Bodybuilders live on the edge.Or they should, anyway!Not some crazy life or death edge, but the edge of over training.“They” say over training is the muscle gaining boogeyman!You want to keep far, far away from it.Or do you?After all, if you don't push right up against that over training line, your progress will not be as good as it could be.
If you do everything possible to avoid over training, you'll never work hard enough to make any real progress.And real progress, in terms of new muscle gains, is why you lift in the first place, right?
If you want those gains, you do need to over train.It's how you do it that matters.You don't want full bore over training, where you start getting weaker, your body starts breaking down with nagging little injuries, you get sick more often or you just feel sluggish and weak.Nobody trains to get weaker, right?
What you want to do is dip your toe in the cold, black, but oh so inviting, over training water! And then pull that toe back without succumbing to the tempation of a swim!You saw Jaws, didn't you?
'Sounds great!But how do I do that?', you ask.Great question!You need to control your training.You need a plan!Stop just going to the gym and deciding what body parts you're going to work, or the number of sets and reps you'll use.
You need a full on plan that covers a four to six week period of time.Every workout day, the sets, reps, exercises and rest periods.Sure, there will be days where you deviate a bit, you feel great so you add ten pounds to the squat, you had a long day at work so you extend your rest period between sets.Life happens.Adapt.
This plan needs to start out with a few easy workouts so you can build some momentum going forward.Then the intensity and volume builds over time until you are going full bore and beyond during the final week, dipping your toe into that inviting over training water.
And then you take a week off!
Yeah, it's crazy!But also necessary, at least if you do this right.The body recovers and then builds new muscle while it's resting, not while it's training.If you take it a bit into that over training state, but not too far, and then let it recover, it will reward you with new muscle, and more quickly than you are used to.
Sadly, this is not an exact science.There's no way to truly measure when you've gone over the edge.But if you follow these guidelines you'll do okay.
A general sample plan might look like the following:
Week 1 – Workout three non-consecutive days per week using full body workouts.
Use one exercise per body part.
Perform 3 sets of 10 reps per exercise with 2 minutes of rest between sets.Use a weight that allows you to get ten repetitions on all three sets without going to failure.If you were going all out you would be able to get thirteen to fifteen reps on that final set.
Add a little weight to each exercise on the second and third workouts this week.You're not quite at failure on the third set in the third workout, but it's close.You could squeeze out eleven or twelve reps if you had to.
Week 2 – Follow the week one rules except cut the rest period from two minutes to ninety seconds between sets.You might need to adjust the weight on some exercises, especially the bigger ones like squtas or deadlifts.
If you need to lower the weight a bit on the third set, do so.If you get ten reps on all three sets of an exercise, add a little weight for the next workout.In week two, you should be going to positive failure on the final set of an exercise, which means don't stop at ten if you can get eleven.Or twelve.Or more!Keep cranking.We're ramping things up now!
On the third and final workout of the week, add a fourth “back off” set to every exercise.Take off some weight from the third set and “rep out”, going to failure.You should be shooting for between ten and fifteen reps.
Week 3 – Changing things up a bit this week.We're going to double the intensity and training volume, but not double the training time, by using supersets.It will be three sets per exercise, but it will now be two exercises per body part and you'll be doing them in superset fashion.
But it won't be traditional superset, or pre-exhaust fashion, where you do the 'isolation' exerise before the compound exercise.We want to keep the weights up a bit on the big movements like the squat and bench press.
For the chest it might look like this:
Barbell Bench Press – 3 sets of 10 reps
Dumbbell Flyes – 3 sets of 10 reps
Perform the bench press, then without rest, perform a set of flyes.Rest 90 seconds and repeat a second and then third time.
Always go to failure on the third set.If you get fewer than 10 reps, keep the weight the same at the next workout.If you get 10 reps or more, add a little weight next time.
Week 4 – Time to go over the edge!All out!Leave nothing in the gym!Next week you get to relax!
This week is going to involve an expanded workout with some intense training techniques.Let's map this week out so it's easier to understand at a glance.
Rest between sets this week - 2 minutes (except where noted such as the MRRP sets)
Monday – Chest and Shoulders
Barbell Bench Press3 x 8
Barbell Bench Press1 x Multi Rep Rest Pause (MRRP)
Dumbbell Flyes1 x MRRP
Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press1 x 10
Standing Dumbbell Shoulder Press1 x MRRP
Dumbbell Upright Row1 x MRRP
MRRP stands for Multi Rep Rest Pause set.While it says one, you are really cranking out three sets.You'll want to use a weight where you can get twelve or so reps when going to positive falure.Once you do that, you'll rest for twenty seconds and then crank out set number two to failure.Rest twenty more seconds and finally crank out the third setgetting as many reps as you can.
Based on things like the exercise, as well as your genetics and muscle fiber makeup, the number of repetitions you get can vary wildly.So you might get something like 12, 8, 3 or even 12, 9, 6 or you might even need to take off a little weight to get any reps on the third and final set.Whenever you see 1 x MRRP below, this is what you do.
Tuesday - Legs
Barbell Squat3 x 10
Leg Press1 x 10
Leg Press1 x MRRP
Barbell Stiff Legged Deadlifts1 x 12
Barbell Stiff Legged Deadlifts1 x MRRP
Wednesday - Biceps & Triceps
No rest between sets or exercises in this routine except where indicated.
Standing Dumbell Curls1 x 12
Lying Tricep Extensions1 x 12
Standing Dumbell Curls1x failure
Lying Tricep Extensions1 x failure
2 minutes rest
Standing Dumbell Curls1 x 12
Lying Tricep Extensions1 x 12
2 minutes rest
Incline Dumbell Curl1 x 12
Tricep Pushdown1 x 12
Incline DBCurl1 x failure
Tricep Pushdown1 x failure
between these four sets.
Thursday - Off
Friday - Back
Barbell Deadlift2 x 12-15
Curl Grip Lat Pulldown2 x 10 - 12
Curl Grip Lat Pulldown1 x MRRP
Machine Pullover1 x 10 - 12
Machine Pullover1 x MRRP
You can substitute the cross bench dumbell pullover if a good machine pullover is not available.
If you do this right and give it the appropriate intensity during the workouts, you should be ready for a bit of a break.For the following week, let your body rest and recover.. and GROW!Yes, even if you feel good after this week's session!
After you go through a few cycles like this, you'll learn more about your own body in terms of what it needs with volume, intensity and when to rest.You might find out you can go with a six week program before taking a week off, allowing for a little more momentum to build and an extra week or seriously intense training at the end as well.
Give this style of (over) training a try and see if you enjoy the new gains!