Friday, October 06, 2006

Bodybuilding Basics Why Can't I Get Bigger?

"I'm so frustrated! I cannot get any bigger and I'm not getting stronger!" Sound familiar? Maybe you've said it yourself. You go to the gym religously, spend hour after hour doing bench presses for your chest, rows and pulldowns for your back, barbell curls and tricep extensions for you arms yet nothing is happening. Or at least not what you were hoping for when you started bodybuilding.

Here's a true story:
Some years ago I was approached by a gym buddy who asked me what my thoughts were on his training. His frustration was over the fact that in over 3 years of working out and lifting weights, his physique had changed only minimally and his lifts were not much better than when he had started. I had been watching him and sometimes working out with him for a couple of years so I was aware of his training style: On chest days he would typically start off with some warm-up reps and then would get started on the flat bench. He would usually pyramid up from a starting weight where he wo uld do 12-15 reps and typically would finish at about 4 reps on his sixth set! Then, he'd usually go to the incline bench, grab the heaviest weight he could handle for 5 or 6 reps and would do another 4 sets with that. He would then go to an incline chair and do more incline dumbbell flyes. After this, he would further blast his poor chest muscles with pec deck, decline and sometimes cable flyes. By the time he was done with just his chest, he'd spent almost an hour and typically had done anywhe re from 18 to 24 sets! What this guy didn't need was advice, he needed a REST! He was so overworking his chest muscles that by the time he came back to work them the following session (sometimes only 4 days later), they could not possibly recuperate/recover from the blasting he had just given them. If this guy had been in his 20's he might have had a chance but the fact that he was in his early 40's only made things worse. This story perfectly illustrates one of the main reas ons why people have such a hard time building muscle: Overtraining.

Muscles grow by being subjected to stress. You lift a weight, stress the muscle and if all goes well, in time that muscle will grow to accomodate the stress being put on it. But the muscle does not grow while you are in the gym. That is when you are actually breaking down the muscle. The growth/repair comes when you give your body enough time to repair the muscle that has been worked thereby allowing it to grow. Overtrain ing occurs when the muscle is put under too much stress and the recovery time is not enough for it to repair itself. Another example of a specific muscle being overtrained is the biceps/triceps group. Too many times, I'll get to they gym, start my workout and see some guy doing biceps. Set after set after exhausting set. I'm done with my workout and they're still doing curls. It is unnecessary and counterproductive.

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