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  1. #1
    Half Norse, Half Animal VikingMan's Avatar
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    Overtraining: What it is and what it isn't. And why you've stalled.

    So your chest isn?t growing like you want it to, or your bench isn?t going up anymore, or your squat has stalled. Why?

    Here is one of the most common reasons why, other than diet.

    CNS fatigue. Unless your diet just sucks balls, the answer is usually that you don't understand fatigue, what it does to progress, and what to do about it.

    Get this, because the solution to your problems WILL involve this concept one way or another.

    Think of CNS fatigue as water and as yourself as a bucket. When you lift heavy weights, it's basically like taking a cup of water, and pouring it into the bucket. The size of the cup is how strong you are coupled with how much work you do. When you sleep and eat right, you open up a temporary hole in the bottom of the bucket. Now. The stage is set.

    Take this example, and imagine what happens as you continue lifting weight on a frequent basis, slowly getting bigger and stronger. Your decent sleep and eating habits allow you to empty the bucket of the fatigue you've accumulated because the cup you've been using to fill the bucket is pretty small. But now you're stronger and can do more work, and the cup is bigger. The bucket fills itself faster than you can empty it. And eventually, it's too full. What happens when the bucket is too full? Simple. The fatigue spills over, inhibiting performance in the gym. Boom. Automatic plateau halting your progress just as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow. Why the plateau? Because of accumulated CNS fatigue that you can't get rid of.

    So. What do you do about it? Chances are VERY good that you have the genetic potential to reach whatever goal you?re shooting for, unless you?re already quite advanced, at which point, some realism might be a healthy thing. How do you get there when the CNS fatigue induced by the weight you?re using is halting your progress?

    Again, the answer is simple. The answer gets into the different rates at which fatigue and fitness dissipate. All this time while you've been lifting weights, accumulating fatigue, you have ALSO been accumulating fitness, in the form of bigger and stronger muscles. The CNS fatigue has halted your progress however, so the fitness is temporarily stalled. If you were to do something that would temporarily decrease the size of the cup, what would happen? The fatigue would dissipate, right? Well, wouldn't the fitness likewise dissipate? Actually, NO, it would not, at least, not at first. So, how do we use a smaller cup? Perform less work, for a limited period of time. This allows the fatigue to dissipate, because fatigue dissipates FASTER than fitness, good thing too.

    Result... dual factor theory. CNS fatigue and fitness dissipate at different rates. If you deload, or start using a smaller cup for a short period of time, the CNS fatigue will dissipate quickly, while the fitness won't really dissipate at all. Thus, your CNS is now fresh, and progress can once more take place.

    So what do you do? You deload. Deloading is just drastically cutting the amount of work you perform. You can do this in several ways.

    1. Cut sets and/or reps, use same weight.

    2. Cut weight, use same sets and/or reps.

    3. Both

    I like to cut sets and use the same weight. My primary concern is getting stronger, so I'd rather keep the intensity high, but just do less work with it.

    So, if you normally do 10 sets for chest, for example, do 2 or 3 for a period of one to two weeks. OR, if you?re still relatively weak, just do a reset. Drop weight by 20-30 pounds, and work back up to your current maxes over a period of 3-4 weeks using the same set/rep scheme.

    Do this with ALL the work you do in the gym. This will allow the fatigue to dissipate. Once the deload is over, resume normal training. Your fresh CNS will now allow you to get stronger because it can now perform at full capacity again.

    In terms of timeframes involved, the stronger you are, the faster the bucket fills up. An advanced lifter moving big poundages will be ready to deload after only 3-4 weeks. It's the primary reason why progress gets progressively harder as you get stronger. A weaker lifter will take longer to fill his bucket, but as soon as he crosses a threshold, he WILL fill it with any kind of serious work in the gym.

    Also, there are things you can do to make the hole in your bucket bigger. Eat better, sleep better, reduce stress in your life, take your vitamins, improve your conditioning with cardio, get laid once in a while. Stuff like that.

    BUT, don't let anyone make you believe that overtraining is a myth. It's simply a matter of time before heavy weight training puts you there. Not that you shouldn?t do all you can to increase the size of the hole in your bucket, but if you don't learn how to deal with fatigue, you'll become a "critique my workout" thread starting zombie, perpetually wondering why you can't make any progress, looking everywhere you can for the next magic workout program to "shock your muscles into growth", buying hundreds of dollars worth of supplements each month thinking they are actually the answer. Funny. All you really needed was to learn how and when to take one step back, so you could take five steps forward.

    AND THEN...

    This is also one of the primary reasons why guys prematurely turn to steroids, unless their just stupid and start using them right off the bat because they think it's the only way to grow muscle. They stall and think they need something special to help them continue making progress. Will the steroids do it? Absolutely. Because they generally have the affect of increasing your recovery capacity. The real kicker is, the results they achieved throughout their early use of steroids could have easily been achieved without the gear, if they had simply understood fatigue. How foolish is that?
    How does one destroy darkness? The answer dawned upon my mind, blinding in it's brilliance. To destroy darkness, one must simply expose it to the light.
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  2. #2
    Half Norse, Half Animal VikingMan's Avatar
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    I often see guys posting threads with a title something like this?

    ?Is my routine overtraining??

    These threads bug me. The main reason they bug me is because it?s an incorrect use of the term ?overtraining?. They don?t really understand fatigue. A better word would be? ?too much?. Is my routine too much.?

    Might their routine be too much? Sure it might. Might it be too little? Of course it might. But more importantly, their thinking is WAY to two dimensional. They?re thinking in terms of a workout program being static. That once you begin it, it shouldn?t change till you decide to switch programs to further ?shock? their muscles. What they should be thinking of is in terms of fatigue.

    Take the whole bucket analogy, and ask your self a question. Is it a bad thing that the bucket will eventually get full? Oddly enough, the answer again is NO!!!! If whatever program you?re on doesn?t have the potential to put you into a state of overtraining eventually, then you?re probably NOT working hard enough in the gym. So if it?s actually a good thing that your program will eventually overtrain you, why is that?

    Your body doesn?t like being in a state of overtraining. It hurts. It sucks. It? is a form of stimulus that the body can adapt to beyond even the muscular work you do with the weights. What happens if the body gets bigger and stronger? It will be harder to put the body into that state of overtraining again, right? So when you fill your bucket, then take the opportunity to deload, the period of decreased work gives the body an opportunity to REALLY compensate for all the training you?ve been throwing at it. Every person I?ve ever talked to who has had some experience with deloading from periods of more intense training, says they usually see a visual change in the mirror. They literally get bigger when the amount of work they?re doing just went down.

    So don?t look at training in terms of whether or not a routine will put you into overtraining. Instead, look at training in terms of how effectively a routine will propel you into states of increased fitness through proper utilization of the body's inbuilt systems of recovery and compensation.
    How does one destroy darkness? The answer dawned upon my mind, blinding in it's brilliance. To destroy darkness, one must simply expose it to the light.
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  3. #3
    Half Norse, Half Animal VikingMan's Avatar
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    If you want to see a really clear example of a routine that puts this into action, go download Madcow's advanced 5X5 spreadsheet, and look at the amount of work being done in weeks 1-4, VS the amount of work being done in weeks 5-9.

    NOT that everyone should go jump on the advanced 5X5 (a more linear program is probably more appropriate for most of you), it's just a great visual aid to see what I'm talking about here.
    How does one destroy darkness? The answer dawned upon my mind, blinding in it's brilliance. To destroy darkness, one must simply expose it to the light.
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  4. #4
    Registered User Dave76's Avatar
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    Great post, VM. Wish I could rep you again.
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  5. #5
    Half Norse, Half Animal VikingMan's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Dave76 View Post
    Great post, VM. Wish I could rep you again.
    Thanks man. Funny thing, the forum freaking replaced most of the ' I used with ?

    What the hell is that about? lol
    How does one destroy darkness? The answer dawned upon my mind, blinding in it's brilliance. To destroy darkness, one must simply expose it to the light.
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  6. #6
    Registered User Dave76's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by VikingMan View Post
    Thanks man. Funny thing, the forum freaking replaced most of the ' I used with ?

    What the hell is that about? lol
    Yes, I noticed. I thought maybe your keyboard was broken.
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  7. #7
    Registered User mjw8204's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by VikingMan View Post
    Thanks man. Funny thing, the forum freaking replaced most of the ' I used with ?

    What the hell is that about? lol
    Did you type it up on Microsoft Word and then paste it over? If so, that's probably why it happened.
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  8. #8
    Half Norse, Half Animal VikingMan's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by mjw8204 View Post
    Did you type it up on Microsoft Word and then paste it over? If so, that's probably why it happened.
    Yeah, I did. Oh well.
    How does one destroy darkness? The answer dawned upon my mind, blinding in it's brilliance. To destroy darkness, one must simply expose it to the light.
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  9. #9
    creator of barriers jp6v's Avatar
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    Did you originally write it in Microsoft word and cut and paste it? That screws up quotes sometimes.

    edit: Nevermind. That's what I get for doing real work at work.
    Last edited by jp6v; 03-05-2007 at 09:26 AM. Reason: beat by mjw
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  10. #10
    Congestion JOTO MISSINGLINK's Avatar
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    Great post VikingMan. I wonder how many will actually take the time to read it and put it to good use?
    Death is winning. Do something.- Sam Boyd
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  11. #11
    Half Norse, Half Animal VikingMan's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by MISSINGLINK View Post
    Great post VikingMan. I wonder how many will actually take the time to read it and put it to good use?
    Who knows. But if even one is saved from a lifetime of servitude to inadequate body part splits with endless attempts at failing linear progression, then it will have served it's purpose.
    How does one destroy darkness? The answer dawned upon my mind, blinding in it's brilliance. To destroy darkness, one must simply expose it to the light.
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  12. #12
    Registered User Dave76's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by VikingMan View Post
    Who knows. But if even one is saved from a lifetime of servitude to inadequate body part splits with endless attempts at failing linear progression, then it will have served it's purpose.
    Stated like a true evangelist!
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  13. #13
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    Great post...make great points and everyone on this forum needs to read it..It will definetly help a lot of beginners understand some things better.
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  14. #14
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    Great post VM. I am sending this info to a friend of mine that just started working out.

    *Must spread some reputation around before giving it to VM again.
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  15. #15
    I love DOMS alkell's Avatar
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    Thanks Viking that was a great read, very informative and good use of anology
    That which does not kill you makes you stronger.

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  16. #16
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    Can't believe I'm having to bump this so early, but "overtraining" questions are already popping up in the section. Further proof that 95% of BB.com posters race for the "New Topic" icon before reading anything on the page.
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  17. #17
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    Thanks a lot. I had always assumed that when a person is starting to lose gains it was more of because their body was getting used to their program/setxrep range (I don't know how many time I've heard that repeated).

    So if a person starts losing gains, just dropping the weight or set numbers for a week or two will do it? Or should it be longer?
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  18. #18
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    Oh Lord! and I just updated my big list for March

    Now I got to go add this thread in there too

    good stuff as usual VikingMan!
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    (the earlier original version from Feb 2007 @ http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=1628631)
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    Half Norse, Half Animal VikingMan's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by dizi24 View Post
    So if a person starts losing gains, just dropping the weight or set numbers for a week or two will do it? Or should it be longer?
    Many times, yeah, a weak or two of decreased work will do what you're looking for. It probably won't need to be any longer than that.

    Now, that's not to say that you HAVE to use the same program for the rest of your natural life. Many times, guys will switch programs and in the process have a few sessions where they're not quite completely settled in their new program, or the CNS stress is altered in some way, and it refreshes them. Giving them the illusion that what they need when they stall is a completely differet program. Which is actually a false impression of what really happened. Though a new program from time to time is still a good idea just to keep the interest level peaked. Keeping your head in the game.
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    Nice job, VM. It's a good example of why we need more stickied threads. Otherwise we'll have to either post the same stuff again and again or dig this up to link to it.
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    Tallica' Baby Yeah! iceman_84's Avatar
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    Great post. I have been deloading approx 6 months, usually on a 3 week work 1 week de load progression. V/Man u are prob familiar with some of the periodisation techniques used in a lot of athletes programs where the periodisation would look something like this...

    Use bench as an example

    Week1 80kgs
    week 2 85kgs
    Week 3 90kgs
    Week 4 85kgs deload

    Week5 90kgs
    Week6 95kgs
    Week7 100kgs
    Week8 95kgs deload

    I find that this works really well. Keep the same volume of work and lower the intensity and the next week you feel pretty fresh and you seem to be able to keep increasing for much longer. The undulating progression kicks ass
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    Half Norse, Half Animal VikingMan's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by iceman_84 View Post
    The undulating progression kicks ass
    Indeed it does. That's a great way to go about things. Lots of programs are based on this kind of progression.
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    Good post!
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    Great stuff. I see a lot of people talking about CNS fatigue, and was about to start a thread asking someone to explain it. Thanks!

    So as we get stronger, I guess our 'bucket' gets bigger?

    Cool!
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  25. #25
    Half Norse, Half Animal VikingMan's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by blabber View Post
    Great stuff. I see a lot of people talking about CNS fatigue, and was about to start a thread asking someone to explain it. Thanks!

    So as we get stronger, I guess our 'bucket' gets bigger?

    Cool!
    That brings up a good point. Does the bucket ever change in size.... I would say that it is probably partially linked to one's work capacity. If your work capacity sucks, you'll reach overtraining faster than if it didn't. So grow your work capacity, and your bucket gets bigger.

    But no, as you get stronger, the size of the cup filling the bucket gets bigger, not the size of the bucket. Meaning it will take LESS time to reach a state of overtraining than when you where weaker.
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    Just according how big of a guy you are, the bigger the bucket
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    Originally Posted by dizi24 View Post
    Thanks a lot. I had always assumed that when a person is starting to lose gains it was more of because their body was getting used to their program/setxrep range (I don't know how many time I've heard that repeated).

    So if a person starts losing gains, just dropping the weight or set numbers for a week or two will do it? Or should it be longer?
    From Chad Waterbury:
    Unloading

    ? Advanced lifters should reduce the volume of their workouts by 30-40% every fourth week.

    ? Intermediate lifters should reduce the volume of their workouts by 20-30% every fifth week.

    ? Beginners should reduce their training volume of their workouts by 20-30% every sixth week.
    http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do...dra?id=1480667
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  28. #28
    Half Norse, Half Animal VikingMan's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by all pro View Post
    From Chad Waterbury:
    Unloading

    ? Advanced lifters should reduce the volume of their workouts by 30-40% every fourth week.

    ? Intermediate lifters should reduce the volume of their workouts by 20-30% every fifth week.

    ? Beginners should reduce their training volume of their workouts by 20-30% every sixth week.
    http://www.t-nation.com/readTopic.do...dra?id=1480667
    I read that article yesterday and immediately thought of this thread. Those are great guidelines. Though some programs are more drastic with the amount they cut workload by. The Bill Star advanced 5X5 cuts it by two thirds during the first week of the deload/intensification phase....
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  29. #29
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    Originally Posted by VikingMan View Post
    I read that article yesterday and immediately thought of this thread. Those are great guidelines. Though some programs are more drastic with the amount they cut workload by. The Bill Star advanced 5X5 cuts it by two thirds during the first week of the deload/intensification phase....
    All though each program goes about it a little differently, I think the idea is all ways the same. From what I've seen the amount of volume that is dropped depends on how many work sets at the same weight where being done. In other words the reduction would be greater if you where doing 5 sets of 5 reps with the same weight then it would be if you where pyramiding up to 1 top set. My acclimation program follows this principle, where as the peaking programs runs 3 hard weeks and 1 deload week.
    Bodybuilder, n. A weight lifter too weak to be a powerlifter.
    Powerlifter, n. A weight lifter too fat to be a bodybuilder.
    HIT Jedi, n. The fitness equivalent to Al Qaeda, except
    rather than fly planes into buildings, devotees fly
    steaming piles of dogmatic horse**** into your ears
    and down your throat.

    Every thing works..........for about 6 weeks.
    Hard gainer = under eater
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    Oh by the way VM, I got the results of my stress test yesterday..................NO HEART DAMAGE !
    Bodybuilder, n. A weight lifter too weak to be a powerlifter.
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    HIT Jedi, n. The fitness equivalent to Al Qaeda, except
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    and down your throat.

    Every thing works..........for about 6 weeks.
    Hard gainer = under eater
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