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How to Manage High Intensity Training Techniques Without Over Training
If there’s one thing that’s at the top of the list when it comes to high-intensity training, it’s the question of maximal progression. Due to the intensity of failure and beyond, the body can quickly go into a state of overtraining. You need to understand how to manage your progress. This led me to create hybrid routines that incorporate low-stress, high-intensity techniques while also incorporating advanced high-intensity techniques that are high-stress in many cases, but super effective for maximum progress in the shortest amount of time.
Stress is a major contributor to overtraining because most don’t take into account all the different types of stress the body deals with, both good and bad, that affect the ability to recover. Let’s take a moment to understand in a simplified way how the body stores muscle. But first, let’s set the ground rules…
1- Exercise must be intense to stimulate muscle growth.
We really don’t know what percentage of intensity is necessary to best stimulate muscle growth… is it 80% or 94%… what is it? So 100% is a reasonable place to start because we are asking the body to adapt to something it has never done before.
If you’re going to do the same thing over and over again, there’s no need to change anything. This is why you see people at the gym who never change!
2- Exercise must be short.
Because we have the ability to increase our strength by 400% or more… yet our recovery ability can only increase by 50%… we must be ever so aware of what is minimally needed to stimulate the increase.
Since the body is very intelligent, it is not necessary to stimulate it over and over with endless sets or exercises. It only needs to be done once. More than the minimum needed to stimulate this increase, while introducing an adaptive mechanism into the process, takes away from the recovery process and overcompensates, which can only be considered overtraining.
After setting up the workout, that’s all that’s needed. It’s not how many you do, but how you do it.
3- Exercise must be infrequent to increase.
It’s no secret that after an intense workout, something has been taken away from you. You can feel it when you leave the gym when you’re done… if you’ve really trained to failure in an intense workout. Don’t confuse volume with intensity. They are opposites.
That’s exactly what happened. When you do high-intensity training, you dig a hole in your system’s ability to regenerate. This is a good analogy and will make sense to you.
Since the body recovers as a whole and not body parts, which most exercisers still don’t realize, the rest needed before you lay down the muscles is based on a two-step process…recovery and overcompensation.
If you return to the gym before you’ve mastered both processes, you’re shortchanging your progress and more than likely going into overtraining.
This process can take as little as 4-5 days for a beginner… up to 7-14 days for an advanced athlete. You must first fill the ditch before you can build on it. After the ditch is filled, what’s left goes into mountain building or, as we say, muscle laying.
You have to be 100% first before you can be 120% or in other words, until you compensate for the exhausting effects of training, you don’t put on any more muscle. So how do we know when to exercise?
TWO DAY RULE
This is perhaps the most important concept you will learn if you are a high intensity training athlete. Here it is in a nutshell… Once you feel 100%, feel energized and your great feeling self again, then and only then insert two more rest days before hitting the gym to do your next workout.
The reason is simple. You’ve compensated 100%, but we’re not here to break even, are we? No, we are here to increase strength and muscle mass to the level of our genetic potential. To achieve this we need to be careful and “Ride the Lightning” without getting burned… which brings me to my next topic which is…
How to incorporate high-intensity training techniques while not tipping the scales with stress, allowing you to make uninterrupted progress
We hear a lot about hybrids these days.
There are hybrid boats that use engines that are electric but powered by a diesel generator that allows for a greater reserve of fossil energy while propelling the boat efficiently and quickly to its destination.
There are hybrid cars that do the same thing and allow for more mileage without hitting the oil tank as hard as if they were running monster 500 cubic inch engines under the hood. That’s not too different from what we do here.
What we are doing here is combining the low stress high intensity technique with the rare high stress high intensity techniques that in most cases allow for more intense and longer contractions, thus allowing for further adaptation and progress.
As a person grows taller and stronger, the body requires more intense contraction to move beyond its status quo to a place it has not been before. The thing to consider is this…as indicated above, the stronger you get, the less frequent and short your workouts need to be.
Many athletes, because they do not understand how to incorporate these most effective techniques and read their body correctly, usually avoid them as they inevitably train.
There are many types of intensity techniques; here are a few i like…
The contractions are holding
Each of them is beyond failure and because of that… turn up the intensity. However, there are a couple that have less stress than others.
I will give an example of how you could go about using the low and high stress technique in 4 sets of a split training routine. We will use:
1- Preexhaustion (low stress) – PE is done by starting with an isolation exercise and going straight to a compound exercise without rest, preexhausting the target muscle with isolation and then using fresh muscle to push the target muscle past the point. creating an adaptive response.
2- Contraction (high stress) – CH focuses on either the strongest part of the movement and/or the fully contracted muscle. We’ll use both here. Intense contraction is the stimulus for muscle growth.
All sets that are not contraction hold sets are brought to complete muscular failure. All sets that are sets to hold the contraction require an exercise or two to experiment with the correct weight to safely hold in the designated position. It is important to note that in most cases you will be using much more weight than you would normally use with a set of repetitions leading to complete muscular failure.
Here it goes…
Chest, shoulders and arms
Dumbbell fly (before exhaust) – 6-10 repetitions
Incline Smith Machine Bench Press – 3-5 reps (no rest between sets)
Smith Machine Seated Press Contraction Hold (thumb under lockout) – 7-10 seconds
(This is done in a seated position with your back supported with the safety hooks on. Don’t lock out all the way, just lift the pegs so that the shoulders and triceps can contract against the weight)
Contractual hold of the curling iron (performed in a fully retracted position) – 7-10 seconds
NOTE: As mentioned above, contracted grips in this way take a lot more weight than would normally be used for reps, please take the time to move safely into this technique and in any case have a good spotter and safety clips in the rack, when you do that, it’s high stress. If you have any questions about your health before you can do such exercises, get checked by a doctor first.
Legs and back
Leg Press – 10 – 20 repetitions
Toe Press (on a leg press machine) – 5-8 reps with a 10-second hold of the contraction at the top between each rep
Barbell rows- 6-10
Smith Machine Barbell Row Hold – 7-10 seconds
(Before starting, set the Smith Machine pegs and belay in the center between the floor and the waist so that the bar sits on them. Bend over, lift the pegs and hold)
Chest, shoulders and arms
Incline Smith Machine Bench Press Contract Hold (1 inch from lock) 7-10 seconds
Lateral machine or Lateral dumbbell – 8-15 repetitions
Barbell Curls – 6-10 reps
Lying triceps extension – 6-10 repetitions
Back and legs
Pullovers (pre-exhalation with) – 6-10 repetitions
Pulling down (palms together) – 6-10 repetitions
Leg Press Hold (inch from lockout) 10 – 20 seconds
Stiff Leg Dead lifts or Hyper Extensions or Back Machine (eg Nautilus) – 10 – 20 reps
As you can see, we’re mixing pre-exhaustion with pull-down holds that would take a lot more weight than you would normally use just to failure.
For this reason, make sure to experiment with jumps and weights. A good example would be if you can bench press 200 pounds normally, you can more than likely start with 275 or 300 pounds for a contract hold, 1 inch from lockout. Also remember not to lock your elbows; rather, you barely move the rod from the pegs and hold.
It is imperative that adequate rest is provided when using a similar routine example to the one I have provided here (I have been testing this workout routine for the past 2 months with great results in both size and strength).
I would suggest doing one workout (not the full 4 workouts, but one workout) every 5 days until you get through all 4 and then start again unless you are extremely advanced. If so, you may need to insert extra rest days (7-10) and/or cut one exercise per workout to reduce it to 3 sets instead of 4.
HERE’S AN EXAMPLE: Delete the following exercise:
WO1 – Slopes
WO2 – Barbell Rows
WO3 – Lateral
WO4 – Pullovers or Stiff Deads/Hypers
Remember that you are doing nothing but managing stress here. So manage it as you get bigger and stronger and remember to use the two day rule!
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