Building greater musculature requires an open-minded and problem-solving attitude, one that continuously evolves with the athlete. In the beginning, changes in body composition come easily but continued success is never linear. Bodybuilders and powerlifters who repeatedly attempt a slow and steady pace ultimately hit progression plateaus; in which symptoms of overtraining and subsequent degradation of performance emerge. To continue to grow, eventually everyone must learn how to properly periodize an exercise program to inject more training variety. Using these principles, cycles of extreme intensity – bursts of hard and heavy training – can ignite new found gains.
Sudden changes in environmental stressors generate changes in organisms. Supportive patterns can be found in evolutionary models – where rapid adaptations were perceived necessary for the survival of a species. Organisms may perish if stress is too intense; on the other hand, no adaptation occurs if it’s insignificant. Mammals readily thrived after the extinction of dinosaurs. Fossil records reveal millions of years of stability before dramatic changes occurred in the human genome. Quickly increasing environmental demands resulted in sudden changes in physical characteristics, adaptations that ensured the survival of prehistoric humans. These rapid changes in genetic material have resulted in searches for “missing links” by archaeologists, hypothetical organisms identified by scientists to explain gaps in discoveries.
Surges in development are readily identifiable during individual life spans. Childhood is the most prolific period of physical development. Newborns, toddlers and teenagers do not maintain linear rates of development. Growth spurts during puberty are well known experiences during a healthy transition into adulthood. Girls often become taller at alarming rates – seemingly over night for some. Properly virilized boys often realize drastic changes in vocal patterns and muscularity during pubescent stages.
Competitive bodybuilders routinely grasp the concept of growth surges during the training period following a successful fat-loss diet for exhibition. The post-contest training phase is often reported to be a highly rewarding opportunity to increase musculature. Even in recreational bodybuilders, the idea of priming before a growth period is gaining popularity. This preparatory phase can include several weeks of gradual fat loss dieting or a general maintenance routine – depending on individual needs. It’s succeeded by a sudden increase in training intensity with a decrease in workout volume. Frequency must also be adjusted in an attempt to routinely apply a progressive overload. The goal is to retrain at the crest of overcompensation from the previous workout – not too early (over reaching) or too late (detraining).
Drug-assisted bodybuilders can design a pre-cycle priming diet that slowly optimizes body compensation prior to starting a mass-gaining cycle of anabolic-androgenic steroids. The fat-loss period is immediately followed by administering supra physiological amounts of anabolic hormones to maximize anabolism for a potent growth phase. With an adequate priming period, steroid cycle duration can drastically decline. Less time spent on the anabolic hormones results in less unwanted side effects as a result of their use.
The body resists adaptations in hopes of maintaining homeostasis; especially if the demands are deemed insignificant. After graduating from the beginner stages of bodybuilding, plan for training cycles that ramp up training intensity and force the body to break past strength plateaus. They should be brief enough to avoid over reaching, but long enough to optimize muscular development. Individual characteristics, such as physiological and psychological barriers, will determine how long, or often, these bursts in training should occur.