When it comes to building muscle the great 8x Mr. Olympia Lee Haney said it best…Stimulate, Don’t Annihilate!
Muscle growth and great performances are processes that are dependent on multiple factors.Excessive training is the fastest way to a one way trip to the city of Stalled Gains.
Proper programming, the correct nutrition, and the appropriate recovery for your body is how you can make progress forever.
The recovery abilities of one vary from person to person.
You might be the guy or gal who recovers like the Wolverine from hard training sessions. Typically when you are younger in your pre-athletic prime (17-24 years old) you will be able to exist in this fashion. I know I did!
You can eat anything, lift, play basketball, and run sprints all on the same day for multiple days per week. You may get a little sore but it is nothing too crazy for a young athlete in this phase.
The opposite of this is that you might be the guy or gal who is a zombie for days after a particularly hard training session.
Typically when you are older (40 plus years old) you will not possess the same recovery abilities as you did in your pre-athletic prime. You will start to feel this initially in your 30’s. Trust me I have!
If you used a similar training schedule that you did when you were 21 at the age 40 then you will be inviting an injury over to Sunday dinner.
You cannot just blindly annihilate your muscle in hopes of making it bigger and stronger. However, you can and should stimulate it. Hard.
The reason Haney always said “Stimulate, don’t annihilate” is because many trainees believe if they crush themselves every single workout that they will be on the road to a Mr. Olympia type of physique. Oh, how wrong they are!
As a drug-free trainee, the varying intensity and volume of your training program are of vast importance.
If you train with very high volume and high intensity for too long with no changes in either you will hit the wall and be burnt out like bad headlights.
This runs counter to what you see in some fitness magazines and websites. There are many protocols from many athletes that advocate training 6 or 7 days weekly.
What is not mentioned though is that many of these athletes, bodybuilders, fitness models etc are using performance enhancement drugs aka steroids. That makes a huge difference in recovery times.
I have trained 6-7 days a week at periods (very short periods) in my own training. I do believe that very short periods of this style training are effective as long as they are not extended too long.
As a natural trainee even with the appropriate programming, the correct macronutrients, and the proper sleep, I still felt the effects of wearing down as the program progresses.
When folks hear the word stimulate, they feel it is a weak word.
Stimulate does not mean that you now train like a Phit Vixen with no intensity or passion. Stimulate simply means that you hit the muscle hard, give the muscle what it needs, and then get out of the gym.
For example, if you are doing Vince Gironda’s 8×8 protocol for your chest and you choose to perform incline dumbbell press then the intended muscle that you work should be beyond stimulated after that 8×8 is over.
8×8 is very tough. If the scheme was not hard then you did not push yourself, choose the right weight, use proper form, or adhere to the rest periods.
There is no need to then annihilate the muscle and perform 8×8 with 4 to 5 more moves for the chest. You will not be able to recover!
Another example is many high schools and collegiate sports programs. I will keep it limited to track and field since that was the sport I was involved in during college.
When coaches routinely prescribe supremely high volume all throughout the season it should come to no one’s surprise that the athletes are running slower and injuries are piling up like old tires in a junkyard as the season progresses.
I was fortunate to have coaches who were very sharp on programming the on the track workouts. However, we had limited guidance on nutrition and lifting.
For my first 2 years in college, I ate like a cot dang dog. Most colleges offer a fast food driven menu and that is not good for an athlete who is looking to perform well on a consistent basis.
Junk food and under eating cannot support collegiate level track workouts. I was always sore and did not ever perform optimally until I was junior and had revamped my entire approach towards training and nutrition.
If the nutrition program was balanced and the training program had properly programmed periods of volume and intensity then athletes would be faster and the team morale would be higher.
How uplifting is it for a sprinter to run the same times or run slower year after year? A wise man once said that fatigue masks fitness. If you are exceeding your ability to recover then you will not perform optimally.
To build a great physique you must train hard but you also must train smart. You cannot run yourself into the ground doing routines that you cannot recover from. You can train smarter by:
1) Training consistently 2-5 days a week
The optimal range for progress I have found would be 3-4 days for most trainees. However, this range of 2-5 days will allow almost anyone to make gains. More importantly, there will always a minimum of 2 off days per week to allow for recovery.
Obviously training 4 days will elicit better results than training 2 days, but everyone does not have the same goals that require 4 or even 5 days of training each week.
I’ll take someone giving me a consistent 2 days a week for life than a jamoke who binge trains every few months. There is no value in yo-yo training.
More importantly, there will always a minimum of 2 off days per week to allow for recovery.
2) Consume the proper nutrients and food
You must truly make sure that you are consuming the majority of your day’s caloric intake around your workout especially your carbs. This is one of the most important aspects of your training. Eat for performance and everything else will fall into place.
Do not think for one second that you are going to make substantial changes by only sleeping 4 hours a night. Get some sleep and let your body recover.
Remember, stimulate your muscles hard and then go on with your day. Don’t annihilate them and be on the road to nowhere!
I’ll holla at you next time.
The People’s Trainer,
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