Overtraining is a scarecrow of the world of bodybuilding. But is it so damn devil as it is painted? The expert, Dr. Jacob Wilson, will announce the results of scientific research and explain how to safely raise the amount of training load.
Author: Dr. Jacob Wilson
QUESTION: I'm thinking about a program in which I will have to work my legs three times a week. A great way to build muscle, that's just not lead to a syndrome of overtraining?
Muscular hypertrophy, or muscle growth, is in the heart of bodybuilding. But muscle growth is needed not only for muscle monsters; The lion's share of visitors to gyms wants to gain at least some muscle mass and does not even think about calling themselves "bodybuilders." At the same time, many fear that an excessive amount of hypertrophy-oriented training will sooner or later lead to a downward slope directly into overtraining – a condition that ends with the loss of muscle mass.
So the question should sound like this: what is required to go beyond what is possible? Answer: "Perhaps, it is much more than you think."
First of all, let's clearly delineate the concepts of "overstrain" and "overtraining". Overexertion is a short-term drop in efficiency, which is overcome in a few days. The recovery after overtraining takes weeks and even months. In fact, overtraining is extremely rare, in any case, with adequate nutrition and proper use of nutrients.
In addition, unlike overtraining, which has negative consequences, overstrain is useful provided that a competently composed split. And now let's get acquainted with the latest research and see how to determine the optimal amount of training load.
The frequency and volume of the load are not your enemies
The most actively discussed reasons for overtraining are the frequency and volume of the training load. One of the oldest myths of bodybuilding is: the impact on the target muscle more than once or twice a week leads to a "catabolic shift". However, the results of numerous studies convince us of the opposite.
A fresh example. In Norway, researchers took the leading representatives of power sports, who did sit-ups, getting thrust and bench press three times a week, and raised the frequency of training to six a week. I'm sure many people in the head already hear an alarm signal warning about the risk of overtraining, but the results of the research showed that the hypertrophy and strength of the subjects literally soared to the skies! And this can not be called a complete surprise. In fact, many leading athletes, for example, members of the legendary national national team of Bulgaria, trained 3-4 times a day for decades.
The frequency of impact on the target group is of great importance: the training process increases the synthesis of protein, but in well-trained athletes this answer persists for only 16-24 hours. Therefore, if you work with each muscle group only once a week, you stimulate protein synthesis for just one day. If you set specific goals for, say, hands, feet or gluteal muscles, why stop halfway? Why not work for the growth of the target group three times a week and even more often?
The second part of the issue is the amount of workload, that is, the number of approaches within the training session. There are two points of view on how the volume of the training load affects hypertrophy. Some argue that all muscle groups really need one single, but the most difficult approach, performed before failure. Their opponents vote for a large amount of workload and a variety of approaches.
More recently, the results of studies conducted at the University of Sydney in Australia have been published. The subject of the study was the volume of training load we are interested in in bodybuilding. Participants in the experiment were divided into three groups, which performed squats in the amount of 3, 12 and 24 approaches per week. Conclusion: the more approaches, the higher the result.
How to apply this knowledge in practice? I recommend starting with changing the frequency of the impact without increasing the volume of the load. Let's say you used to do 18 approaches every Monday. For starters, you can raise the frequency to three 6-set training sessions per week. This will lead to a more intensive synthesis of the protein.
As you adapt to the new frequency of impact on the target group, begin to increase the amount of workload within one workout. For example, you can overcome one 16-set training with the maximum volume, one 6-set with the maximum working weight and one intermediate with 12 approaches. Finally, when the social and psychological stresses are small, and you can safely build your schedule around the training process, go to the goal-directed overextending cycle.
To do this, you will have to combine a high volume of workload and disproportionately short rest for deliberate summation of training in one giant training stimulus. For example, if your Achilles' heel is your legs, you can train them for five days in a row. Next week, go back to your usual exposure frequency, but reduce the total number of approaches by about 40% to allow the body to recover. We call this the "weakening period" (taper phase), usually it takes 1-2 weeks.
It is important to understand that such a strategy can be adhered to only under the condition of adequate nutrition and sufficient intake of protein. My lab recently completed a study involving bodybuilders raising about 200000 pounds per week. Against the background of taking drugs with anti-catabolic effect, athletes achieved fantastic progress, and without drugs the power indicators fell, and the athletes did not have time to recover during the weakening period. Dry residue: frequent workouts with a high load volume are an excellent tool that ideally works in conjunction with the right preparations, adequate nutrition and rest.