An Experiment in Overreaching

TAGS: Daily exercise, loaded stretch, vacation training, occlusion set, high frequency training, CTP training, workout, overreaching, david allen, overtraining, bodybuilding

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Last month I had a scheduled vacation, a much needed week long cruise after a tough couple months of doing a bodybuilding show and beginning the daunting task of preparing to move NBS Fitness into a new facility. I was very much looking forward to the vacation as I needed some time off but being the ever-present meathead that I am, I wanted to find a way to maximize my “vacation gains.” I knew I wouldn’t be very physically active on the cruise and I would be making plenty of use of the all-you-can-eat buffet that was open 24 hours a day. So I decided to use the time beforehand to try and overreach a bit so I could use the time off to super compensate a bit. If you’re not familiar with the term, overreaching refers to purposefully out-training your recovery abilities to in order to maximize the body’s adaptation abilities and reach a level of fitness and/or muscularity greater than when you first started the process.

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MORE: You can read a bit more about overreaching in my article here. 


I’m currently following the CTP training style that I outline in How I Use CTP Training to Force Frequency and Intensity. I did eight straight days of CTP from the Friday before Thanksgiving through the Friday after Thanksgiving then left for the cruise Saturday morning. Here are the eight days of training from my log:

A2

  • Seated Calf Raises, 3 sec pause at the bottom and 1 count flex at the top, work up to a heavy set of 6, do 5 sets with a 30 sec break (3.15)
  • Loaded Stretch Calf Raise Machine (3 plates x 2 min) go 4 plates
  • Hammer Decline Press, 3x10 with a 5 sec negative (3 plates each side)
  • Seated Neutral DB Front Raises with 3 Count Negative, 3x12 (25)
  • Behind the head EZ Bar Tricep Extensions, lean forward and get a good stretch, 3x10 with 5 sec negative (180,185,190,195,200)
  • Leg Extensions, 4x20,drop max, drop max, 25 partials (80-60-45)
  • Occlusion Set Leg Extensions (25)

B2

  • Barbell RDL's, work up to a heavy set of 8, rest 30 max reps, rest 30 max reps (355x8,8,3 right hammy felt funny)
  • Loaded Stretch Hanging RDL Stretch (did body weight)
  • Single Arm Cable Rear Delts, 3x12 with 5 sec negative (25)
  • a1 Wide Grip Pulldowns, 4x15,12,10,8 pause at bottom, get a good stretch at the top (130,140,150,160)
  • a2 Seated Wide Grip Cable Rows, 4x15,12,10,8 pause at chest, get a good stretch (120,130,140,150)
  • Occlusion Set Rope Cable Pullovers (80-60)
  • Single Arm Cross Body Hammer Curls, 4x12, drop max reps, drop max reps, do all one arm before switching  (50-40-30)
  • Occlusion Set Standing EZ Bar Cable Curls (60)

A3

  • Squats, work up to a heavy set of 6, 4x4 cluster sets with 30 seconds break (395)
  • Loaded Stretch Quad Stretch on 45 Degree Hyper (2 minutes)
  • Standing Calf Raises, 3x15 with 4 sec negative (130)
  • A1 Pec Deck 4x12 (110)
  • A2 Incline DB Press 4x8 (85)
  • Occlusion Set Pec Deck Flys (50)
  • DB Side Raises 4x15, 25 partials on last set (25)
  • Occlusion Set Standing Cable Side Raises (20)
  • B1 Rope Pressdowns, 4x12, 1 count pause at bottom (115)
  • B2 Close Grip Push-ups, 4xMax reps (14,12,9)
  • Occlusion Set Seated Rope Tricep Extensions (40)

B3

  • Wide Grip Elbows Out  Chest Supported Rows, work up to a heavy set of 8, rest 30 max reps, rest 30 max reps, pause at the top (105x8,5,4)
  • Loaded Stretch Cross Body Arm Stretch (2 min)
  • Single Arm Pulldowns, 4x12 with 5 sec negative (65)
  • 45 degree Round Back Hypers, 3xmax with 5 sec negative (40x14,14,14)
  • EZ Bar Cable Curls, 3x10 with 7 sec negative (120)
  • Laying Leg Curls, 4x12, drop max, drop max, 20 partials (32.5-20-15)
  • Occlusions Set Seated Banded Leg Curls

A1

  • Close Grip Bench Press, work up to 6 RM, then do 4 cluster sets of 4 reps with a 30 sec break in between each set (275x4,4,3,255x3)
  • Loaded Stretch Pec Deck (130x1:45)
  • Standing Swiss Bar Shoulder Press, work up to a 8RM max, rest 30 seconds, do a set of max reps, rest 30 seconds, do a set of max reps (160x8,5,4)
  • Loaded Stretch Single Arm Rope Cable Behind the Head (100x2 min)
  • Close Stance Hack Squats, do 3x10 with a 5 count negative, only come down to parallel (add bands) (2.25+orange bands)
  • Standing Calf Raises, work up in weight doing sets of 20 reps, after reaching a max weight, drop weight and complete 15 reps, drop weight again and do 10 reps (90-70-45)
  • Occlusion Set Leg Press Calf Raises

B1

  • Deadlifts Off 2 to 3-inch Mats, work up to a heavy 6, do 4x4 cluster with same weight, 30 sec break between clusters (555)
  • Bent Rows, work up to a max set of 8, rest 30 sec max reps, rest 30 sec max reps, good stretch and pause for flex at top (215)
  • Loaded Stretch Hanging Lat Stretch, from pull-up bar (45 x 2 min)
  • EZ Bar Curls, work up to a heavy set of 8, drop set 3x6 cluster with 30 sec break (50-35)
  • Loaded Stretch Single Arm Kettlebell Preacher curl (20x2 min)
  • Laying Leg Curls 3x10 w/5 sec negative  (add bands) (25 + micro)
  • Bent Rear Raises 3x20 reps, drop 15, drop 10 (20-17.5-12)
  • Occlusion Set Single Arm Rear Delt Cables

A2

  • Seated Calf Raises, 3 sec pause at the bottom and 1 count flex at the top, work up to a heavy set of 6, do 5 sets with a 30 sec break (3.25)
  • Loaded Stretch Calf Raise Machine (4 plates x 2 min)
  • Hammer Decline Press 3x10 with a 5 sec negative (2.25 plus doubled mini bands)
  • Seated Neutral DB Front Raises with 3 count negative, 3x12 (add bands) (15 + micro)
  • Behind the Head EZ Bar Tricep Extensions, lean forward and get a good stretch, 3x10 with 5 sec negative (add bands)
  • Leg Extensions 4x20, drop max, drop max, 25 partials (90-65-40)
  • Occlusion Set Leg Extensions (35)

B2

  • Barbell RDL's, work up to a heavy set of 8, rest 30 max reps, rest 30 max reps (355x8,8,8) and
  • Loaded Stretch Hanging RDL Stretch (135 x 1 min)
  • Single Arm Cable Rear Delts 3x12 with 5 sec negative (add bands) (20+micro)
  • a1 Wide Grip Pulldowns 4x15,12,10,8 pause at bottom, get a good stretch at the top (140,150,160,170)
  • a2 Seated Wide Grip Cable Rows 4x15,12,10,8 pause at chest, get a good stretch (140,150,160,170)
  • Occlusion Set Rope Cable Pullovers (70)
  • Single Arm Cross Body Hammer Curls 4x12, drop max reps, drop max reps, do all one arm before switching (55-45-35)
  • Occlusion Set Standing EZ Bar Cable Curls (70)

2015-06-28 12.02.04

The workouts would usually take between two and two and a half hours, including the warmup. I work with Shelby Starnes for nutrition and was eating a pretty decent amount of calories and carbs on these training days, around 4700+ calories and 500 grams of carbs. Before going to the eight days straight of CTP I had dropped to four days a week post contest to give my body and mind a break from the grind of contest prep. I thought jumping up the frequency so quick would start to take a toll on me and I would start to feel beat up and suffer some of the common issues that come with not fully recovering. For me personally this has been lack of appetite, trouble sleeping, joint pain, and overall fatigue. Surprisingly, by the end of the eight days I felt fantastic. In fact, I actually felt a bit better than I had before on just the four days. I felt like any joint pain or stiffness decreased and I felt more energetic through out the day (of note, I was and continue to do 20 minutes of steady state daily along with yoga on my non-training day, so I was still doing some form of daily exercise prior to jumping up to eight days of weight training).

The cruise consisted of sitting by the pool or beach drinking sugary cocktails, enjoying the many food varieties available, going on excursions, and enjoying the entertainment available. Physique wise, I didn’t feel flat during the eight days of training, but I definitely filled out significantly over the first three days on the water. I actually checked my weight about half way in and I was about from 236 the morning before we left to 244. I was still tight and hadn’t seem to “spill over” much. At the end of every day the first three days I was very happy with how I was looking. By the fourth day, that all changed. I started to hold more and more water and I lost the tight look I had at the beginning. I also started to feel fatigued more and more and didn’t have the same constant energy throughout the day I had before.

When I got back home, I went back to my previous four-day setup and my weight dropped back down to 237 by the following Friday. My energy labels stabilized after getting back on my regular sleep and nutrition routine.

Here are my take aways from this experience:

  • If you’re doing what you need to do to promote recovery (nutrition and sleep) then your body can handle a ton of stress over a short period of time. Lack of recovery is going to be the main culprit in overtraining, not over intense training.
  • CTP training is built around the idea of high frequency training. When the total volume per muscle group per workout is low then higher frequency is more appropriate. 48 hour recovery was plenty when done for only eight days.
  • True overreaching would require greater volume per muscle group per workout or an extended period of everyday training, at least for myself.
  • Daily exercise is a great stimulant. Intense weight training might not be the best thing for everyone every day, but engaging in some type of physical activity every day can have major impacts on energy, brain function, and recovery. Doing 20 minutes of steady state cardio everyday has been great for me in all areas.
  • If you’re truly pushing yourself in training and are already at a decent body fat level, you can get away with eating certain “bad” food but only for so long. Enjoying the holidays, going on vacation, giving yourself a short break from the monotony of nutrition can be good for soul if you’ve been solid up until that point and is unlikely to set you back much. Even if it does you can balance back out relatively quickly by getting back on the plan.

Now that you’ve read about my experience, what kind of experience have you had with overreaching or overtraining?

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