at the meaning you assign to an experience. You can convert distress to positive stress just by changing your thoughts about it. 

 - Talk it out. 

 - Take one thing at a time. Focus only on what you are doing now. Don't look back or ahead too often or too long. 

 - Don't try to be perfect in everything you do.

 - Learn to accept what you cannot change. 

 - Never feel closed in. There are always options for anything you have to do. 

 - Face problems as they occur, not before. 

 - Learn to say no. 

Remember, distress is the dirty word, not stress. Distress is stress out of control - an accumulation of your individual pressures and problems. Once you accumulate too many of these stressors without adaptation, you may become over-circuited, which means there's simply too much input and not enough release. 

To enhance progress minimize distress.   

Gain, Don't Overtrain

It's hard to get enough recuperation when your enthusiasm revs you up like a well-tuned Porsche. Motivation tends to make us train too long, too often, which eventually causes an overtraining rut that's hard to escape. 

There are, however, preventive measures you can take to diffuse overtraining before it attacks. Two of the most powerful weapons you can use in your battle against overtraining are the every-other-day split routine, and phase training. 

The every-other-day split is just what it sounds like. You divide your routine in half and train every other day, alternating between workouts. for example, you might divide your routine like this: 

Workout 1
Thighs, hamstrings, calves, triceps, biceps, abs. 

Workout 2
Chest, back, shoulders. 

Now, you simply train every other day. On Monday you use workout 1, Wednesday you use workout 2, Friday you use workout 1, Sunday you use workout 2, Tuesday you use workout 1 and so on. This gives you 48 hours of rest between workouts 1 and 2, and 96 hours of rest from workout 1 to the next workout 1 session. You provide your muscles with complete recovery and hence more growth capability. 

PHASE TRAINING involves alternating four to six weeks of high-intensity training - positive failure and intensity techniques - with one or two weeks of moderate-intensity workouts - stopping all sets one to two reps prior to positive failure. This allows your body to go from alarm, or preparation, to resistance, or growth, and back to alarm for extended periods of time. 

With phase training you can successfully avoid even the slightest hint of exhaustion or overtraining for months at a time. 

To really get your recuperative powers into full swing combine the every-other-day split with a phase-oriented approach.  



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