I was wondering if you can help me? I’ve been training hard for 1 year now and made decent progress. Put on 20 lbs. and gained quite a bit of strength. I train hard 5 days per week, each muscle group once per week. Lately, I’ve become frustrated with my lack of progress. I really want to get to the next level, but it’s tough when it seems like all the time and effort I’m putting in at the gym isn’t getting me anywhere. I’ve even been eating quite a bit more but that isn’t even helping. Any idea why this is happening and what I can do to begin making progress again? Thanks,
Hi, Bill. What you’re experiencing here is overtraining. You initially made some good progress. You increased the size and strength of your muscles before hitting a dreaded plateau.
As it stands, the main issue is that your muscles are now larger and more powerful than they were before. (Of course, that’s exactly what you want.)
However, here’s what you likely haven’t considered: Your muscles now use MORE of the biochemical resources essential to recovery and growth.
Think about it like this. Which do you think uses more of these precious resources? A 10-inch biceps contracting maximally… or a 17-inch biceps contracting maximally? Obviously, it’s the larger muscle. And a larger muscle not only needs more resources to perform a workout, but it also needs more resources to recover and grow!
You may have noticed I always mention recovery before growth. This is because recovery must always precede growth.
When most people think about recovery, they typically think about localized muscle recovery. However, they fail to consider there’s also a systematic or generalized recovery that must take place.
Take, for instance, the previous example of the 17-inch biceps being exerted with maximum force. A great deal of stress is inflicted upon that muscle, and, yes, it must recover from that stress.
For this to happen, the other subsystems in the body producing these biochemical resources must now work even harder to keep up.
These include your endocrine system, your nervous system, your immune system, and even your digestive system, all undergoing some additional stress. Not to mention, your tendons, bones, ligaments, and joints also take a significant amount of impact.
Many people will attempt to remedy this by simply consuming exorbitant amounts of food, hoping all the extra nutrition will hasten the recovery process. Unfortunately, the rate at which your body can convert nutrition into biochemical resources is strictly limited. Therefore, the excessive amounts food will more than likely become excess calories that will spill over in the form of unwanted body fat!
Keep in mind when you are a natural athlete, your body has a limited capacity to build muscle. The amount you can build depends on your body’s capacity to synthesize new muscle tissue from the nutrition you consume, plus many other factors.
For example, how high your natural testosterone and growth hormone levels are, your testosterone and growth hormone to cortisol ratio, your insulin sensitivity, the composition of your muscle fiber types, and most important of all… your genetics.
Here’s a simple example that might help you see my point a little easier. Let’s say you hire a crew to build a log cabin. This crew is only capable of handling 60 logs per day in their building process.
So what would happen if you were to bring this crew, say, 200 logs per day? Would your log cabin be built any faster? Of course not! The extra logs would only be wasted, having to be stored somewhere else, until they could eventually be used, if at all. Get my point?
The solution to overtraining is incorporating more recovery time, and, possibly consider consolidating your workout by eliminating any exercises that could be problematic to your muscle recovery. The fact is, you only a need a few basic exercises to build each body part.
You do not need to hit a muscle from multiple angles or with a multitude of exercises to grow. That’s precisely why most people have problems growing and improving in the first place! Everything, if shared, is even truer if you are not using anabolics to aid with recovery.
Furthermore, eliminate unnecessary exercises so you’re not being redundant with certain movements. For example, if you perform a bench press, don’t do flat dumbbell presses, then a seated bench press machine right afterward. That’s overkill, and it WILL lead to overtraining.
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Instead, try to include just 1 exercise for each section of any given muscle. So, in a Chest Workout, you would perform 1 version of a bench press, 1 version of an incline press, and 1 version of a fly exercise, like dumbbell flyes or pec deck machine.
I can also tell you from experience that your body is overworked and under-rested when drudgery begins to replace enthusiasm in your workouts.
I also think it would be a good idea for you to take at least 1 full week off of ALL lifting. Only then should you resume your workout routine. But, this time add 2 days of recovery between each lifting session from that point forward.
You may perform some aerobic exercise on those non-lifting days to maintain your condition. Just don’t overdo it. Also, try not to allow your cardio sessions to exceed 20 minutes time.
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