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The Art and Psychology of Avoiding High Intensity Over-Training
It goes like this…
Hey Bill, I hope you can help me! I’m not sure why the weights used on my exercises aren’t going up! I feel run down, I’m cold and don’t know what to do.
Well John, are you applying the theory of high intensity training…namely are your workouts intense, short and infrequent?
Oh Yeah…I only train three times a week, fail with a few forced reps and do three drop sets for every two sets of my 5 exercises.
You mean not only do you fail on every set, then do two more sets with less weight, but also do two sets this way for a total of 5 exercises?
Yeah, isn’t that awesome?
NO! It is high intensity Overtraining. It’s ridiculous and counterproductive and uses up the body’s limited resources of recovery ability faster than you can say, “Even though I’m cross training and dropping the intensity of my workout, I’m overtraining and need to take 3 weeks off!”
Muscle building is not aerobics and a well designed bodybuilding program is really a strength building program.
Looking at the above scenario, it is not unusual for most in the gym these days, whether they are aware of it or not. Most enthusiastic and well-intentioned people who go to the gym to “get in shape”…fall into the same rut and then wonder why their bodies change for the worst or change very little. They are under the mistaken, misapplied and/or cross-applied economic social principle that “more is better”! This may be great for wealth or material possessions, but, as Mike Mentzer said, not when it comes to the body.
Remember, the gym is nothing more than a means to an end… getting in shape.
What actually takes shape? It loses body fat and gains muscle. Every human on the face of this earth has a body that responds to the same stimulus and is physiologically the same, based on genetics…which also misapplies this to anaerobic training. So this can only be explained by the art and psychology of this overtraining phenomenon.
Overtraining is more of a mindset than anything else. I see it in many athletes still impressed and believe that more is better. It is based on fear of lack, going without. If you’re looking to get lean and in shape, bigger and stronger, lose muscle and fat faster than butter in a steam room, you need to learn how to think about it and manage your workout routine based on the theory of training with high intensity.
Arthur Jones said it best…
“Everything of any value relating to exercise can be stated in less than a thousand words, indeed can be quite well discussed in just a few words, as follows: Train hard, Train short, Train not often, and always remember that your final results will primarily be a result of genetics.” – Arthur Jones
Arthur understood this, but did not perfect it. It wasn’t until a man named Mike Mentzer hit bodybuilding circles that the rise began!
“The earth is not flat!”
“Think people!” I could hear him say.
Well, what Mike said could certainly have been compared to the statement, “the earth is flat”, based on the ignorance of the bodybuilding community at the time. He not only underlined what Jones said, but he stated that there is an exact volume and frequency, based on individual genetics.
Mike asked questions like…
“If we think about this logically, where should we start? Should we start less because everyone is doing 20 sets…” at maybe 9 or 7 or 3 because we let dogma and tradition dictate our thinking?
Seven days a week, three square meals a day, the father, son and holy spirit or should we start within the logical place?
What would be the logical place?
Well, Mike and I both agree…let’s start with one!
Yes one! One set! One set per exercise. It does not make sense to stimulate muscle growth (that is what a set is carried to a point of failure), and then when the body is ready to adapt … do it another time or another two times or whatever ! Not to mention dropping the intensity of effort by reducing the weight! Remember, getting in shape is building muscle, adjusting, like getting a tan. It takes intensity to do that. Like the hot August sun and its intensity of ultraviolet rays, the body needs a reason to lay down muscles.
Yes… yes of course, you will say you know people who don’t fall and do a number of sets that have improved. Of course they have, because going from doing nothing to doing something is also a stimulus that causes an adaptive response. But unless you give the body a reason to grow, it won’t do much when it comes to muscle. And of course, who wants to spend hours in the gym?
I have been in the gym for 4 decades now, and see people come and go all the time. I also notice that after a certain point they change quite a bit…just going through the motions. Honestly, they could be a Mr. Olympia and never know it! Why? Because going into the gym and doing an arbitrary number of reps and sets, going through the motions is like going outside on a cloudy day and expecting to get a tan… It’s not going to happen! Again, the more is better theory was misapplied to bodybuilding…
So if we use the more is better theory, does that mean if the progress stops you insert an extra 2, 4, 10, 12 sets… end up being in the gym all day? It sounds pretty stupid right?
No, this is just the way most people sabotage themselves by not understanding how the body responds to exercise and how to find their way to their goals. Remember, it must first exist in your mind before you can place it in your reality.
The way the body lays down muscle is this…
1- It must be encouraged, given a reason, to change. A set of an exercise brought to a point of momentary muscle failure is enough especially in the beginning. It’s the last near-impossible rep of a set that triggers the body’s growth mechanism. Note that I said the body, not the body part.
2- It must be given enough time to compensate for the exhausting effects of the workout. A set taken to failure is much different than going through the motions after a random rep with a weight that will not challenge your system. You can do 5 or 8 sets of squats to no failure, which will leave you pleasantly fatigued…but do one set of squats to failure with a weight that will allow you 10-20 reps; true failure and I guarantee you, you will need a few days just to recover and possibly a bucket to vomit after you complete the set. Now that’s a set up for failure.
3- You must allow enough time, after you are 100% to allow for the overcompensation to occur. I call this the Two Day Rule!
What I didn’t say is that the body can increase its strength by 300-400% or more, while the ability to recover can only increase by 50%. This means that as you get stronger and more muscular, you need to manage your workout volume and frequency down. I have some training once every 10-14 days with only 2-4 sets depending on their goals! Remember, your body changes workout after workout and therefore it requires change and management of volume and frequency to adapt it to the maximum.
Again, it’s a mindset…a detached one. You should think of yourself as a specimen in an experiment and pay attention to the results. Signs of illness, feeling lethargic, stagnant weights in your exercises or loss of strength and muscle are all signs of overtraining.
See it for what it is and make the necessary changes in your volume and frequency. As long as you train intensively, you stimulate the increase of muscle and strength. You then need to manage your volume and frequency using the two day rule to make it happen. If youare not making progress for each workout in either reps or weight or both, it means you are not managing it well. It’s time to step back and look at it in a detached way to find out where you miscalculated. If you have allowed it to get to this point, you need a full recovery with proper rest and nutrition. I usually recommend 3 weeks to a month.
As you make progress with each workout, you should continually decrease the volume and frequency by inserting more rest days between your workouts. Although you can plan when your body will be ready and overcompensated again, it is important to use the Two Day Rule. You will never have to hit a wall again and will progress to the upper limit of your genetic potential.
This is definitely an art and mindset to learn how to manage this. The hardest part is being so close to it. Being emotionally tied to the gym or the feeling is not where you want to be if you desire success in your bodybuilding or personal fitness goals…remember it’s the outcome you’re after!
I wish you success in your endeavors and always remember, it begins in the mind!
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#Art #Psychology #Avoiding #High #Intensity #OverTraining