Andrew Berry / November 20, 2013
Yes, that’s right. I lifted weights everyday for the last 12 weeks. That’s 84 days straight or almost 3 months. Overtraining? That used to be what I thought a few years back but with the new muscle I put on in the last three months, I am convinced that there is really no such thing as overtraining but instead just under-recovering.
Recovery needs to include cycled training, body work like stretching and foam rolling, a regular warm up routine, proper exercise sequencing, adequate nutrition and most importantly, perfect peri-workout nutrition.
Peri-workout nutrition is the nutrient timing before, during and after your training. During training you say? Yes. I firmly believe that consuming calories in the form of casein protein hydrolysate and highly branched cyclic dextrin were the keys to my success on being able to train day in and out without lasting soreness. I mean, I still got sore, but for body parts that would typically be wrecked for two days, usually recovered in one. Before talking more about these supplements in detail, let me explain more about the other things that need to be in place to be successful with this plan:
When designing your training program to work out every single day, you don’t just jump right into it. First, you need to start with a reasonable training schedule. Something like three or four workouts a week. Over the course of a month, you can gradually add a day until you reach the seven-day a week program. Additionally, it’s important to look at the overall activity in your life as a whole. I dropped my cardio down to next to nothing and made sure to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
On top of that, your overall training intensity and volume need to be cycled. For instance, when looking at a 12-week training program, your first two to four weeks might be a little lower in intensity. You gradually ramp up your volume and don’t use many intensity techniques like drop sets, static holds, rest-pause etc.- just straight training, working more sets and reps in each week. Around week four or five is when you really start cranking things up and where the bulk of the hardest work during your training program will take place. This can continue for the next six to seven weeks. After that, you can gradually start to back down in volume and intensity and start taking training days away until you are back down to four days a week for a few weeks. I consider this ‘recovery’ training to get ready for the next big 12-week cycle and liken it to the way we go about our day. We are awake and active for 15-18 hours a day followed by a period of down time during sleep where we are recovering and getting ready for the next day. Our training should be thought of the same way.
A regular warm up routine is crucial to having success in the gym. First, having a regular full body warm up will do the obvious which is get your muscles and joints ready to take a pounding. More importantly, it will give you feedback into how your body is doing at that moment and can help you direct your workout. Having a standardized warm up will let you know if your right shoulder is feeling 100% today or if that knee that’s been bugging you feels great for a change and can allow you to plan your workout accordingly. Foam rolling despite being painful while doing it really allows you to get more out of your body by breaking up cellular adhesions and facilitating blood flow to the muscle. I like to do a light three to four minute foam roll before training, hitting all the major muscles and then do a more specific one on the muscles just worked after training.
When designing your workout, it is important to sequence your exercises during each individual session and overall throughout your whole training program. Always starting with bench press for your chest is a great way to overuse the shoulder joint and could be a one-way ticket to a torn muscle. Doing the same thing for the muscle in the same order will only cause an overuse injury or make your growth become stagnant. Pick an exercise for a few weeks, get stronger at it and then move on to another one. Or change the order in which you do it. If you started with exercise A and did that first for a few weeks, start with out with something else. It doesn’t mean that you cant do workout A anymore, maybe just more it down in the order and find you get an even bigger benefit from it.
I find that I never bench press first anymore- mostly because I don’t feel safe doing it. The weight my muscles can handle “feels” like more than my joints would want to handle. So, instead I do something like the incline dumbbell press first and bench second or third. Now the joints are warmed up and more often than not I am benching as much as I would have had I started with that first.
I have been using John Meadow’s “Mountaindog” training program for the better part of a year now and have really enjoyed the increase in volume without a sacrifice of intensity. If you haven’t done a Mountaindog program yet, check out his sample workouts on his website www.mountaindogdiet.com as well as www.T-nation.com.
The pillar of this particular program I was doing focused on four “hard” training sessions with the option of adding other days to increase lagging body parts. The training split is legs one day, chest and shoulders the next, back on another day and arms as the last primary day. The additional days could be for any one of these body parts but with different, pumping style, joint sparing workouts.
For instance, if you are doing an extra leg day, there are no heavy squats or leg presses- that’s not to say there is any less pain, but there just isn’t any lower back-straining work done. The same goes for an additional back day. There are no heavy deadlifts or good mornings to worry about because the main focus of the training should be on making sure the four main workouts are productive. The additional work is just for more blood volume and pump.
I should also mention that I didn’t jump right into training seven days a week. I started out with the typical 4 day a week template. Once I was sure that adding another day wouldn’t hurt my progress, I added an additional day and then another every two weeks until I was up to 7 days of training. Here’s how my 12-week cycle looked:
First 6 weeks
Second 6 weeks
^- main workout. Hard and heavy.
*- second pumping style workout. For arms this workout was usually the same as the primary workout but usually with a little less volume and rest.
So we all know that nutrition is the most important variable when it comes to making and keeping gains. Having my macros set perfectly was key to maintaining and gaining muscle while also losing body fat. Nowhere was this more important then during the peri-workout meals.
I focused the majority of my carbohydrate intake around and during my workouts. This allowed me to reap all the gains that insulin and carbohydrates can yield while allowing my body to burn fat throughout the other parts of the day.
My pre-workout meal consisted of cream of rice, whey isolate and natural peanut butter. This prepped my body with a readily available source of energy. The cream of rice is an easily digestible carbohydrate source. This put glucose in my blood stream and muscles as well as increased insulin secretion.
During training (and this is the secret weapon) I drank a mixture of highly branched cyclic dextrin (HBCD) and casein hydrolysate protein along with other amino acids and creatine. All my products came from www.truenutrition.com. The HBCD is a carbohydrate with a molecular weight of 1,000,000 grams/mole, which is extremely high compared to that of glucose (180 gram/mole) or waxy maize (200,000 gram/mole). Additionally, HBCD has a low osmolarity. Osmolarity is the measurement of the total number of solute particles (osmoles) that are concentrated into a Liter of solution. This is beneficial to us because the osmotic pressure that HBCD exerts is lower than that of the blood and other body fluids. This creates a hypotonic environment allowing the material to bypass the stomach and enter the small intestine at a much faster rate than other carbohydrate sources. This is important because we don’t want blood shunted towards our digestive system when trying to get the most out of workouts.
Adding hydrolysated casein protein, branched chain amino acids and free form amino acids to the mix was the other important step that allowed my body to “recover” while it was working. Proteins that have been hydrolysated have been broken down to their furthest extent and consist of di and tripeptides and individual amino acids. This leaves little to no work for the digestive system to get these aminos into the blood stream. Again, this is important when your goal is to not disrupt your workout. The HBCD keeps insulin secretion high which stimulates the uptake of both glucose and amino acids by the muscle leading to enhanced muscle protein synthesis.
Muscle gain is the net balance of protein synthesis minus protein breakdown. Normally a workout is full of protein breakdown but with the addition of these two products I was able to keep my insulin levels elevated throughout the whole workout leading to more protein synthesis and yielding more muscle gain. Following training I didn’t need to eat immediately or have a post workout shake due to the calories I consumed during training. I would wait 30 to 60 minutes and then have a solid food meal that consisted of grass fed beef and white rice.
I also forgot to mention that I did a total of 60 minutes of cardio a week for this program in the form of three 20 minutes high intensity interval-training sessions. It’s important to note that I normally like to do cardio 5-7 days both for the fat loss effect as well as for overall cardiovascular health. Dropping down to 3 sessions a week was crucial to maintaining muscle, as I didn’t want to risk doing too much.
So, as I said before, I used to be of the belief that training more than every other day or more than four days a week was too much. I had whittled my own training down over the years to less and less over all work and got pretty good results. But then, like any training program, things progress went stale. Switching over to this higher volume and intensity training program was just the thing my body needed to progress. If your training has stalled recently, you are sick of doing lots of cardio or just plain want a new challenge, give this program style a try.