T Nation

CNS Overtraining

I have a question about overtraining the central nervous system. From what I’ve read doing 90% or more of your max on an exercise for more than 3-4 weeks will cause CNS overtraining. Most people, myself included, can do around 3 reps with 90%. So my question is “is it the 3 reps or less that needs to be considered or the 90% or more of the max”. I say this because I’m a person who can never do the same amount of reps on the set that I achieved the previous set. For example, yesterday I did 4 sets of Bench Presses with the same weight on all sets with about 85% of my max. On first set I did 6 reps, than 4 reps on the next, than 3 reps, than 2 reps. Even though I’m at 85%, would the last 2 sets help lead to CNS overtraining? I’m very scientific minded, and would like to know more about the underlying mechanisms of why the CNS becomes overtrained. Any input is greatly appreciated.

I think the idea one over trains very easily is bullshit. I think the body can adapt to unbelievable amounts of stress. I have devulged in to ranges where many would consider I am grossly over-training, but I always get better and better. Of course I have off days, but I keep moving in the right direction, my next week is better than my last, so don’t be afraid to push yourself. I think some people use over training as an excuse not to work hard. Forgive me I am kinda militant about this topic, I hear it kick around so much from people whom I don’t concider working out hard enough to even come close to over-training. Keep this in mind, over-training is hard to do, CNS or otherwise and concidering what you’ve said, I do not think you are in danger of over training. Your muscles just get fatigued (your CNS too for that matter), thats why you do fewer reps, it’s really quite natural. Training through it is the key. I like the 100/100 routine described in last weeks’ T-mag. Try that, you’ll be a sore bitch though.

when you overtrain the CNS, you simply won’t be able to lift the same or more weight for 3 or 4 reps than you did last time (assuming you gave enough time for supercompensation to occur).
It is hard to say whether the last two sets will overtrain you, that is highly individual. Try it out and see what happens.

Go to Dave Tate’s articleson westside barbell work. Louie will recommend 3 max effort lifts(90% and up in a max effort workout.) He will change max effort exercises every week if you’re advanced, or up to about 3 weeks if you’re less experienced.
I’d say you’re overtraining. Dave Tate will tell you most guys at Westside do only 12 to maybe 20 sets a workout. They’ll be in and out of the gym in under an hour; more like 45 minutes. This is from a direct coversation this past weekend.

I mostly agree with Pat - It’s astonishing how much the human body can adapt to. Overtraining is an individual kind of thing. As far as CNS damage, for me I my hands are a bit shake 90% of the time (not that bad) & a bit clumsy - Since I train so damn hard I’m not surprised . . . BUT my strength is great and I still make progress! Some CNS effects are felt outside of the weight room, like slightly lower coordination/etc, but are only temporary.

Mike…I think the comments made earlier, especially by Pat, should be considered. I used to never worry about overtraining, trained 6-7 times a week, balls-to-the-wall (there’s no other way in my book). Despite not making any marked progress, I believe it was a function of my diet rather than training too long, too much or too hard. The idea of overtraining was then introduced to me…and it stuck in the back of my mind all the time. I was always worried about training over one hour or training too much by someone else’s standards. It’s really a matter of testing the waters, monitoring your progress, monitoring your psychological, mental, emotional and physical states as well. I apologize for getting off the subject somewhat. Anyway to answer your question, most people would consider loads 85% and above more of strength/neural training. So to answer your question, the load should be considered not the number of reps. A newbie will get quite a few more reps than a trained athlete at a given percentage of 1RM–even if the weights are the same–because the trained athlete is able to knock off that many more fibers. Consider your rest intervals also. When training with maximal loads, rest intervals between sets should usually be 3-5 minutes (unless you’re supersetting antagonist bodyparts). If you only give yourself partial recovery, your reps are bound to drop because full recovery was not allowed.

Agreed…“Overtraining” is blown out of proportion. I have been training extremely hard on all compund lifts for the better part of 15 years, 4-5 days/week, and making progress. Albeit, little by little. I make it a point of taking 2-3 days of in a row every couple of months. That’s it. A good point was made on the Westside style of switching max effort exercises. Check it out.

You all should check out what John Parrillo has to say on the subject of overtraining. He’s been around for years and has trained some of the top bodybuilders and strength athletes around. People who train under John train everyday. John believes if you need to take an off day you are either undereating or not spacing your bodyparts out for enough. I trained under his guidance for years and made nothing but progress. The important thing is nutrition and doing your activities at the same time everyday including sleep habits. Your body gets into a rhythm. You become a fat burning, muscle building machine if the nutrition is focused on building the metabolism. Too much emphasis on OT in the last 5 years or so. Hey, it sold books and mags!

Wild Bill, I am somewhat familiar with Parrillo and his programs. I actually have the nutrition program but never got the training program or manual. Last summer I worked with a former Mr. North America who trained with Parrillo and was certified Parrillo and sold his products, so that’s how I was exposed to him. I’ve read almost all the Nutrition Bulletins on his website and read the Performance Press monthly. Good stuff for certain. Parrillo also recommends aerobics every morning. I was not aware, however, that he recommended training every day. He’s a neat guy, very very knowledgeable and his stuff is top-notch.

Was it Frank DiCicco or JJ Marsh that you knew?
Yes, the daily cardio can be a pain in the ass but it all works together synergistically with daily training, meal timing, and supplements. I’m telling you, you won’t believe the results! I would definately suggest the training manual. It should be on every serious lifters shelf. Another thing, I never hear anyone on this forum speaking of MCT oil. Captri is what Parrillo sells and I don’t think I could train for a show without it. Out of 4000 cals a day, 2000 is Captri for me. Not only do you have a lot of energy, but you get shredded! You will gain lean mass all the way up to the show if all variables are in place. That’s what I don’t understand about diets to get ripped and diets to get big people follow. They should be the same with minor adjustments to carbs and Captri. People tend to be going backward instead of forward!

Wild Bill…it was neither of the aforementioned BBs. I’m pretty certain it was a Mr. North America title but it may have been something else. I really would rather not give out his name over the board, but I will tell you I’m from Northwest Indiana. You know, I used to do cardio a la Parrillo and Bompa as well, but then T-mag convinced me it was damn near a sin. Lately though, I’ve really been considering throwing some in. Unfortunately, I can’t put on size for naught, and I just can’t get enough kcals in me basically. I did bust out the old Parrillo nutrition manual last night and reviewed it (now that I know how many calories I should be getting) and it was then I remembered the ol’ MCT oil. I never tried it before. Basically for the amount of calories I’m looking for, I’d need about 2 tbsp per meal. Does Parrillo suggest weight training every day or just aerobics every day with a day or two off from weights? I know Parrillo knows his stuff and it sounds like you’re living proof. I am thinking of picking up some Captri and giving Johnny boy’s program a shot. Another thing I liked was his plan on packing on mass for 3-4 weeks, then cutting for 3-4 weeks. One thing though that Parrillo seems to overlook is supplementation with oils such as flax/fish/omega-3s. I was wondering if maybe some of the calories from Captri could be replaced with flax oil. I’d really be interested in hearing more about your experiences and the like, Bill. Thanks.

Yes, John has a way of making you feel guilty for taking an off day if the off day is for recovery. He feels that if that happens you’re not matching your nutrition to your training. I always trained on a 5 day rotation training quads on day 1, chest on day 2, back and hams on day 3, delts on day 4, and arms on day 5. You then repeat the rotation. I know that there’s a lot of talk out there about CNS, but if you’re eating right and getting quality sleep which all factors should be the same day after day, you will feel great. The above rotation is out of the manual, by the way. Also, yes…in the nutrition manual he states that you should take a tbls of EFA’s every day. He also sells Evening Primrose capsules. There’s nothing wrong with off days and in John’s own magazine there are profiles on lifters who train on a split routine. He just feels that they are not required. I may also add that I mostly competed in drug-free contests in case you’re wondering if that had anything to do with the recovery…NO! Also, a very important part of his program is taking weekly body stats using calipers. It will tell you if you are gaining or losing muscle and/or fat and what adjustments to make. It was all very scientific and revolutionary in the 90’s and it WORKED! Now that we are in the year 2001 doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work anymore. People lose track of the basics for hype. Also, in the manual it will tell you all about fascial stretching and it makes a BIG difference. My legs looked much more seperated after I started this type of stretching. I’ve been following this type of training since 1990. Also, I don’t work for John or sell his stuff. I just love this site and thought I could offer some advice. One more thing on recovery I should mention is that with the products like Tribex 500 and other Biotest supplements combined with what I’ve mentioned, a person should seek medical attention if you aren’t recovering. You should be a freakin animal in the gym! That’s the stuff I wished would have been available a long time ago.
Take care, Timbo!

Wild Bill…thanks for all the awesome info, buddy! Sounds like you’ve not only kicked some major butt and made awesome progress, but you really know what you’re doing and are very confident in your methods. I hope you don’t mind me asking you a few questions, though. I reviewed the nutrition manual (not as in-depth as I am going to) but I have a good idea of the amount of calories I need (about 4000) and that’s without the aerobic work. I am 160 pounds at about 6% bodyfat. I know Parrillo suggests 1.5 g/lb of protein and only 5% of calories from fat. He suggests the rest of the calories come from wholesome, complex carbs (the only type I eat). In the sample diets, he recommends 2 tbsp of Captri per meal. Now that’s alot of MCT but also alot of dough. Anyway, after reviewing some of his articles on the website, I see that he recommends about 1/2 tbsp per meal to start, working up to 1 tbsp per meal. I know you mentioned you took in about 1/2 of your calories from Captri, and it’s pretty clear to me the more calories you can get from MCT and lower the carbs the better off you are in keeping bodyfat in check. Now, seeing that I’m looking to gain muscular weight (off-season program), what do you think would work best in terms of calories from carbs and Captri? I don’t think I would want to shell out that much on Captri really. I probably wouldn’t want to use more than 5-6 tbsp per day. Did John establish a maximum amount of calories from carbs, or did he ever have any guys on less than 2 tbsp per meal of Captri? I was also intrigued by fascial stretching, as I had heard it mentioned before and read about in the newsletters, but it was never clear to me what it actually was. I did come across a recent article, though, that gave me the impression it was stretching the pumped muscle between sets…guess I should probably get that training manual instead of nagging you, huh, buddy! I remember the Parrillo nutrition program (actually I have a copy on my computer) and all the weekly measurements of clients. I thought I remembered seeing BBs in the mag having a day off in their split. I hope I didn’t give the impression that I thought you were juiced up, Bill. Working with a guru like Parrillo can only ensure top-notch training and nutrition. He’s unique in that he stresses diet and wholesome nutrition before any of his supplements (not many supplement companies do that). Sorry this post is so long, Bill, hope you don’t mind too much. You’re the only other person who’s mentioned Parrillo, as I’ve referred to him several times on the forum. Thanks, Wild Bill.