When training towards a goal we can get too excited and push too far, too soon.
06 Feb 2018
The number one mistake natural lifters make is doing too much volume.
When your goal is to build muscle, drop body fat and transform your physique, your focus in the gym should be to trigger muscle protein synthesis and stop training.
If you’re someone who’s been following the workouts of your favourite pro bodybuilder, you’re probably hammering way too much volume.
Your workouts are most likely along the lines of…
30 sets of chest on Monday
30 sets of back on Tuesday
30 sets of legs on Wednesday
And so on.
This is a disaster for natural lifters who want to maximise their gains in the gym.
To build muscle, you want a large disparity between protein synthesis and protein breakdown.
Excessive volume will only lead to more protein breakdown, depleted glycogen stores and increased cortisol beyond necessary levels required for effective training adaptation.
Because of these factors, your ability to recover from your workouts diminishes.
If you can’t recover, you can’t get stronger.
And if you can’t be progressive with your training, your body won’t change.
Muscles grow bigger in response to stress. When your body is subjected to new stress, it responds by adapting and becoming stronger.
But if the stress is too intense or too long, the muscles won’t have the necessary recovery capacity to adapt. Which is what happens when you bomb a muscle with 7 different exercises for 5 sets each.
When you perform this many sets, your intensity level actually goes DOWN because it is impossible to train hard and long at the same time.
When you cut your volume in half, you’ll be able to train harder, get stronger, put more into each set, and provide the extra stress necessary to force adaptation WITHOUT exceeding your recovery capacity.
Adding more sets doesn’t accomplish anything besides burning into your energy stores and cutting into your body’s ability to rebuild new muscle tissue.
Think about it.
If you perform 1 set with all out intensity, what will another set do?
Maybe it taps off any remaining motor units that were left untouched in the first set.
So what about the third set?
Maybe that’s your ‘insurance policy’ set.
But the 4th, 5th, 6th?
Now you’re just wasting time, energy and resources.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, if you’re lifting the same weights as you were 12 months ago – even 3 months ago – chances are your body will look the same!
The best workout plan for you is the one you can recover from.
This means you’ve got to stop training like a pro bodybuilder.
When a natural trainee goes to the gym, the sole focus of the training session is to put you into ‘anabolic mode’, or ‘growth mode’.
Assisted bodybuilders don’t need to use the workout as a trigger because the drugs leave them in ‘anabolic mode’ 24 hours a day.
This is why you can find assisted men and women who train with TERRIBLE form, AVERAGE intensity and ‘SO SO’ diets, and yet still get results. In short, they can do everything wrong and still make gains.
For the rest of us, we need to focus on 1) PERFECT form, 2) PROGRESSIVE overload and 3) CONSISTENT execution of our diets.
And if you can slash your volume in half while training body parts more frequently through the week, we can trigger ‘anabolic’ mode and apply progressive stress more often, and ultimately make more gains.
The more frequently you can train a muscle while still getting stronger and without exceeding your recovery capacity, the more progress you’ll make.
For the average, drug-free lifter I’ve found this sweet spot to be between 4 and 8 sets per body part, 2 to 3 times a week, or every 3 to 4 days.
Training frequency is the most individual variable in program design, which is why my recommendations are so broad.
It really depends on 1) Training age, 2) Your ability to apply intensity, 3) Your ability to recruit the right muscles, 4) Stress levels and 5) Recovery capacity.
But once you dial this in and balance the fine line between optimal volume and frequency, your progress will sky rocket.