The Recovery Ability
Recovery ability is related to the body's system AS A WHOLE, which is capable of creating increases in size and strength when appropriately stimulated, depending also on the body's reserves of chemicals from a proper diet for this purpose.
Long workouts of say 10 sets per bodypart, though not carried to maximum intensity, will force the recovery ability of the body overall to work as hard as possible to replace the large energy expenditure. I am sure that if long exercise sessions were the answer to obtaining great size and strength, many of the servicemen in the armed forces would be hulking giants. For sure, these men do literally huge amounts of exercise in their basic training, but with less than maximum intensity, and certainly not enough recovery or rest time between the exercise sessions.
Recovery from maximum training efforts requires 48 hours of rest in the smaller muscle areas such as the shoulders, calves, abs, biceps, triceps, forearms; and as much as 72 hours to 5 days in the larger muscle areas: thighs, lower back, and chest. That is why you will frequently read of top powerlifters only advising a trainee to perform the deadlift or squat routine (carried to max or near-max effort) only once a week, or twice a week at most. Usually any less rest than indicated and the muscular gains will diminish.
So, with this guideline to follow with your workouts, you can see that one could never train the same bodyparts every day and make the improvements desired. You would simply be exceeding recovery and energy levels of the body. How you feel physically when your workout is completed and how you feel on your rest days is a good progress indicator.
After a workout you should feel comfortably tired. The day after your workout for particular body parts, you should feel energetic and the muscles should feel firm and hard when flexed.
If you feel overly sore and lack the ability of decent contractual power for exercise purposes, and feel very drained in the muscle area, this means the muscles have been strained beyond their capacity to function efficiently. At this time it would not be wise to try to continue on with your maximum training efforts till the muscle area or areas have fully recuperated. A good way to approach this training problem would be to lessen the weight resistance by about 5 to 10% and rely on good, steady exercise form till these signs of overfatigue diminish and your energy levels return to maximum efficiency.
Ways of Increasing Your Training Efforts
Recovery from any kind of exercise is a physiological process involving chemical changes that are backed by the action of the heart, lungs, liver, etc. Once an exercise has been started for a particular body part, the required number of sets should be completed with only enough rest so that the blood can rid the muscle of waste products, which are created after the prescribed number of muscle contractions.
Generally, when the muscle feels congested and not fatigued and the breathing is back to normal the rest period should be terminated. Rest periods between sets shouldn't be much longer than one or two minutes because after this period the body's metabolic process would drop back to a maintenance level, and a warmup would then be necessary once again. A muscle recuperates 50% of its ability within three seconds after a set that is carried to momentary failure. Remember, though, that TOTAL recovery, over 48 to 72 hours, and as long as five days, is required in muscle groups so that new levels of energy and growth can be experienced.
We have learned about rest between sets of a certain exercise. What about the rest periods between individual exercises in the day's exercise program? Rest periods between body parts are necessary. If there is no rest period between exercises, the oxygen debt can't be satisfied and as a result, a weakening of effort due to the diversion of the blood supply results. This and physiological fatigue may destroy the final effort in heavy resistance exercises. With this in mind, you may use the guidelines suggests in Rest Between Sets.
A properly selected poundage will usually permit one to accomplish 70 to 90% of a suggested repetition pattern. An example would be to perform 8 out of 10, or 12 out of 16 reps. When a trainee can perform the full number of suggested reps for 3 workouts in succession, of all sets of a particular exercise, then the poundage is too light and a weight increase should be incorporated.
Be sure and COAX the muscles when adding poundage. Remember to incorporate this weight increase ONLY WHEN you are STRONG ENOUGH to handle the weights in proper and strict form.
Note: Usually for every 5 pounds you add to the barbell you will lose one repetition. For example, if you reach a goal of performing 10 reps on your sets in a suggested exercise, and you would like to be able to perform 80 percent of 10 reps with a new poundage, you would then add 10 pounds to the bar to accomplish this end.
Now, before I go into the last of the three areas of INCREASING THE TRAINING EFFORT (choosing sets and reps), I would like to speak to you about the importance of . . .
Proper Exercise Form and the Training Groove
A) As I mentioned earlier: You should ALWAYS strive to GRADUALLY add more poundage to the exercise bar whenever possible. However, NEVER use a poundage which is so heavy that you cannot perform each repetition properly and strict. In other words, CURL the weight, don't SWING it. PRESS the weight out, don't use your bodyweight to HEAVE it overhead. SQUAT, don't BOUNCE, etc.
B) Full range movements are a MUST (full contraction and complete extension). Anything less than this type of training performance may in time result in a lack of total flexibility.
C) THE SPEED OF REPETITIONS: ALWAYS keep an even and controlled tension throughout the movement. An example of an uncontrolled movement would be the squat where you DROP and RELAX at the bottom of the movement. In time this lack of control will certainly lead to a training injury. Keep up a good exercise rhythm.
D) Work for a DEEP ACHE in the muscle area.
E) According to the feel of the muscle action, instinctively SPEED UP or SLOW DOWN the movement for the proper effect in the muscle area being worked. However, don't use too much speed because this will take away from your ability to CONCENTRATE properly.
SUMMARY: Research has found that for building muscular size and strength, the lowering phase is far more important than the raising phase. So, if it takes 2 to 3 seconds to elevate a weight, then it should take anywhere from 4 to 5 seconds lowering the same poundage.
NOTE: When making these POSITIVE suggestions relating to proper exercise style and the training groove, I have not described the exercise movements in their entirety [thank God], because they are all FUNDAMENTAL ones which bodybuilders should be familiar with. Likewise, I will be adhering to this thought when I begin to discuss the most effective exercises to choose from when selecting a specific training program later into the text.
Now that I have discussed some training related information pertaining to proper exercise style and the training groove, I would like to speak to you about the third and last area of increasing the training effort:
CHOOSING SETS AND REPS
Sets and reps are dictated to a great extent by our physical and emotional needs. University research developments into the positive effects of weight training indicate that 3 to 3 sets per exercise are best for gaining size and strength. Of course, to realize the desired results from this seemingly small number of sets per exercise, one must adhere to the information contained under MAXIMUM TRAINING EFFORT.
You can't overwork on any one given set in an exercise. Overtraining is caused by doing too many sets or exercises per bodypart. What we are speaking of here is the fact that too many sets or exercises per bodypart will exhaust the existing recovery ability of the body to a point where energy levels necessary to training purposes and the chemicals in our bodies which contribute so greatly toward gaining size and strength diminish. Thus we fail to register physical gains of any consequence.
Now, 2 or 3 sets per exercise seems to be just about right for gaining purposes. This is within the total recovery ability of the body as a whole, but only when following the suggestions pertaining to rest between workouts (Ref: RECOVERY ABILITY).
We must also consider how many exercises (using 2-3 sets) we can perform for each bodypart within a particular workout session and not find ourselves in a state of being overtrained. For MOST beginners and intermediate bodybuilders one exercise per body part is ENOUGH. When an exercise is performed to absolute maximum failure for 2 to 3 sets you will not have the energy or desire to pursue a bodypart with any other movements. Now, as your recuperative abilities reach new highs over an extended period of time (months, years, etc.) You MAY find that you can perform as many as two to three exercises (2-3 sets each), maximum effort) per body part. However, this would probably be the limit that one could achieve and still maintain a decent recovery ability from the workout, without overtraining by performing too many exercises.
As I mentioned earlier, you can't overwork on any one given set of an exercise. So with this thought established, ATTACK EACH SET AS IF IT WERE THE ONLY ONE YOU WERE GOING TO BE DOING FOR THAT PARTICULAR EXERCISE.
Don't worry about the next SET until it happens. A set should be terminated when the muscle "feels" congested. Repetition selections for the various exercises that you may be performing is an important consideration. In a sense it will become a decisive factor in the poundages you will be using from time to time.
For building MAXIMUM SIZE AND STRENGTH, consider using between 5 to 9 reps, using the heaviest possible poundages.
For purely BODYBUILDING purposes - use medium poundages and reps between 10 to 14.
LIGHT POUNDAGES - will find you employing 15 to 20-25 reps; this type of rep pattern is very beneficial for:
1) Promoting rib cage expansion (using deep breathing squats alternated with light weight STIFF ARM breathing pullovers. I should mention here that one should never use more than a 20 pound bar for this form of the straight arm pullover. Anything heavier than this will restrict rib cage expansion.
2) Building endurance and cardiovascular fitness.
3) Stimulate the deep lying muscle fibers in the calf and forearms areas.
It would be a good idea to mix your sets up every so often; do one "medium," the next set "heavy," the next "light," etc., etc. Keep your repetitions within the above range, and always do a set to failure. Working out in this manner you will always be using maximum effort no matter what rep system you are employing. This will, in turn, complement your existing energy and recuperative levels which seem to vary every workout. Follow the above directions and you'll get the most stimulation from every workout.
Frank Zane once said, "Christine, Honey, did you pick up that Drano for the bathroom sink?" As well as . . . "Just like so many people alive today, your muscles don't have a brain, so they are forced to respond when you jolt or surprise them while training."
Remember: Shock your muscles by using different poundages each set within the repetition guideline suggested.
Don't count reps that seriously or you'll quit when you get to a certain number, not necessarily when your muscles are forced to grow due to surprise demand.
For all general purposes different body parts respond to certain rep patterns. For the sake of clarity I will list the reps for various body parts. These reps are based on the fact that you will:
1) Be using limit poundages for a particular rep selection (Hvy 5-9; Med 10-14; Light 15-25).
2) You will not exceed 2 or 3 sets per exercise.
Deltoids: 5-12 reps
Biceps and Triceps: 6-10
Lower Back: 5-9
Rib Cage: 15 to 20-25
Calves: 15 to 20-25
Next: Workout Frequency
Enjoy Your Lifting!