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#2: On Overtraining

  • Written by Denis Pedneault

201002_bodysculptingQ: Hi Denis,

It is great to see a natural bodybuilder giving advice. I have been at this a long time, and I know that it’s much harder to gain muscle without drugs than with drugs. Any help you can give me would be appreciated.

I would like to know how often it is that you train and for how long. I train six days per week, and sometimes I feel like I’m overtraining. Do you think that I could be training too much?

Please let me know what you think.

Thank you,

. . . Richard P.

A: Hi Richard,

First, I would like to congratulate you on your commitment to be a "drug-free" athlete. I know I’m not alone in this category, but I see so many people making the wrong choices in every aspect of bodybuilding that I’m always pleased to hear from another of my own kind.

You are right about that one thing: it IS much harder to make gains when you don’t use drugs, as you don’t have the "luxury" to take it easy. As a result, unless you’re one of those lucky guys who are blessed with superior genetics and start to grow as soon as you pass the gym door, gains are going to come only in the presence of precision, dedication, and plain hard work! People understand the importance and the meaning of the word "intensity" when they see me train, as they witness a degree of concentration and willpower that you don’t often see in the gym. Your results in terms of muscle hypertrophy are directly dependent on your intensity in the weight room. To stimulate as much hypertrophy as you can, you must apply intensity to your training.

As for my training regimen, I never train with weights more than five days a week (even when preparing for a contest). In the off-season, depending on the type of training (intensity and volume), I might even go as low as three days a week in order to make more gains in terms of mass. I also never train for more than 60 minutes.

You mention you train six days a week. If you want to make gains "naturally," this amount of work is obviously going to interfere with your recovery process, and that’s why it doesn’t surprise me at all that you feel a little overtrained. Intensity may be a requirement for hypertrophy results, but so is recovery!

The growth and recovery processes are very complex and have to be fully understood and considered, in all their aspects, in order to get the most out of your efforts in the gym. As eight-time Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney, pointed out so often, "You want to stimulate, not annihilate." I’ve seen that quote so often that it seems like everybody knows it. Nevertheless I rarely see this seemingly logical principle in application.

As a natural athlete, you have to respect your own recovery ability (neurological, hormonal, contractile, and energetic). All of these have different recovery capacities and limits, and you must take these into account when designing a program. For example, it can take one to two days to recover from a workout for your energetic and hormonal systems, and two to five days for the contractile and neurological systems. You also have to understand that the recovery process has to be seen on two levels: local (a certain muscle group) and general (the body itself). As for the workout length, your hormonal and energetic systems begin to get exhausted after nearly 45-50 minutes of intensive work.

That’s enough of the little "crash course" in exercise physiology. Now, with that simple but important knowledge, it is logical to have a certain number of recovery days not only for a particular muscle group, but between workouts too. As well, individual workouts should never exceed the time limit of about an hour. Makes sense, doesn’t it? And this is only one example of one scientific fact that you must know if you are not only serious about training, but natural too.

This is why I always tried to learn as much as I could about the science of weight training, and also why I constantly put so much effort into making every one of my workouts the very best it can be! That’s the only way I can keep improving myself, and the only way I can beat my competitors – and if you’re as serious as I am about bodybuilding, I suggest you do the same.

Have a nice workout!

Sincerely,

. . . Denis Pedneault, Canadian Champion 2005, 2006

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