What works for some (another overtraining rant)
01-25-2004 01:06 PM
What works for some (another overtraining rant)
What Works for Some
On a daily basis I see posts, receive emails, and personal train people that are swimming in a sea of confusion about what productive training consists of. It's blatantly obvious that most folks get their training information from the body-building magazines and watching what others do in the gym.
They are convinced that MANY sets and exercises are needed for each body-part and many days in the gym each week is just the ticket for the results they seek, when in reality this type of training protocol is EXACTLY what is holding them back from the gains they seek.
While volume training is responsible for most of the pro's physiques, it is the same protocol that has almost every gym in the world full of guys mostly spinning their wheels going nowhere. Look around you in the gym. How many guys are even remotely big and moving big poundage’s? The vast majority of these guys don't even look like they lift at all. But truth of the matter is they are there almost every day.........and therein lies the problem.
The #1 reason people fail to add size and strength is over-training. In many cases it goes hand in hand with under eating/not having the macro, and micronutrient profiles even close. It is certain no matter how perfect the routine, growth will be slow or nonexistent if you don’t fuel it. If diet isn’t there you might as well stay home.
But will an optimal diet allow you to actually increase your volume and frequency? In almost every case the answer is yes, with a perfect diet you will raise the threshold. What varies a HUGE degree is how much of an increase occurs. Some a little, some quite a bit, but what’s universal is the fact that if you picked a 100 people at random, at your average gym without any bias used in the selection process, you will find pure volume training will not work for the overwhelming majority.
And please all you volume junkies; I’m not bashing it. It works absolute WONDERS for those that respond to it. Unfortunately most people just don’t have the innate capacity to recover from true volume work. I work with people all the time that aside from the initial gains they got when they started training have barely gained an ounce in YEARS, and for many that saw a steadily increasing scale, they ended up fat with no appreciable muscle to show for it. And again, volume guys reading this that can’t wait to finish this to start slamming me; VOLUME FLAT OUT WORKS for a small percentage of the overall populace. Most of the true “monsters” I have met do volume work, as do most of the pro’s. Guess what? Not everyone has this capacity, MOST DON’T.
I train people and exchange info with folks all across the globe, and it is sickenly common to hear from guys that have been killing their selves in the gym forever with such pitiful results they hate to admit they weight train. Or the guys that put on enough muscle when they first started training that they got a taste for what they no longer seem to be able to have, more muscle. It’s great when everyone comments on how big your getting, and how great you look. And it sucks when no one says a word anymore because you haven’t changed a bit in like…….FOREVER!
Then you get these guys doing a SIMPLE routine with a handful of basic compound movements (more or less dependent on the individual, but nothing compared to volume) spread out over 2-3 times a week, and even less for some people, and they add 20-30 lbs of muscle in a short period of time.
Keep doing the endless sets to assure all aspects of the muscles are fully stimulated or whatever bull**** reason you want to do that many sets and they continue to be stalemated with both poundage progression and size gains. What works for a few is pure poison for the masses. Pick up a copy of Brawn by Stuart McRobert. Or read some of Mentzers early stuff, Dorian Yates stuff, or better yet read Doggs “cycles for pennies” thread on:
under the “realm of dogg and iron addict” and you will see some real world results of what low volume does for guys that just wont grow.
Here is my question for you:
If your current routine isn't working now, how the hell is one day going to "magically" start working one day? Unless you are consistently adding weight to the bar or size to your frame you are lost and without direction will stay lost. If volume training works for you please, please keep using it. It truly is a great way to train IF you can recover from it. But if you can’t today, how will you tomorrow?
I train people for a living, and all that matters to me is; what will make the person I am working with right now grow. After they have filled out the questionnaire and done an interview I make a determination on what kind of routine to put them on. I am not dogmatic in my approach at all, and when I believe volume is the answer, that is what they get. And for some of these guys, low volume work will often make them shrink due to the decreased workload.
But in all honesty I don’t worry much about the guys I train that respond well to volume work. They usually have above average recovery ability and much more growth capacity than Joe average. I usually end up reducing volume a LITTLE bit, reduce all overlap, and give them a routine with weekly rotating loading parameters, nail down their diets, and monitor their excellent progress.
Contrast that to the guys that are there because they have very little appreciable muscle, and despite having tried every POPULAR training program (usually changing it with each month’s ar***** of “Flex” magazine) have barely added any muscle in years. Now these guys have to have everything spot-on to progress.
Low volume work is the way to get there for these guys.
I’m not saying HIT and hardgainer style training is for everyone, and I write quite a few medium-volume routines for those that are not pure hardgainer. But it’s pretty safe to say if you are not making progress, under-training is not the problem. AGAIN, THIS IS ALL WRITTEN WITH THE UNDERSTANDING THAT IF DIET IS NOT CORRECT, ANY AND ALL TRAINING PROTOCOLS ARE MEANINGLES.
ALL that matters is what works, and if it’s working it should be blatantly obvious its working, not a subtle, “yeah, I think I’m improving”. Strength gains are not the, be all, end all of training. But until you are fairly advanced, as in benching 275-300, and squatting/deadlifting 400-500, it should be your primary goal.
I have NEVER seen a big guy that only benches 200 and squats 300, it just don’t work that way. Until you have a fair strength base built, being progressive with your poundage’s is what matters. Going to the gym, getting a great pump, and then repeating the same workout, with the same workload next session, week in, week out, won’t get you there.
01-25-2004 09:28 PM
I've always wondered though what actually defines "volume"?
I'm pretty new at this.
01-27-2004 10:40 PM
Amen IA....The tide will turn eventually with more and more people getting bigger this way. One of my buds just divorced his wife and he's starting to train with me now. He's a pretty big guy to begin with, but I still have to always tell him that more is not better. He's learning, and hopefully he'll catch on. It's hard to break the mold at first, but when you get results from the get-go, there's no turning back.
Peg, volume is basically the amount of sets you are doing, the number of time you train specific bodyparts within a certain time period, etc. Read up on all of IA's articles and you will learn a $hitload......Good Luck.
01-28-2004 12:06 AM
i complete disagree with the original post. imo, #1 reason people fail to add size and strength is most definitely NOT overtraining (or overreaching - people contintually do not understand the difference)
frankly, i think most people who do not gain are not disciplined enough and/or eating properly and/or tracking their workouts (seeing what works and what doesn't) and/or are simply afraid of pain.
i came to weight training from an endurance athlete background, so I already knew how much pain the body can endure, and that - while training harder is not necessarily training better - hard work... works.
people are not putting in the level of effort they should. that is part of the reason a program like the 20 rep program works - it forces you to put in the effort. you just HAVE to do it.
furthermore, while genetics vary, volume tolerance can be raised through proper training. the body is remarkably adaptable.
i think the 'overtraining is the greatest/most common evil" thang is a meme that has just been stated enough such that it is now dogma.
imo, it is just not the case.
we all know there are genetic freaks who can gain merely by looking at a plate, and there are others who have to work much harder. however, imo - most of the guys who are spinning their wheels month after month do not have overtraining to blame. that is among the more rare of the problems, imo
01-28-2004 12:32 AM
jjjd if you do what ia says and train hard you can EASILY overtrain by doing it too often. try 20 rep squats every other day adn tell me you won't overtrain. in fact toss deadlifts in on your other days then come back and repost. afterall the body is amazing and you will then be putting in enough effort, oh and have your diet right! you'll blow your body away, i promise you that
01-28-2004 12:44 AM
Am reading right now. Very good stuff.
Originally Posted by Jergo
01-28-2004 12:58 AM
2gCorey, first of all, i DID do 20 rep squats every other day. for some time. when it got exceptionally heavy, i moved to every third day. and yes, i was natural.
and you cannot easily OVERTRAIN doing this. overtraining is a medical condition that takes quite some time to develop. what you probably mean is OVERREACH not overtrain.
i stand by my original statement. sure, SOME people overreach (which in targeted use can be a good thing - on occasion) and some overtrain, but it is HARDLY the #1 problem among the wheel spinners at the gym who are not gaining. that was his statement, and imo it is just plain wrong
i would bet good $$ that if you went to a gym and found people who had not made significant gains over the last 6 months, that MOST of them would not be overtrained, thus his statement would be proved wrong. it would NOT be the #1 problem. since i have no peer reviewed studies to prove this, i state it as my opinion.
overtraining is the new big bad bogey man. it is FAR less common than the #1 problem among wheel spinners. that, imo, is ridiculous
i am not some kind of high volume addict. not at all. i average 12-20 sets per workout 3-6 workouts a week. but i do not accept his premise.
01-28-2004 01:09 AM
I think I just sprained my brain....
01-28-2004 01:22 AM
That is a great premise that is founded on a sampling of ONE person. Just because you handle higher volume training well, you somehow equate that into meaning EVERYONE CAN TOO! Let's just run with this little stretch of the imagination.
Since everyone should respond at least as well as you, so should you respond as well as Ronnie Coleman. Why aren't you up on the stage kicking Ronnie's ass? Well, because at some level, I am sure you understand that we all do not share the same genetic traits.
As it is impossible for you to be like Ronnie, so too is it impossible for others to have the same innate abilities you have to respond and recover from high volume, high frequency workloads.
What you, or anyone else can do is pretty damn meaningless if it doesn't work for the person doing it. I usually have 50+ personnel training clients I work with at any one time, and when you work with that big of a segment of the population, it becomes painfully obvious what does, and what does not work for those that have a difficult time adding muscle to their frame.
As much as we are all alike, we are also so very, very different from each other. I acknowledge volume training works AWESOME for many people. Can you not see that others need a different approach?
01-28-2004 06:31 AM
i didn't found it on the sampling of ONE person. the example i gave of myself was in relation to the person who said you CAN'T do 20 reppers every other day. all i need is one counterexample to prove that statement wrong.
this was the statement 2gcorey made "try 20 rep squats every other day adn tell me you won't overtrain."
i DID try that (as have several of my friends) and NOBODY overtrained. so, his statement is bogus.
that is elementary analytical reasoning.
and as for volume, my n=/=1. it equals MANY.
I have worked AS a trainer, and i have trained with literally dozens of people in several gyms.
I have seen people spin their wheels over and over. the problem is NOT (on the whole) overtraining. you are simply wrong. it is just as simplistic (and wrong) as the atkinites who claim "carbs are bad" when in fact it is eating too many calories that make you fat.
and i didn't say EVERYONE can handle higher volume. i said that the body is remarkably adaptable, and that the claim that overtraining is the #1 PROBLEM AMONG WHEEL SPINNERS is ****WRONG**** imo
your post is all ridiculous strawmen. why don't you read what i WROTE instead of what you pretended that i wrote. here. i''ll make it easy for you. let me knw if you need pictures.
"The #1 reason people fail to add size and strength is over-training". that's YOUR opinion.
and my opinion is that that statement is blatantly wrong. i do not see it supported empirically, sorry.
if you'd like to respond to what i actually wrote, then knock yourself out. if, otoh, you'd rather construct strawmen, then spare me.
you got your theory. and that's fine. and some people might read it uncritically. but imo, your theory (which you stated as fact. you never said "in my opinion") is simply wrong.
and i have no problem with stating that. i have lurked here for some time and don't post much, but i couldn't let that one go by.
sorry, you're wrong. in my opinion.
01-28-2004 08:27 AM
"2gCorey, first of all, i DID do 20 rep squats every other day. for some time. when it got exceptionally heavy, i moved to every third day."
your counter example didn't get past the test of time or you would still be doing them with awesome results. i'm pretty sure i can continue with one of ia's type of routine's for a very long time, and its made for exceptionally heavy loads. i've talked a few people into lowering their volume at my gym and they also have started to gain weight.
"i complete disagree with the original post. imo, #1 reason people fail to add size and strength is most definitely NOT overtraining" you stated people "meaning everyone/most" thats what IA meant more than likely, not my example.
01-28-2004 11:03 AM
Alright. I have to weigh in on this one.
A the end of September I returned to the gym after being away for a total of 5 months. 3 months prior to that I had stopped doing weight training altogether.
My absence was due to a torn rotator.
When you see people everyday, it is hard to notice changes (unless VERY dramatic) in body composition so when I returned to the gym.. I started seeing some of the regulars I had seen previously while training.
Does anyone care to know what my first thought was? I'll share:
Holy ****... 5 months and not one noticable improvement from a lot of people.
Now.. I don't make it a habit to critisize those who train on their own, but those who pay good money on trainers? You bet your damn ass I am harsh with my comments.
I see them, they do the same rountines week in and week out, 3 days a week and with NO improvment. They aren't overtraining... they aren't even ****in' training!
I don't believe the majority of people overtrain with their routines. I believe majority of people UNDERTRAIN.
Where symptoms of overtraining come into play, I believe, is with nutrition and rest or rather lack thereof.
Prior to my time off... I switched to a low volume type training. I too came from an athletic background and know full well the stress and punishment the body can handle. I had done very well with high volume training methods during my playing days but on the advice of a friend I switched to lower volume training for a pperiod of a year.
I gave it a year. A full year to see how my body responded to this type of training. I responded but not to the extent I think I could have. After my lay off I went back to High Volume training. I've seen greater improvement in 4 months of high volume again than I did with low volume.
Was it the time off or the high volume aiding in my improvements? Not sure yet, time will tell, though.
That's all I have to say.
01-28-2004 07:03 PM
2gcorey, the 20 rep squat program is not designed to be done ad infinitum. it worked well. i got up to 330 lbs by 20 reps, and put on a lot of muscle AND a lot of fat. which is pretty much typical for the program. i had to make weight for wl'ing contest, and thus had to change my training modality (more towards singles) AND lose some fat. but my strength had gone up markedly, and I set new PR's. and fwiw, the 20 rep squat program is LOW VOLUME, not high volume.
imo, the 20 rep program is (as strossen and others claim) a very effective program as an adjunct training method.
again, the only reason i brought it up was to show your claim was false. you CAN do 20 reppers every other day. i have, and so have many others.
fwiw, lowering volume (and concomitantly upping intensity) CAN work for lots of people at the gym. it does not follow they were overtrained. they MAY have been. it is also quite possible that merely changing the protocol offered benefits. that is true of many workout programs when people get stale. i have seen good results as well from many wheel spinners by upping volume and/or keeping volume constant and upping intensity. it is the same reason mayn people can get good results (initially) when switching to HIT. change of protocol can do that - as long as the protocol incorportate progressive resistance and compound exercises. it doesn't therefore follow that HIT is better, or that they were overtrained.
true overtraining (vs. overreaching) is not hard to diagnose. rise in resting heart rate, sleeplessness, DECREASEd strength, etc. are all things to look for. it is not nearly as common as the OP claimed, and it is certainly NOT the #1 problem for wheel spinners.
i stand by my claim. overtraining is NOT the #1 problem among wheel spinners at the gym. i simply have not seen empirical evidence of that, and i have seen significant empirical evidence to the contrary. i am well aware that SOME wheel spinners are overtrained. but it is hardly the #1 problem as compared to others, for most.
houseman, i agree with many of your points. people spin their wheels because... they spin their wheels. fear of pain, lack of discipline, psychological barriers, mindset, nutrition, supplementation, hydration, complacency, etc. there are many factors.
the psychological factor is key. let me make an analogy. prior to Sir Roger Bannister breaking the 4 min mile, it was widely thought impossible. that was a huge psychological barrier. ONCE Sir Bannister broke it, MANY followed him in the next several years. it was not improvement in technique, training, nutrition, etc. it was MINDSET. i am not saying every tom dick and harry can or will ever break 4 min. i AM saying that psychological factors are (imo) far more likely to result in wheel spinning than overtraining.
overtraining (or overreaching) is simply not the #1 problem
01-28-2004 07:21 PM
i'd like to see many o thers do 20rep squats every other day, like ia said you might be exception but you are NOT the norm! i realize 20rep squat is low volume, i brought it up as an example of overtraining, i wish you could follow this conversation. anyway, i'm done! ia had a good post that was meant for the masses, not just YOU
01-28-2004 07:23 PM
fwiw ia's post was meant for those TRYING and serious about it, of course if smoenoe eats like crap and lifts easy weights 2 times a week he's not close to overtraining, but i'd say its not a true hobby of his and he's not serious. ia's post wasn't about those people. sheeeesh people
01-28-2004 08:05 PM
rubbish, i have known MANY who have done twenty reppers every other day. big whoop. with the 20 reppers, you start out light. i started at 90 kilos, which is very light. i still made remarkable gains. and short of running a marathon, it was the most painful thing i have ever done, sports-wise. but it did not result in overtraining for ANYBODY i know.
and you keep confusing overtraining with overreaching. they are nOT the same
ia has valuable information, and he's stating his pov. that's fine. i'm stating mine. on the subject of the relative prevalance of overtraining as a syndrome among wheel spinners, i happen to completely disagree with him. if that is a bad thing, that's too bad. i have experiences, and knowledge to share as well. people can make their own decisions.
as i have said, most people don't even understand the difference between overtraining and overreaching. overreaching, if done in moderation (if that's not oxymoronic) can be a good thing. a # of training protocols take this into account including various powerlifting, bbing, and oling routines.
overtraining, to contrast, is a specific medical condition and is simply nowhere near as common as IA suggests, nor is it the # 1 reason for wheel spinners to spin. that's simply ridiculous imo. if he honestly thinks that the "#1" to use his terminolongy problem that accounts for wheel spinners not making gains is overtraining than he must live in a radically different world than i do.
01-28-2004 08:40 PM
Whatever jjjd... Over the past 2 years I've tried several training methods WITH Proper diet and my progress was very slow and even close to none sometimes. I do a lot less now and I progress on all lifts every time I train, it's simply amazing. So whatever works for you, ok... but IA's methods work great for a lot of people around this board and you can't refute that.
01-28-2004 08:44 PM
of course not. if his advice works for you, rock on.
what I refute (and unlike him, i state my opinion AS opinion) is his claim about overtraining being the #1 problem among wheel spinners at the gym, to account for their wheel spinning.
that was my disagreement, and i haven't seen any evidence to convince me otherwise.
if IA's methodology works for YOU (n=1), then why WOULD you doubt him about its effectiveness for YOU.
i have not doubted for a second his training methodology's effectiveness for you. i have doubted the veracity of his claim about the #1 problem for wheel spinners
01-28-2004 09:39 PM
"2gCorey, first of all, i DID do 20 rep squats every other day. for some time. when it got exceptionally heavy, i moved to every third day. and yes, i was natural."
WTF? I would say you have exceptional genetics to recover that quick from a 20 rep squat, so your experience is definitely not the norm.
01-28-2004 09:46 PM
that's rubbish. i have lots of friends who have done 20 rep squats, and if you think this is somehow genetically unusual to do the first group of workouts at every other day, why don't you talk to Dr. Strossen over at Ironmind, and ask him about various people's experiences vis a vis the 20 rep program?
the body is adaptable.
this is not n=1. this is n=many.
i know a lot of people who have done the supersquats (20 rep squat program). this is hardly unusual.
and this means ALL factors in place - gallon of milk + a day. 8 hours of sleep minimum a day, etc.
have you even tried this before?
furthermore, even if i *was* the exception (which i don't concede), it still refutes 2gcorey's challenge.
this is what he said (quoted exactly)
"jjjd if you do what ia says and train hard you can EASILY overtrain by doing it too often. try 20 rep squats every other day adn tell me you won't overtrain. "
well, he's wrong./ i did do it every day and i did not overtrain. so even if i was the exception, his prediction was still wrong.
and furthermore, let's get the distinctions down. overtraining =/= overreaching
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