Natural Bodybuilding and Overtraining

Natural bodybuilders recover slowly in comparison to steroid users. If a steroid-free lifter was to follow the routine of a professional bodybuilder or weightlifter, overtraining will occur because the organism will fail to recover adequately. Steroids speed up the recovery process and allow enhanced lifters to train harder and more frequently.

The famous weightlifting coach, Ivan Abadjiev, was 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 sleep only a few hours every night. To survive, the lifters needed anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs (PED). If a drug-free lifter was to try the real 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 due to frequent upper body training. A balanced program could 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 this statement is that people experience overtraining symptoms as a result of insufficient food intake. This statement is correct, to a point. If a bodybuilder does not eat enough, growth will not occur. But after a certain threshold, overeating will not 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 fails 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 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 the speed up the recovery that much. The body needs time to repair the damaged tissue. The repair process consists of small steps regulated by natural laws and principles.

Different people have different work capacities. If you are a beginner, you shouldn’t follow the routine of advanced bodybuilders. You have to experiment and re-evaluate after gathering some information. Don’t be afraid to overtrain a little bit. It won’t kill you. Just train smarter.

Q&A

Q: Will I overtrain if I train every day?

A: It depends on your workload. If you do one easy set every day, you won’t overtrain. In general, however, everyday training is saved for advanced and/or enhanced lifters.

Q: How often should natural bodybuilders train?

A: 2 to 4 times a week is a good choice.

Q: How often should natural bodybuilders train a body part?

A: About twice a week seems right. You can found more information on this topic here.

Q: My recovery is poor. Should I train using Mike Mentzer’s High-Intensity principles?

A: No. You can find more information why High-Intensity Training (HIT) is not optimal for natural bodybuilders here.

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