T Nation

Moderation and Training to your Potential

My one-year remote assignment is coming to an end, and I’m looking back on my training through the year and deciding what to do training-wise when I return stateside.

The theme I’ve found is that it is easy to go to excess, fail to get results, and try to point to how hard I tried; it’s harder yet more productive to use judgment and walk the middle road that gets results.

  1. You can only gain muscle so fast. You have to feed your gains, but too much excess goes to fat.
  2. You can only gain muscle so fast. Past a certain point, more stimulus just doesn’t get more results. It might even be counterproductive. This includes per session (no need to do 87 sets of curls on one day), and per week (no need to do arms every day).

I ran afoul of #1 over the winter pursuing my bodyweight goal I set last summer (170 lbs). While this was on the high side of realistic at first, a few setbacks and illnesses in the fall meant I wasn’t going to hit 170 lean. Instead I just overate over the winter and hit a fat 170. Lesson learned…I’m naturally skinny so cutting back down won’t be too painful. I’m disappointed, but I know I’ll get there eventually.

I’m not sure about the line on #2 though. These forums are full of people working so hard, but I have to wonder how many of us are still in the gym well past the point where it’s beneficial. A lot of people on these boards pride themselves on their hard work, and rightly so, but ultimately the effort is for naught if we fail to get results.

#1 is easy to judge…if you’re getting fat, eat a little less. But how do you all judge when you’re still getting bang for your buck from another rep, set, or session? How do you make intelligent choices about your training volume?

It’s really a matter of being honest with yourself, and objective about your training results. The problem is that the nature of training, and the image of being a ‘man’ or being ‘hardcore’ can make some people hesitant to acknowledge certain facts that their training is telling them. As such, you’ll have people doing the same thing for years on end, yet never making the progress that they could.

I had trained for years before I really decided to step things up with the competitive stuff. At that point, I had to lose any ego, and couldn’t afford to waste time with approaches that bank on possible results, or even those that might increase risk of injury. Not everyone can do this, especially if you’re training in a gym filled with “big dudes”, all willing to continually push old school gym myths (I was there, and it was years wasted where I honestly think I could have made better progress if I had stepped outside of myself a bit more).

When it comes to eating, you need to really look at what YOU need, and how best to address your diet. Similarly, when it comes to training volume and frequency, you need to look at YOUR schedule, and YOUR individual recover abilities. I learned that I didn’t need to force feed myself, as it only made me fat. I also learned that I could train with greater volume and greater frequency when my diet was better. It took some conscious attention, but IMO it’s worth it if you’re getting closer to your goals of being in the weight room in the first place.

(I’m not trying to dig at “big guys”, but there’s a huge difference between being big, and having built a lot of muscles. It was years before I understood the difference)

S

The simplest answer I could give you is, are you making progress? Thats all that matters, period. So if you’re doin 25 sets for Chest and you’re making progress, forget what conventional bodybuilding methods tell you, ride that wave until you tapped out your potential with that method. Everything is individualized.

Also, if your diet and sleep is on point, its hard to over train. You REALLY have to blatantly disregard your bodys signals to really over train. There was a point in my life where I was doing 30 sets per bodypart and I was progressing (Without gear). Not to say this is good, but it shows that you shouldn’t always follow what other people are doing. If there is one thing I have learned its do the OPPOSITE of what others are doing and youll be okay. Thankfully we have an amazing website full of informative research that will help you for sure, but its entirely up to you and how your body reacts to certain stimuli.

Take it with a grain of salt. Listen to your body is the number one thing.

I am also curious about how much volume one should do. (I understand everyone is different with there recuperation from each workout). I agree if what your doing is working, great. But You could be doing more or less volume to make it more efficient.

I have read all the threads I can find on “ramping” “pyramiding” “straight sets” and think its made me a lot worse now after reading it than I originally was. I know some people will read this and think, “Is this kid for real”.

Logically, ramping up makes total sense as you don’t wanna tear your muscle jumping straight into your top set. It helps make me stronger too, which is awesome.

But from what I read a lot of members here ramp up to “1-2 top sets” per exercise to near failure. Then a finisher which can have as many sets to get “blood into the muscle”. I have been doing this, yes I can progress on poundage weekly or reps. But I always feel I could have done more. I like feeling crushed from a workout, knowing the muscle is completely fatigued.

What do you guys do and what’s your opinion?

Sorry for the hijack, Just wanted some input from you guys!

You can train your body’s ability to recover in the same way you grow muscle. Apply enough stress that it’s forced to adapt but not so much that you push it into injury. Over time it will get stronger.

You can train every day if you want to but you need to build up to it and you won’t be able to train as intensely as if you you trained every other day.

That said, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should something.

[quote]The Mighty Stu wrote:
It’s really a matter of being honest with yourself, and objective about your training results. The problem is that the nature of training, and the image of being a ‘man’ or being ‘hardcore’ can make some people hesitant to acknowledge certain facts that their training is telling them. As such, you’ll have people doing the same thing for years on end, yet never making the progress that they could.

I had trained for years before I really decided to step things up with the competitive stuff. At that point, I had to lose any ego, and couldn’t afford to waste time with approaches that bank on possible results, or even those that might increase risk of injury. Not everyone can do this, especially if you’re training in a gym filled with “big dudes”, all willing to continually push old school gym myths (I was there, and it was years wasted where I honestly think I could have made better progress if I had stepped outside of myself a bit more).

When it comes to eating, you need to really look at what YOU need, and how best to address your diet. Similarly, when it comes to training volume and frequency, you need to look at YOUR schedule, and YOUR individual recover abilities. I learned that I didn’t need to force feed myself, as it only made me fat. I also learned that I could train with greater volume and greater frequency when my diet was better. It took some conscious attention, but IMO it’s worth it if you’re getting closer to your goals of being in the weight room in the first place.

(I’m not trying to dig at “big guys”, but there’s a huge difference between being big, and having built a lot of muscles. It was years before I understood the difference)

S[/quote]
This is such a good post stu so much of this is individual.I love high volume but can burn out and actually regress at times and just by switching to shorter sessions still with a high frequency i bounce right back with progress being made.Same with the diet end of things.People should listen to everybody and try all things but it will still come down to what works for you.I think that this is some of the things that make this sport so great,but you need the patience to figure it out.

Good points about doing what works for you and dropping the “man up” and “hard core” image type thoughts. I hate this, because that is also the rallying cry for every special snowflake doing bosu-ball-whatevers and lifting 5lb pink neoprene dumbbells, but it seems to be true. Like I said, there is a responsibility for one’s integrity that comes with walking the middle road.

Looking at past log for inspiration, I am reminded of one of my own “weaknesses,” which is that if I really want to have a good squat session, squatting has to be the only thing I do that day. No machines before or after, no abs or other misc work thrown in…just a day in my log book that says “Squat.” I’m sure most people would think that was an inefficient use of a day, but the fact is it takes so much energy and concentration for me to do it right that I can’t do anything else in the gym that day. Men more hardcore than me would probably “man up” and go do pullups and eat nails for breakfast after squatting, but it just doesn’t get me where I need to be.

Been thinking a lot about this lately, and am very curious about it. I always look to the people that posts regarding once a week, and wonder, what if they are right? Multiple times per week, what if they are right?

I bought for giggles a Brad Pilon (Eat, Stop Eat) ebook, Anabolic again. I didn’t care for it much due to exercise selection and some other things, but it got me thinking. Basically it was a mix of both. Multiple times per week for upper body week one, multiple times per week for lower body week two.
Then I see the layer thing here, and it intrigues me as well.

So I wonder if this can be right??? Using myself as a human guinea pig, I will use this approach, but not exactly, according to what I can reasonably recover from. Sooooooooo. I am using a three workout approach on upper body.

Day 1 emphasis on horizontal pushing. Ramp up, then cluster at high percentage of that top weight, then explosive at a bit lower. When done, do a few sets for back with vertical pulling and horizontal pushing variations. Then just a few sets of vertical pressing.
Day 3 (2 being rest) Back emphasis. No explosive, just more sets per exercise. horiszontal pressing first, just a few, then the back emphasis, then vertical pressing, just a few.
Day 5 (4 being rest) Vertical pressing emphasis. Same layout as horizontal, but lateral raises and rear delt raises. Then back, then horizontal presses.
Day 6 is then legs, heavier quad emphasis, but still some hip dominant.
Day 8 (7 rest) heavier hip dom, still some quad dom lifts
Day 10 (9 rest) same as day 6.
----This rotation changing to 2 hip doms and 1 quad dom one rotation, 2 quad dom and 1 hip dom next rotation

Day 11 start upper body again.
It’s weird, I know, but I am liking it so far. Why? I am guessing that I am liking that I am doing a good amount of volume in a 5 day rotation, one day especially so I get the beat the hell out of it taken care of, some additional work for the same movement pattern but not too much, and 5 days of complete rest.
I through in some (very little) accessory work. face pulls, biceps isolation, anti rotation, etc.
Thing is, I like it. I can hit a movement hard once, easier twice, and rest.

If it quits working for me, I’ll try something else.

Just do what works for you man. Don’t overthink it!