Long bodybuilding tradition of overtraining

In the long history of the bodybuilding tradition, bodybuilders have been training as weightlifters. They were weightlifters or strongmen who lifted dumbbells and over time became interested in what they looked like instead of how much they could lift, or besides.

This trend accelerated in the 1930s with the advent of “physical culture” competitions, in which athletes with obvious aesthetic muscles from strength training had a significant advantage in physical development. These events included things like some kind of athletic performance and sometimes public speaking, but in 1939 the emphasis shifted to assessing muscle development as racers flexed and then performed a personal posing routine – in other words, bodybuilding as we know it today.

Some bodybuilders in the 1940s still did things like gymnastics and the type of hand balancing you see in historical photos of the original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, but in the 1950s, more emphasis was placed on the type of bodybuilding we see today. such as side chest punches or double biceps. However, the training routines of this era remained almost the same: mostly exercising the whole body in one workout three times a week as with a weightlifter. Gradually, however, a more modern system developed using techniques that Joe Weider codified as the “Weider system.” These included split-system training, where in any workout you only work with a body part; a combination of two-joint strength exercises and one-joint insulating movements; maximum contraction, superseries and the use of a wide variety of different exercises for each part of the body.

Young Arnold Schwarzenegger in California
When Arnold first came on the scene in the 1960s, he had a lot of muscle and in the 1970s combined size and definition to win Olympia. Courtesy of Gene Mozee

During the 1960s, thanks to these new techniques and a more advanced approach to diet (for example, no more drinking large amounts of whole milk), bodybuilders began to appear on stage much more muscular and contoured than just big and smoother. This trend continued in the 1970s until we began to see extremely torn competitors, defined but often too exhausted (largely due to extreme dehydration and a ketosis diet). But also because of overtraining.

Overtraining when it comes to bodybuilding comes from training that is too hard, too frequent, or too long, and it doesn’t give your muscles enough time to rest, regenerate, and grow. Training stimulates growth that does not happen until you rest and recover. In the 1960s and 1970s, bodybuilders began to train as if the more sets and repetitions they did, the bigger they were. As a result, we began to see very muscular and defined competitors, but not big at all compared to most professional bodybuilders today.

The winner of Mrs. Olympia for the year 2021 Andrea Shaw during the exercise with dumbbells
Ms. Olympia, Andrea Shaw demonstrates excellent form with side barbells. Wings of Force

An example is Arnold Schwarzenegger. At over 6 ‘Arnold, as a young man, weighed around 255 or 260 pounds. He was best on stage in the 1970s, weighing 235 pounds. Very small by modern standards and very small when you consider its apparent genetics for muscles. why was that so If you compare two versions of Arnold’s encyclopedia of modern bodybuilding, one describes how he trained in his early years and the other his recommendations for newer techniques that have evolved over the decades. One of the main differences is the amount of training and the amount of rest you need to avoid overtraining. He now recommends shorter high-intensity workouts, fewer sets and repetitions than during the day, and plenty of time to rest and regenerate between workouts.

Bodybuilding training should be like a series of sprints, not a long run. If you exercise hard enough, you will quickly overcome your body’s ability to deliver fresh oxygen to your muscles. This is an anaerobic activity. You feel “burning” as lactic acid builds up in your muscles. At this point, you need to stop and rest and allow the muscle to recover. However, these muscles will not fully recover in a short time. So you are still tired when you perform the following series for these muscles or this muscle group.

But then you need time between workouts for the body to fully recover. This varies according to the muscles being trained. The biceps recovers faster than any other muscle group; lower back the slowest. The legs need more time to rest and recover than the back or shoulders.

It is also a fact that in the bodybuilding tradition, bodybuilders continue to do more series and exercises than are necessary to develop any single muscle or body part. For example, when it comes to a simple muscle group such as the biceps, all of these muscles do only the flexion of the arms – contractions from the starting point in the shoulder to the point of insertion into the forearms and bending of the elbow joint.

When you do biceps curls with a barbell or with a barbell, rope curls, machine curls or concentration, you basically do the same movement over and over and over again. There are some differences between lifting a free weight, where joint stabilization is necessary, and curls on a machine, where this is not the case, the biceps contracting essentially several times in the same range of motion. A couple of biceps exercises is one thing; four or five are completely different. Biceps are so small that it is easy to overtrain them with too many sets and repetitions.

There is now an alternative approach to training that is popular with many people. This follows the principles promoted by Arthur Jones, the developer of Nautilus, and involves very “heavy” exercises with a low number of repetitions – including forced repetitions and negatives and forced negatives. If you promoted the Nautilus gym, it led the members to go through the circuit relatively quickly, get off the machines and leave room for another group of members to play their own circuits. This allowed the gym to increase the number of active members. . But this is not the most effective and efficient method of developing a competitive bodybuilding figure.

Lee Haney exercising with barbell concentration curl
By the time Lee Haney appeared in the 1980s, there was much less overtraining in their training than in previous decades. Bill Dobbins

There were bodybuilders who claimed to have built a body using these principles, such as Mike Mentzer and Casey Viator, but they created a muscular body using the traditional method before they even saw the Nautilus machine. Thanks to this approach to training, Dorian Yates has won several Mr. Olympia, however, stress tore his body to pieces – a punishment he was aware of but willing to pay to become the main champion.

So what is the most effective and efficient way to build muscle? According to the champion in power triathlon Dr. Fred Hatfield (Dr. Squat) involves a muscle contraction against just enough resistance for a sufficient number of repetitions – or “Time Under Tension”. The correct amount of resistance is about 75% of your maximum for one repetition. This will allow you to perform about 8 to 12 repetitions for upper body movements, a little more for the legs (better blood and oxygen supply). You don’t actually train a muscle directly; you program the nervous system. In order to send the right signals to the nervous system to create the stimulus needed to build muscle, you need to have a total time of about one minute under tension.

Legendary Olympia Mr. Ronnie Coleman with Joe Weider
Ronnie Coleman was one of the strongest competitors, but he trained as a modern bodybuilder, not as a weightlifter. Bill Dobbins

Each iteration only takes about a second. So you can achieve a total of one minute TUT in the familiar three to four series after three to four body exercises.

There is also the fact that contraction muscle resistance is what stimulates it to grow. Weight loss does not have the same result. It only puts a lot of strain on the joints and connective tissue.

Remember that progressive resistance training can be used to create a variety of different reactions in the body. Really hard training with a low number of repetitions is best for developing strong muscles and maximum strength. Using less weight and a lot of repetitions results in a small, slimmer and well-defined figure like a gymnast.

This can vary greatly depending on the individual’s genetics. Some athletes have developed a lot of muscle (but not enough for bodybuilding) and do nothing but calisthenics. I remember being in high school when no one was training with weights. There were some teenage classmates who were genetically large and muscular, and those of us who weren’t. I wasn’t built for football or I opted for baseball.

The effect bodybuilders are looking for is a large, round and well-shaped muscle and extreme musculature. And that’s why overtraining must be avoided – not too many sets and repetitions, not too much weight and enough time between workouts for the body to rest, recover and grow.

If you look at advances in performance in sports in general, from tennis, golf and baseball to track or boxing, there are two factors that have made this possible. The first is to improve the equipment. Running shoes are like springs that allow more energy in every step. Golf clubs and tennis rackets look very little like what they did 30 or 40 years ago.

But the most important factor is the strength and conditioning techniques, which produced athletes with much greater physical abilities than in the past. Barry Bonds could have been caught taking anabolics, but he also put pressure on the bench for 300 pounds. Tiger Woods was the first modern golfer to work hard to strengthen, and now he has been followed by all the young racers.

And one of the reasons today’s bodybuilders are much bigger than in the past is that they have learned to train more efficiently and economically, in a way that creates maximum stimulation for muscle growth and allows all the time needed to rest, regenerate and grow. .

Behind the scenes of the final five competitors  Olympia
David Berry

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