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Descending Sets and Overtraining

Posted Jan 04 2010 4:09pm
"Hey dude, it's been some time since I asked you a question. But as a teenager or beginner bodybuilder I think it's safer if my questions are answered by someone who knows his stuff and has experience.

"A while ago I changed to a new training routine in which I completely ignore repetitions and sets. I go for full weights with maximum reps +1 or 2 more reps, then lower the weight by about 10-20%. Then I do it again and again, so 3 times I lower the weight. Overall I do this some 3-4 times.

"So bench press with 100 kgs maybe 2-3 times plus a negative if i have a spotter. Then I lower to 90 or 80 kgs depending if that day I'm more repetition oriented. Then I max out, which is usually 5 to 7 times, and then I lower to 70 or 60 kgs and max out. This is one 'set'.

"So I might do 3-4 sets or sometimes one more. I've been getting unbelievable strength results and overall results, but I've been concerned on how much strain this type of workout does or if you know anything which O might be endangering. Because for example, leg training I can't walk the next day, and at the end of the week say Saturday morning I'm completely mashed up.

"I train 3 times a week, since I figured the harder you train the harder the rest and the nutrition. I eat up some 3000 calories, maybe more. So I'm wondering if there's really anything wrong with what I'm doing? I've read a lot about over-training but that's just sore tendons and so on and I have only been getting positive outcomes, except for my teeth because I bite so hard."

T. R.

My Answer: Looks like what you've been doing is... well... EVERYTHING! Descending sets, forced reps and negatives. Are you overtraining on this program? Well if you're making progress in size and strength, then you should be fine. As long as the soreness from training goes away in a few days, then you're OK. Micro tears can occur in your muscles, however, and cause tiny scarring. They naturally occur with intense weight training and will affect your flexibility later in life. Just remember to stretch after each workout.

Question is can you keep this going forever? The fact that you're using every set extension technique in the book tells me that you're going to burn out. You will either overtrain OR your muscles simply won't respond anymore, meaning you won't get any more muscle growth. Your muscles will actually get used to the overwhelming stress you're exposing them to in the gym.

How often are you training each muscle group? Are you training this way (drop sets, negatives and forced reps) every time? If you're training with such intensity that you're grinding your teeth, then train each muscle group just once a week. If you're training each other muscle group twice a week, then one workout should be your crazy kamikaze session, while the second workout should be an active recovery session of high reps and light weight to flush out the soreness from your muscles. No forced reps or descendind sets in the second workout.
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