After finding a new workout program, I'd get so hyped up that I couldn't wait to go to the gym. I'd hit the weight stack with all of the
intensity that I could bring to it. My goal was to look better and feel better. Yet after about a week or so of working out I grew so
irritable that conversation with me became impossible. My appetite was shot and sleep was nonexistent. Finally I felt so terrible that I
had to quit. I had started training to feel better, not worse. I just didn't get it.
Talking about this dilemma with a fellow workout fanatic, I finally found the answer. Insufficient rest between workouts had led to
You see, the only time that growth can take place is when the muscle is given enough time to adequately recover. Maximum recovery equals
maximum growth. The process is that simple.
Anything less, and you will fall short. Hear me now and believe me later: If you continue to overtrain long enough, your body will lose
When you over exercise, the muscles become overstressed. Overstressed muscles are unable to repair themselves. If you go on denying your
body's musculature a chance to repair those tissues that have broken down, your body will eventually break down, causing loss of muscle.
Too many bodybuilders and athletes of all types have learned to accept a feeling of overall fatigue every day. Although they look
anything but tired and racked with aches and pains, many of them are.
Your body needs time to repair itself! Many people are so passionate when they start an exercise program that they bite off more than
they can chew and end up more tired and disappointed in themselves than ever. I had to experiment for quite a while to find my own personal
stress/rest balance so that I could grow, and not have to drop out because of overtraining.
A BASIC DILEMMA
The reason why overtraining can become a bigger issue with a dug-free bodybuilder than with one who uses steroids begins with a little
problem that Adolph Hitler had way back in 1937. Seems that Hitler was in need of a drug that could make his 85 troops more aggressive,
so he commissioned his group of scientists to develop something to accomplish that goal. What they came up with was - you guessed it -
I know what you're thinking - 'Why are you telling me about steroids? I thought this was an article directed towards the natural bodybuilder!'
Well, it is, so don't go getting your undies in a bunch! The point is that I experimented for two years before I found a program that would
work for me without harmful overtraining. The reason? I kept following programs that never gave my muscles an adequate chance to recover.
These programs were the same ones that people who take steroids used, and steroids give you much quicker recovery abilities.
Now, I have no beef with people who choose to use steroids. If they want to do it, that's fine by me. Yet for those of us who choose not
to use drugs, overtraining and staleness is a very real, very underrated problem. That's why this article directly addresses the drug-free
bodybuilder, but I believe that anyone can learn something here.
OVERTRAINED OR LAZY?
This article is for the bodybuilder who wants maximum muscle growth. It was written mainly for those who train hard (as represented by
a higher percent RM), and those who are on a program of about 6 to 8 reps per set. For anyone who trains less intensely than that,
overtraining could still become a problem, although a less serious one. You may want to take a closer look at whether it is inadequate
rest or just good old-fashioned laziness that is keeping you away from the gym.
Without a doubt every type of exerciser needs to incorporate rest into his schedule. Rest is especially necessary for intense exercisers,
such as bodybuilders.
If you suspect that you may be overtrained, the condition is easy to identify. Some symptoms of overtraining are as follows:
» During workouts you notice that your performance has suddenly dropped off and it stays that way for several consecutive workouts. (Everyone has a bad day here and there, so one day doesn't matter.)
» Movement becomes hard for you, and you feel nauseated.
» You have elevated blood pressure and/or resting heart rate.
» You lose your appetite, lose weight, and have trouble sleeping.
» You get sick more often and experience an overall feeling of weariness.
The challenge here is to come up with a training program that keeps you mentally fresh and gives your muscles enough stress so that maximum
growth is stimulated. We must do this with the understanding that your body has certain abuse limitations and if you choose to cross that
boundary often enough, you'll pay the price.
There are factors other than working out that lay extra stress on your system and can contribute to putting you in an over trained state.
Poor nutrition, insufficient sleep, excessive caffeine, and pressure from life in general are some of those factors. Keep that fact in
mind while training.
Short Cuts: People theorize about some substances that are said to help promote the body's natural recuperative abilities. Following are
the three major ones.
Ginseng: Ginseng is the "cures whatever ails you" substance that is hugely popular. It is claimed to keep you young, prevent strokes and
cure insomnia. Some people claim it increases resistance to stress (thereby aiding recovery), too.
In pioneer days many people were lured into buying snake oil. The salesmen who sold the stuff would ride into town and tell everyone
within earshot of how their product would cure anything that ailed them.
"Got insomnia? This will cure it! Got diabetes? Well, I'll be! Looks as though this'll cure that, too!" They would make all of these wild
claims, and people would trip over one another to buy this junk!
I realize that some of those people who bought snake oil did so simply because the sales pitch was strong, yet I believe that most of
them bought it out of ignorance. They weren't stupid people, just ignorant of the facts. There was no real way that snake oil could be
proven to do much of anything at all. This is much the same problem that we have with ginseng.
Can ginseng really do all that it is said to? I don't know because, as much as I'd like to see some objective scientific research that
has been done on humans, such experimentation seems easier said than done. One of the main reasons so little research has been done is
that there are many well-known negative side effects associated with the use of ginseng. Diarrhea, breast pain and depression are among
them. So, even though ginseng is being used by more and more people these days, there is still little known about it relative to its
popularity. Thus the ignorance.
Ginseng contains many pharmacologically active agents, so it does do something. As for what that something is, no one can say with any
kind of certainty. I do know people who claim that ginseng has done them some good. I also know of people who say that it is a rip-off.
The facts are that we don't know what the facts are. Not yet.
Phosphate loading: When exercising, our muscles lose their stores of ATP (adenosine phosphate). Since recovery cannot take place until
our ATP stores are replenished, obviously anything that can help us to do this faster would be good news.
Many people have theorized that, since ATP is made up of three phosphates, taking in extra amounts of phosphate (also known as "phosphate
loading") should help our muscles to replenish our stores of ATP faster. Even though ATP is indeed composed of three phosphates, ATP
regeneration is not dependent on how much phosphate we have. Whether or not this substance can actually aid recovery is definitely in
Speed: Cocaine, amphetamines, and anything else that makes you bounce all over the place turns you into some kind of freak Richard Simmons
imitation. (C'mon, one's enough, don't you think?) These "uppers" do seem to decrease recovery time following the workouts. Claims have
also been made that they n increase strength in the muscle and increase fat oxidation during long periods of exertion.
Sounds like a pretty good deal, eh? - until you remember that there's no such thing as a free ride. If you'd enjoy heart, digestive and
sexual problems, along with insomnia, depression and apathy, they might be the substance for you.
"The government is plotting to give 'em to me for free only if they can put a computer chip in my head while I'm sleeping but don't
worry - I'm on to them..."
Oh yes, did I forget to mention that they are also highly addictive and can make you paranoid?
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
Your body has certain abuse limits. One bodybuilder can take one day off and feel fine, while another may need three days a week off.
There is no precise formula for the perfect stress/rest balance that will work for every person all of the time.
If your workouts are too close together, the amount of weight and number of reps you are able to lift should start to go down. Not only
that, but you'll also feel lousy! If this happens to you, it's an easy problem to solve. Just add an extra recovery day or two to your
workout schedule until you start to detect an improvement. As you can see, there's nothing exotic about this.
Balance is the key word here. Use your head and keep an eye on your progress. Remember that the quantity of rest you need is an individual
matter. Don't let anyone else tell you what you need. It's your body we are talking about here. Treat it fight and you will be rewarded.
All that there's left to do now is to peel your butt off that couch and do it!