T Nation

Listening to Your Body or the 'Experts'


So i've spoken to a few guys who were amateur bodybuilders back in the day and they all tell me they were gym rats. Easily spending 3 hrs @ a time in the gym. Also it seems like the guys during Arnolds day also worked out that long. However i've read articles that don't recommend working out more than an 1hr-1.5hrs, claiming that the body will enter a catabolic state. Sometimes i feel like i still have a burst of energy and could easily work out another 45 mins but i tend to stop because i don't want to "overtrain".. Do you recommend i continue working out until i'm completely burnt out or keep my workouts within that 1.5 hrs?

Also in terms of recovery, if i don't feel sore the next day is it ok to work that same body part back to back. Is rest even necessary if i'm not fatigued? I know muscle is grown outside the gym and you need rest, but if you work out the same time every day that's a 24hr period where that muscle is able to rest. Isn't that enough recovery time for a muscle that was never sore to begin with?


It's a good question.

The experts know stuff you're not aware of though. It's best to combine everything.

For example, training that long has been shown to lead to diminishing returns. You put in so much effort and time, but the gains are not as great/less than training more briefly. This is based on hormonal stimulus, metabolic wastes, and perhaps other factors.

Recovery is something I think that beginners have just about no business gauging. I've been lifting for about 6 years and I'm just now learning how far I can push and when to dial it back a bit. Soreness isn't a good indicator at all. I've trained through soreness and I've trained based on letting the soreness heal. I made better gains training through soreness. (That's not to say that's what people should do, it may just be a coincidence.)

Accept that you train in 2009 and have great information and research at your fingertips. Don't reinvent the wheel, instead, figure out what materials and shapes will make it better.


I would suggest at least waiting one day to re-train that muscle group(More or less depending on how you train, ex. Powerlifting, BodyBuilding, Olympiclifting.) Sore or not.


If you're working out for an hour and a half and not feeling fatigued afterward, you should probably look for ways to increase your training intensity. What kind of program are you on? Describe one of your workouts.


x2. If working out with the right intensity, it's really hard to go through a 90 mins WO and still have energy to spend (unless you're a working capacity freak!).

About training the same muscles two days in a row...I'd do it only if after I can get enough rest to let them grow.

As a rule of thumb, performance in subsequent WOs is the main indicator: if you get more reps with the same weight (or the same reps with more weight), go on. If stalling or regressing, take more days off or keep WOs shorter (cut off some sets).


The only days i get burnt out is on leg days.
My chest only gets sore when i use the pec fly machine and my back only gets sore when i do deadlifts. Nothing else seems to get sore. And for some reason my biceps tends to feel sore the day after using the pec fly machine but there is no soreness the day after doing direct bicep work.

Anyways a typical back/traps day would look like this:
I warm up with 20 pull ups
Deadlifts 2x10...1x5...3 singles
Hammer strength rows 4x10
Chin ups palm facing each other 2x15...2x10
Superset upright rows and DB shrugs 4x10 each

When i say working a muscle back to back, i dont necessarily mean doing the same workout routine. For instance, say i work chest on Mon and back on Tues, I'm just thinking if my chest isn't sore on that Tues then maybe i could incoopereate a few bench press sets or a few sets of inclines at the end of my workout. Not necessarily performing my entire chest routine back to back.


Soreness doesn't always directly relate to the actual growth stimulus; high volume/low intensity WOs can result in extreme soreness, but it doens't mean they're more effective (for muscle building purpose) than low volume/high intensity WOs.

From your last post, it seems you need to improve muscle-mind connection: can you FEEL your pecs working during BP? If not, a quick way to solve this problem is doing isolation drills before compounds: pec fly machine before BP, straight arms cable pull-over before pull-ups, scapular retraction before rows, etc...

Also, if you WANT more DOMS, try slowing down the negative phase of each rep (keep lifting the weight at a normal pace).

I wonder if you do all of your working sets with the same weight, or if you work up to a top set, but in both case your last set should really a maximum effort one (ie. don't stop at 10 reps, if you have one-two more in you).


Is the last set of each movement at max weight for the set? Or do you think you could do another rep or two?

What are your goals? Any specific targets you're shooting for?


JP and Fab, yes i do ramp my sets, however i don't go all the way to my max weight because i work out on my own. I ramp up until i get to a weight i could only do 5 reps, and by 5 i mean i'm struggling on the 4th and 5th rep. So my BP routine would be 135x10..185x10..205x7...225x5(3sets)..i normally only get 4 reps on the 3rd set.. I ramp up on squats and DL also. For all other muscle groups i have a warm up weight then i keep the weight the same throughout my working sets. I do agree with the mind muscle connection, because i could only REALLY feel that squeeze on isolation movements but hardly ever on compound movements.

PS. my goal is weight gain/increased muscle mass


1) That's fine;

2) I started feeling pecs on BP and quads on Front Squat only when I decided to do isolation before compound...I'm a front-delt bench presser and a glute squatter :slightly_smiling: Work on this and you'll notice an improvement.


My initials questions were:

1-Should i continue working pass 1.5hrs if i still feel like i could keep going?

From the feedback i've concluded that rather than increasing my workout time i should increase my intensity. I plan on going about this by taking less rest between sets.

2-Should i work a muscle group back to back if there's no soreness?

No i should not and if i want to increase DOMS (which i do), i should go slow on my negatives and rather than finishing off with an isolation, i should start off with an isolation and then go to a compound movement.



Excellent idea.

Again, soreness is not an indicator of progress. achieving RESULTS is the only real indicator of progress. Let your training log be your guide.

I tried the iso-then-compound technique for chest and found that my triceps took over on the bench press because my chest was too fatigued. I'm not sure if it works the other way around (exhausting triceps and forcing the pecs to take over). Haven't tried it that way yet.


For the pre-exhaust technique of isolation before compound, I suggest pre-activation rather than exhaust. Treat the pre-activation iso move like a warmup, with the goal to be to get blood into the target muscle for a better mind-muscle connection. Don't let fatigue build up. Then focus on working the target muscle in your main lift.

It can also be helpful to do an explosive movement before your main lift. For bench press, for example, you'd do some flyes or pec dec as a pre-activation, avoiding fatigue. Then do some explosive pushups, again no fatigue. Then the bench press itself.

As far as training when your sore or not sore, it doesn't matter, but you should be looking to progress in the weight you lift. You will probably find that there are times when you feel ready to train again, but you just can't progress in weight or reps because your CNS hasn't recovered sufficiently. When this happens occasionally it's not a big deal, but when it becomes a trend over several workouts or weeks, you need more recovery time. If you don't keep track of this, you can feel like you're training hard all the time, yet not gain strength or muscle.


You wrote that your goal is weight gain/increased muscle mass. U just answered yourself. To gain U need to rest, it's truth even if U have some energy in muscles after all. In your avatar I see absolutly no fat%, that's wrong I think... In rest days U can go swimm for example, it'll be something like half-train/half-work day for U.


Well lets just say that you train with low reps and a bit higher on the sets. How long would you think to rest until retraining that same muscle group?


To me its quite simple. Since you posted in the beginners section I'll just tell you to find things addressed to your level of lifting(beginner, intermediate, wherever you are) and try them out. Change things up(not too often of course!) and figure out what works best for you. Take mental notes or write down a log. Some people are better off training to overtraining in just 2 weeks then taking it easy for a week and repeating, others respond better to going a more normal approach. Just figure out what works for you and have fun trying all those things, learning your body.