Well, I served myself up a big slice of humble pie. How? By not taking my own advice and pushing myself too far. I just blogged about this recently too. "More isn't always better!" More specifically from my blog, I think I was just exercising too much, or increasing intensity too quickly. I was overtrained!
I started my bulking phase just a few weeks ago. Although I tried my best to keep things as moderate as I could, I just kept piling more and more volume into my workouts thinking that "more must be better!"
The timing of Adam Bornstein's Tweet the other day was perfect.
More specifically, #1 on that list:
This is easily the most prevalent and destructive problem among beginners and experts. Sometimes you just can’t imagine doing fewer than five sets for an exercise, when in reality (and especially for beginners) two or three is usually enough. The problem stems from the sport of bodybuilding, and the workout routines its champions—who are always genetically gifted and often steroid-enhanced—have made famous. Through magazines, other media, and pop culture, we’re led to believe that if we want bigger arms, we need to do four different types of curls as a bodybuilder would do, using drop sets, taking each set to failure with a five-second negative, or some other advanced technique.
The truth is, thankfully, building muscle is not that complicated. At least not for people in the early stages of their training or who have no plans to use performance-enhancing drugs. Look at how many sets, on average, some of today’s most popular strength and physique coaches prescribe in a workout.
Whole Body: If you’re training your whole body in one session, one compound exercise per muscle group is enough; two to three sets each.
Upper/Lower Split: Hit one main lift (such as a bench press or a squat), follow it up with two assistance exercises that train the same muscles and the opposing ones for balance, and then finish with some work for the abs/arms/calves/forearms (or any area you deem to be a weak point).
About halfway through the second week of my bulk phase, I was already feeling very run down and less than enthused to work out. My workouts suddenly felt like a chore rather than something I am usually quite excited to do. I was tired, not sleeping well, and just overall feeling run down. I knew at that time that my workouts were wearing me out, but what I didn't really think about was that I had scheduled far too much volume for each lifting day.
As I said, the timing of Adam's Tweet clicked in my brain and I realized that I was simply just doing too much. During my planning, I knew that I wanted to use the 5 main compound lifts - bench press, squat, deadlift, barbell row, overhead press. My brain then started to wander. Ok, well if I am back squatting, I should add some front squats as well. I want to strength train, but I also enjoy the "pump" I get from my workouts. I should add this, and this, and this....as you can see, I started to tailspin out of control. It ended up with long lifting days with too much volume.
I was feeling run down, some aches and pains weren't going away. I wasn't recovering properly. I just wasn't feeling like myself. So, this past week, I took some time off to let my body heal and recover, and during that time, I structured a new program that will still factor in the main lifts that I enjoy doing, but will cut away a lot of the unnecessary exercises that were just lengthening the workouts and wearing me down.
This is one of the reasons why I don't always share workout plans with my readers. I generally try and workshop programs or workouts before sharing them with others because I want to make sure that they are doable and not going to harm or push someone down a road of overtraining.
So, I have my new schedule set. It isn't anything groundbreaking or original. In fact, I have called it my "back to basics" schedule. I will be doing 3 lifting workouts per week, a couple sessions of cardio, and forcing myself not to neglect yoga and other recovery routines. At times in the past, I have neglected yoga or proper recovery in favour of adding more lifting or HIIT.
I will check back in soon to let you know how my new schedule is treating me.