Sure there are lots of boo-boos you can make in the gym that will short change your efforts to build the massive body you're after. But one factor stands out above all the rest from my observations of all the iron jungles I've visited in my travels…OVERTRAINING!
NOW WAIT ONE SECOND!
Before you smirk and move on to the next article thinking this one doesn't apply to you, stay with me for just a bit and see if some of my descriptions of overtraining don't seem a little...shall we say "too familiar".
You see, although it's a basic principle of muscle growth, about 80 - 90% of all lifters today forget that muscle is built after the gym, when your body has a chance to recover from the intentional "damage" you caused, and rebuild stronger for the next planned "attack".
And hey, who can blame them?
I mean, with the "pump" you feel in your muscles from your workout, it's obvious that your muscles are growing right before your eyes, right?!
Those extra bulges you see in the mirror after getting off the bench press are only temporary periods of increased blood and water flow to the muscles. Give it 30 minutes or so and they'll be right back at the starting line.
Don't get me wrong…I'm not saying you shouldn't work hard in the gym. An intense workout is key to stimulating your muscles to grow.
But the truth is that it probably doesn't take as much effort as you think to make them grow!
The bottom line is this...when you stress the muscle beyond its ability to recover from your workout, the muscle will NOT get bigger…period.
With that in mind, here are a few of the most common reasons for overtraining and how to overcome them:
REASON # 1: "Didn't I see you do that yesterday?!"
Everything must comply with Mother Nature's ground rules, and that includes your muscles. Following an intense workout, your muscles go through a pretty specific timeline for recovery and growth.
In fact, it takes about 3 whole days for your body to simply break down and excrete the damaged tissue from your workout…then another 3-4 days to rebuild the tissue to where it can effectively grow stronger for the next targeted workout.
Break out your calculators here!
If applied biology (yes, I am a "nerd" after all) states that your muscles require 6-7 days to fully repair and grow from a targeted workout, then why is it that so many guys are hitting the bench press 2-3 times a week?!
Don't get caught in the "more is better" trap! Target each body part only once per week with an intense, focused workout and you'll see renewed growth in your lagging parts.
REASON # 2: "Did I just see a vein pop out of your forehead?"
What's the most common phrase heard around the gym today? No, it's not "Dude...check out the aerobics instructor!", it's…
"C'mon man! One more rep!"
Normally, this kind of motivation is a welcome aid for someone who needs a little extra "vocal urging" to get the bar up.
But when it's accompanied by a "helping hand" from a spotter who really ends up doing 100% of the work for you half way through that last repetition (as your head nearly explodes from excess strain)...you've got problems!
"Forced reps" are mistakenly seen as the only way to train by many misinformed bodybuilders today. Again, I have to refer to scientific evidence to make a point…
You see, once you can no longer lift the bar on your own, your muscle fibers have literally quit working and any additional "forced reps" will only risk injury and greatly increase your recovery time!
While it's advisable to have a spotter for safety reasons, reach failure on your own and then rack the bar.
REASON # 3: "Haven't I seen you do this same routine since 8th grade?"
You've heard that "variety is the spice of life", well variety is also a main ingredient in building new muscle.
Sure we all have our "favorite" exercises that make our muscles just pop out of our skin. But the fact is, your muscles can get "used" to the same old workout if done too regularly.
Fortunately, it's not too hard to throw them a curve ball. Break up your routine each week by either performing totally different exercises for the same muscle groups, changing positions (e.g.- wide-arm vs. close-grip; incline vs. flat bench; etc.), or changing the order in which you perform your sets.
By changing your routine, you end up placing more stress on different parts of a muscle group each time you work out, you can add more emphasis on a muscle that didn't get a good workload the "last time", and it simply makes your workouts more enjoyable.
Well, there you have it!
Now do your muscles a favor and give them the precious support they need for optimum recovery and I promise you'll be amazed at the results in the mirror!