Remember that training to increase muscular size and strength is not the same as training for a marathon or other primarily aerobic activity. Extreme Bodybuilding training is an anaerobic activity, and the training requirements are, therefore, totally different. Anaerobic training with weights requires tremendous bursts of physical effort which can only be sustained for short periods.
This is because the demands for oxygen from extreme bodybuilding/strength training are so great that the body cannot supply sufficient oxygen to the working muscles to be able to sustain their work output on an aerobic level, i.e. with oxygen. Therefore, the muscles must quickly switch over to anaerobic respiration to continue contracting. This causes a rapid build-up of metabolic by-products including lactic acid, which eventually cause the muscle to stop contracting if the set is taken to muscular failure.
This is the point at which muscle growth is greatly stimulated, and there are many techniques which can be used to take a muscle ‘beyond’ muscular failure, e.g. by quickly reducing the weight, the muscle can continue to contract and reach an even greater level of temporary fatigue, leading to even greater growth stimulation, in order to further stimulate muscular development.
Therefore, by virtue of a high-intensity weight-training session, it is neither possible, nor desirable, to do set after set of very high intensity work, without overtaxing the body, leading to a state of over training, and possible loss of strength and size, in addition to a halt of further progress. You simply cannot put your body through this kind of work for long periods, but if you train for only a short duration per workout with high intensity of effort, and train infrequently, the results you desire will be yours.
For most beginning trainees, it is recommended to train the entire body two or, at most, three times per week. The workout should involve the use of basic, compound movements that stimulate large masses of muscle, and allow the use of the largest possible training loads, relative to the starting strength of the trainee. As progress is made over time, a person may find that it is not possible to train all muscle groups effectively due to fatigue near the end of the workout.
This is because the muscles will have become larger and stronger, and the energy requirements for their contraction are thus far greater than when the person started training, leading to a faster onset of fatigue. At this point it is advisable to train different sections of the body on different days, e.g. upper body at one workout, lower body at the next, to help overcome this problem.
This will ultimately mean that you may only train the entire body once every seven to ten days, especially if you begin to split up your upper and lower body muscle groups into different workouts. However, because you are much stronger than when you started training and your training intensity will be far greater, you will be able to deliver a much larger amount of growth stimulation to your muscles per workout, which will mean that you will require more time to recover from each training session.
Therefore, you can see that the bigger and stronger you get, the more physiological damage you are capable of inflicting upon yourself at each training session, which then goes ‘hand-in-hand’ with a need for more rest and recuperation.
The exact amount of time that you should allow to elapse between workouts is variable from individual to individual; we all have slightly different tolerances for exercise and adaptation to training. The only real way to know for certain if you have recovered from a previous workout at the muscular level is to have a biopsy done on that muscle and have it structurally and biochemically examined for remaining indications of trauma.
As this is obviously not practical after every training session, it is up to you to determine the time periods between workouts that allow for the best increases in size and strength without over training and regressing.
In future articles, I will cover aspects of over training with regards to extreme bodybuilding training, and how it can be recognized and avoided for optimum gains. Until then, train hard, rest and grow!