T Nation

Training 'til Depressed & Growth

  Many have espoused the benefits of the "training until depressed" or "super accumulation" or "controlled overtraining" method of muscle building leading to rapid hypertrophy.

But with limiting factors on the rate of protein synthesis (Thibs frequently makes reference to a .25 to .5 lb per week max gain), how is it that this can produce such rapid growth?

Does training such as this supercede the .25 to .5 lb maximum for naturals by increasing the rate of synthesis to higher than normal levels (as steroids would do)?

Or is the rapid growth achieved not so much muscle, as other factors? For example, is it greatly increased hypertrophy of the sarcoplasm (the rate of growth for this wouldn't be limited by the rate of protein synthesis would it), as well as other things such as enhanced glycogen (and therefore intramuscular water) storage?

Anybody care to weigh in with their thoughts?


I havent done it, nor do I know anyone who has, but I still have some opinions on it.

Athletes train with crazy volume all the time, and some of them look phenomenal. It could be because they train themselves into the ground, then take a little break to rest, come back and repeat.

It seems intuitively correct to me that if you train like a mad man 14 days in a row your body will have to adapt in a significant way. 1 hour 5 days a week will not have the same results as 2 hours 14 days in a row given that you REST like a mad man the next week.

In most cases, more IS better in my opinion. Training 4 hours a day is obviously not the way to go, but busting ass for 90 minutes to 2 hours for a few weeks and then backing off should elicit some good gains in my opinion.

In most cases, people benefit from adding more work into their program. I know myself then when I started adding cardio into my fatloss program AND upping calories to compensate for the extra cals being burned I started losing fat faster.


I believe it works from the standpoint of adaptation. Which is also likely why this would not work for the long-term.


Look up some of Abadjiev's old weightlifting routines for some real insanity. Not that I'm recommending such an approach for anything except very short-term, very occasional periods.


Your mistake is here. .25 to .5lbs is a rough estimate according to Thib. While probably a great trainer he hasn't completed an official stufy of maximum muscle a person can gain. Neither has any other scientist, and when they do, more than likely someone else will do a study that says a different maximum. For all you know it can be .15 to 2lbs. NOBODY knows for sure. Be careful when using opinions to justify science.


Right. Also, there are actual examples of individuals gaining in excess of 2 lbs per month. Berardi claims to have gone from 140 lbs (8% bf) to 210 lbs (12% bf) in a year and a half. When you figure out how much lean mass that is and divide it by the time it took him, he gained on average 3.11 lbs of muscle per month. And honestly, I don't think that Berardi would consider himself necessarily gifted towards building muscle.

One other thing to consider though is that I don't believe that Berardi used "super accumulation" or "planned over training" to achieve his muscle gains either.


I really don't see the advantages in doing this, unless you are an athlete for a living.

Is good to have great gains, but its also good to be able to function in a day to day basis.
Just imagine how beaten up you will be at the end of the planned overtraining?


Good point.

Also, at least from a historical and statistical perspective, good old single factor theory (overload, rest, supercompensate, repeat) is much more effective for building muscle.


This is so true, towards the end of my training I become sort of lethargic and unmotivated(at which point I take a break). To realize that's just the start of my overtraining phase and I have to literally train towards depression would deter me from this hobby in a second. I've got school and friends and a job to worry about as well. I'm not getting paid to do this and it's certainely not the most important thing in my life so why put yourself through that on purpose?


Just a different way to skin a cat. For some people its easier to obtain a goal in a short period of time then it is to have a long term focus. Some people also have multiple targets they need to hit, or an extra bout of time on their hands followed by a period with no time. You also have to take into account that just because a person is not an athlete for a living doesn't mean they don't want to do the most to compete for the sport which is their hobby.


EXACTLY! I did Poliquin's Super Accumulation Program this past Summer and got some great gains. It really focused me in a way that no other program has. Several of us on here did it around the same time and gave each other support. I got really good gains. Different strokes for different folks.


I actually also saw some MD write this in an article about bodybuilding. He said that there is a limit to the amount of protein synthesis than can occur, resulting in a max gain of .25-.5 lbs per week of pure muscle. This led me to believe that there is research demonstrating this, and that it is not simply an estimate.

But LBM is not simply muscle tissue, so one can certainly gain more than .5 lbs of LBM in a week. Which is what led me into thoughts about the sarcoplasm, etc.

Seriously though - can the sarcoplasm grow faster than the myofibrils? I would think so, but I can't say for certain.


Maybe from a historical perspective - but this concept has not been that popular. A very plausible reason is not because it is less effective, but because it is tougher to do, and hence fewer people have the testicles to do it.


I personally am fascinated by the concept behind this - and am venturing further into, both from a research perspective and a practical perspective.


Quite possibly. But then, people have still been building amazing physiques with more traditional programs. So really, what's the point of making things harder on yourself?


Exactly! If one has not the willpower or focus to do the "long term" version, i seriously doubt that one would have the willpower to do this overreaching again and again...

And again i say, maybe the long term effects on joints, hormonal health ( you know training until such a degree of stress for repeated bouts, may have detrimental effects long term.) and mental health are not worth it.


But if the OP is really willing to give it a run, all my support to him, and keep us informed of your experience if you can.


I did a two week over-training cycle, these last two weeks actually. Not because I was trying the super accumulation program I read on this site, but simply because I had lots of motivation and lots of free time. This week was national vacation (china), all my friends were out of town, so I had nothing much to do.

After two weeks I will say this.
I added 3 pounds in two weeks, AND I look more cut, lower body fat i believe.

But I am depressed, my moods are rock bottom, I am only happy in the gym. I have no energy to do anything, except lift, eat, and read books, watch movies. I sleep 10 hours a day and still feel shitty all day. I don't feel lucid, I forget things constantly. My muscles are constantly fatigued (tho i enjoy this is a masochistic way).

I believe i made the best gains I ever had in my life in these two weeks. But this intensity can not be maintained along with a real life, classes, work, having relationships, etc. I don't recommend it unless you don't mind alienating all your friends :slight_smile:

So, in response to the OP, I did train until depressed and I did grow, and I don't really want to do it again. ha


This was my thoughts, results in the short term but is it worth it? Why would someone willingly do this to themselves?


Something that should be kept in mind is that one need not literally "train until depressed." You could train to the point of accumulated fatigue, then back off and still get great gains. The point is not about pounding the shit out of your system, it is to give a "concentrated dose" of training (if you will), such that supercompensation occurs at a more rapid rate than normal.

Take a look at the chart from Thibs. As you can see, there are several points at which one could halt training to induce supercompensation. Certain programs would put one further down the line, with higher levels of strain placed on the system, thus necessitating a longer recovery.

Clearly, one could manipulate this such that the fatigue and strain are not so great as to make one totally feel like shit - just to make one feel more fatigued than normal.