Bodybuilding requires progressive overloads

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore,” said Andre Paul Guillaume Gide (1869-1951), a French writer and critic. Many years have passed but Gide’s wisdom is timeless and applies to individuals training for greater levels of physical conditioning. Reaching new levels of performance requires a deep inner desire to exceed current fitness thresholds. Eventually plateaus in progression call for athletes to distance themselves from comfort zones; in order to become leaner, stronger or more muscular.

Telling goal-focused trainees to work progressively sounds patronizing – almost like an infomercial solution – but it’s alarming how many report to fitness centers to constantly accomplish the same thing, over-and-over again. The real shame is when this redundancy turns from months to years! People tend to limit themselves by simply going through effortless motions. A new trainee can lift 10-pound weights everyday and never really get “toned.”

Becoming more active results in some preliminary changes in body composition, but results fade quickly if the stimulus doesn’t continue to evolve. Training progress requires an effort greater than what the body is comfortable with accomplishing. Otherwise, it considers the current body composition as good enough. The stimulus does not warrant any adaptation to transpire and stagnant periods keep a trainee from obtaining satisfaction with their program’s results. At this point, one would be equally served – yet probably more comfortable – at home, watching television.

On the other hand, if the training output is increased over subsequent workouts, the stimulus for change becomes rewarding. With heightened mental motivation and proper nutrition, change is demanded. Striving for average frequently results in settling for failure; while reaching high with great ambitions results in settling somewhere above average – perhaps within the realm of serious prominence. Always remember: you’ll never be great while aiming for good.

The human body is an amazingly adaptive organism. It’s a living multifaceted network of organic tissue, capable of reproduction, growth and maintenance. Resistance training capitalizes on skeletal muscle’s ability to adapt and grow, in response to training stress that is repeated and progressive. However, the extent of muscularity an individual can achieve is largely limited by their physical genetics and ability to cope with stressful training. Successful bodybuilders have great genetic disposition with phenomenal ability to handle intense training protocols. Competitive bodybuilders may further augment their potential with professional assistance and various ergogenic aids.

There are a couple general rules for body re-composition. To increase body mass, daily energy intake (food calories) must exceed daily energy output (activity levels). To decrease, activity levels must exceed caloric intake. This generalization gets complicated when differences between metabolizing lipids (fat) and proteins (muscle) are considered, but the basic laws of thermodynamics and metabolism remain the same.

To promote muscle growth, bodybuilders typically undergo periods of “bulking.” During this stage, two primary conditions are applied to encourage the desired effect: first, energy intake is elevated enough to assure the body that an increase in metabolically expensive muscle mass will not cause a life-threatening situation; second, a progressively applied resistance training program must signal a need for greater limit strength.

To lose fat, periods of “cutting” involve maintaining strength with progressive endurance training to provide a stimulus for a more fuel-efficient body composition. Stationary cycling for 30 minutes on level two won’t encourage much change or calorie consumption. However, repeated bouts of increasing intensities builds cardiovascular fitness; while burning increasingly more calories. A body burning 600 calories in 30 minutes on a stationary cycle is in far better physical condition than another burning half the calories in the same amount of time. To support metabolism and prevent muscle wasting, cycling calorie intake is common – using periods of long deficits contrasted by short-lived surpluses.

Before beginning any fitness program, it’s important to outline a goal; such as, obtaining more muscle or decreasing body fat. Recent research into concurrent training methods suggests periods of progressive strength and endurance training create diverse events within the body – many making the two incompatible. Inadequate nutrition may further stall results, due to the heavy demands a progressive resistance training program places on the body’s recovery processes.

Blinded attempts toward a progressive overload will not maximize training periods. The body and mind will naturally resist increasingly greater training stressors. A means to record training efforts must be employed, such as a training journal or spreadsheet. Every training session can be guided toward what would constitute a progressive response. Even in small increments, progress always means a change is taking place.

Strive to push your body into a new level of fitness by forcing an adaptation to occur through hard work and heavy resistance training. Be ready to lose sight of the shore for new-found results. Read numerous training and nutritional theories to maximize your knowledge base. Once you reach dimensions that satisfy your urge to train, switch to a standard maintenance routine and relish in your accomplishments.

Mary Jane, meet Willie Workout

A creative mind is a horrible thing to waste, so long as good judgment supersedes inventive initiatives. Certain lifestyle choices can enhance intellectual creativity in people – by altering environmental perceptions and allowing for more open-minded attitudes. When reaching for the mountainous peak of innovative design, it’s important to know when you just fell off the summit. This concept is important in bodybuilding.

Mary Jane is a creative genius. Her habit of smoking marijuana is coupled with unique, often resourceful, cleverness. Anyone submerged in a pot-smoking social atmosphere has seen examples of this in action. According to Mary, smoking devices can be constructed from almost anything – soda cans, tool sets, spare parts, housewares – water bongs further extend the range of possibilities. Mary once constructed a bong that incorporated a 12-foot PVC pipe and a 55-gallon fish tank. She hosted some great parties with it. Unfortunately, the school of Clownfish eventually gave in to the chemical shift in their salt water habitat.

Creative mindsets are most certainly seen in bodybuilders, individuals with a relentless desire to build their muscles to skin-splitting dimensions. Occasionally trainees end up performing some pretty obscure movements in an attempt to shape their bodies into superhero proportions. In all their extreme efforts, underlying principles tend to get lost in the wind – progressive overloads, intensity versus volume, specific adaptations to imposed demands and the law of diminishing returns.

Willie Workout was in the gym yesterday. To train legs, he balanced himself on top of a Swiss ball. He stood in a position that seemed to command the hands of God for support. Nonetheless, he repeatedly attempted full-range squats on the inflatable sphere – while using elastic bands wrapped around an adjacent power rack for resistance. Everyone’s curiosity peaked, staring in awe as if a bull-riding rodeo was unfolding in the gym. Unfortunately for Willie, the only growth stimulated were bruises, from falling on the rack and getting slapped by flying rubber.

Like always, he breezed past the owner’s brand new t-bar row. Willie prefers to pivot a barbell in the corner of the gymnasium walls. After loading one side with two 45-pound plates, he straddled the bar and started pulling. Meanwhile, the bar’s opposing end wiggled against the wood work – each repetition threatened Willie’s manhood. Some sounds are hard to replicate. Willie getting his nuts suddenly slammed by an iron bar is one of them.

Next, Willie stood facing a wall-mounted mirror with a Kettlebell in his hands. Like a demolition wrecking crew, he repeatedly swung the iron ball. He finally stopped once the associated tenderness in his neck seared in like a hot cattle brand.

His final routine on the Smith machine is not easy to explain. In Willie’s case, pain is intelligence leaving his body.

“What about basic compound lifts, like barbell bench presses?” I asked.

“I don’t bench, it hurts my shoulders,” he replied.

If muscles grew from creativity alone, Willie would be an enormous bodybuilding success.