Want A Big Bench Press?
By: Mike Westerdal
Then you're probably determined to get one. It's that same determination that will be your struggle. The more you want it, the harder you want to work and the longer you want to stay in the gym. This is going to lead to overtraining which will stunt any strength gains you've made and delay any dreams of an even bigger bench.
How do you know if you're at risk of overtraining? If you feel run down after a workout, notice that you aren't making any gains, you always do forced reps, you're not getting enough rest, your diet stinks, you have a bad attitude or you aren't motivated you're probably overtraining. Insomnia is another big sign. Put it this way, if a weight continually feels heavier than normal, chances are you haven't gotten weaker, you just haven't recovered from previous workouts.
There are three distinct stages of metabolism. The first is a state of equilibrium easily described as the fully recovered state where energy is neither being depleted and tissue is not being damaged or repaired. The second stage is catabolism. Catabolism is the stage you are in during a workout. Energy is being depleted and muscle tissue is being damaged. Your goals should be to keep catabolism in the gym, but many people that overtrain keep this stage going long after their workouts end and lose hard-earned muscle tissue to help the recovery. Finally the stage that usually doesn't get much of a chance to kick in before we're back in the gym for another session. The third stage is anabolism where energy is restored and tissue damage is being repaired. So after you lift you want to heal and reach a state of homeostasis,but instead many of us are back in the gym tearing our muscles and using energy when we haven't even let the muscle fully recover from the previous workout. Never lift a muscle group that is still sore. I know it's difficult but sometimes more isn't better.
There is always the urge to overtrain thinking that if we just work harder the gains will come. How do we resist the urge? First off lets think, quality not quantity. If you lift each muscle group only once a week and spend less than 1 hr in the gym you're on the right path. Although you don't have to spend a lot of time in the gym the time spent must be intense. Every single exercise and rep should be performed with a passion and you will accomplish more in 45 minutes than most people do in two hours. If you are truly pushing yourself you should be exhausted at the end of the workout. After tearing your body apart, do you think it's going to be ready to do it again in two to three days? I think not, try at least a week.
So all you benchers out there if you're lifting heavy, workout after workout make sure that the reason you hit a plateau is not that you are trying too often. Let your body recover, heal, and grow before you start ripping it up again. When you hit each body part several times a week you don't really try as hard because you know you'll get another shot at it in a week. When you only lift each body part once per week you develop a sense of urgency. You know you better lift hard because you won't get another chance to train it again for a week. Then as the week passes by you find yourself looking forward to your next chest day. Anyone that thinks they might be overtraining take a couple of days off and go back to the gym revived and motivated with the determination to train smarter and harder.
Mike Westerdal is the President of Critical Bench, Inc. He earned his BS from Central CT State University and holds certification as a personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise. Westerdal also has experience coaching and playing professional football. His articles are published throughout the Web and in numerous weight lifting magazines including Monster Muscle. His best RAW bench press is currently 450 lbs. He is the author of the Critical Bench Program which can be found at http://www.criticalbench.com/program.htm
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