Natural bodybuilders recover slowly compared to steroid users. If a steroid free lifter was to follow the routine of a professional bodybuilder or weightlifter, overtraining will occur. In general, overtraining is caused by poor recovery. If an individual trains every day with no rest, the body may not have enough time to recover and grow. In similar situation lifters usually lose strength and feel constantly tired. Steroids speed up recovery and enhanced lifters train more frequently and way harder.
The famous weightlifting coach Ivan Abadjiev is known for his rigorous training regimen. The Bulgarian lifters were training day and night. One Abadjiev’s trainees, Stefan Botev, has said in interviews that it was not uncommon to only sleep a few hours. In order to survive such torture the lifters needed tons of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs (PED).
If a drug free lifter was to try the TRUE Bulgarian method, he would be injured very fast due to overtraining.
Overtraining should not be taken lightly. It can cause serious problems and some injuries may become chronic. For example, many people experience elbow tendonitis because of too frequent upper body training. A balanced program is needed to keep overtraining away. If you are bench pressing heavy weights 5 days a week, sooner or later it will catch up with you, especially if you are a natural bodybuilder.
Jay Cutler has a famous quote on overtraining: ”There is no such thing as overtraining, there’s only undereating.” The idea behind that statement is that people experience the symptoms of overtraining due to the lack macro nutrients provided through food. This statement is correct, to a certain point. If a bodybuilder does not eat enough, growth will not occur. But after a certain threshold, no matter how much you eat, you will overtrain if the workload is too high. So, overeating will save you from overtraining.
One of the popular training routines for beginners is Starting Strength. It’s actually based on that same principle – eating beats overtraining. The creator of the program is Mark Rippetoe who openly advertises the so-called GOMAD diet which requires the bodybuilder to consume 1 gallon of milk a day. If the lifter is not able to perform all of his sets and reps, he is advised to eat more. This method fails miserably and has produced a large amount of fat and still overtrained individuals. Food is good and natural bodybuilders need it, but there is one more ingredient that many forget – time and patience.
The body is pre-programmed. You cannot fight nature. If your arm is broken, eating all the cheese in the world will not make the recovery much shorter. The body needs time to repair the damaged tissue. The repair process consists of small steps regulated by natural laws and principles.
The goal is to find a happy medium. You want some stress on the body, but not that much that regress occurs. On the other hand training too little is also not an option. If the stress imposed on the body is not sufficient, muscle growth will not occur.
Different people have different work capacities. If you are a beginner, you should obviously not follow the routine of advanced bodybuilders. You have to experiment and re-evaluate after you have some more information. Don’t be afraid to overtrain a little bit. It won’t kill you. Just train smarter.
Q: Will I overtrain if I train everyday?
A: It depends on your workload. If you do one easy set every day you won’t overtrain even if you were to train every day. If you do three really hard sets daily, overtraining will most likely occur. Your body will give you many signs. Just listen to them.
Q: How often should natural bodybuilders train?
A: It depends on your experience and capacity. However, anything over 4 days seems a little too much, specially for amateurs and recreational lifters.
Q: How often should natural bodybuilders train a bodypart?
A: About twice a week seems right. If you follow the routine of guys like Ronnie Coleman and only train a bodypart once a week there won’t be enough stimulation. You have to understand that bodybuilders who use steroids can get away with too frequent or infrequent training. In both situations they will grow. As a natural you are very limited. You must find the right amount of work, that allows progress, but does not overwhelm you.
Q: My recovery is poor. Should I train using Mike Mentzer‘s High Intensity principles?
A: No. You can find more information why High Intesity Training (HIT) is not optimal for natural bodybuilders in the article: High Intensity Training Is Not For Natural Bodybuilders