Am I Overtraining My Arms with Too Many Sets and Reps?

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question-icon-newMy goal is to build huge muscular arms, so I have been training my biceps 3 times per week and doing 4 different exercises each workout. I do 4 sets of 8-10 reps for each exercise for my biceps (16 total sets per workout). However, my arms don’t seem to be growing like they should. I thought with this amount of training, my biceps would easily get bigger. I’m really hitting my guns hard every workout but I’m not growing at all! What am I doing wrong?

answer-icon-newYou’re overtraining your biceps big time! They are so overworked that they have basically stopped growing and plateaued. Your current workout regimen consists of way too many sets for your biceps. Keep your working sets to 6-8 maximum for smaller muscle groups (biceps, triceps, calves) and 10-12 for larger muscle groups (chest, legs, back). Do a light warm-up set of 15-20 reps and then move into your working sets. You should NOT be training your biceps 3 times a week! This will easily lead to overtraining issues and your arms will not grow at all because you’re not giving them enough time to rest and recover after each workout. Train each muscle group only once per week for the best results. Muscles grow outside of the gym, not inside. Hit it hard and then let your muscles get plenty of rest so they can grow. Keep your repetitions between 6-12 per set for hypertrophy (muscle growth).

Overtraining refers to a situation where your training sessions supersede the capacity of your body so that it becomes difficult to recover sufficiently between workouts. This means that you are training too much and too hard with not enough time to fully rest and recover. Other factors such as a poor diet can add to overtraining issues due to insufficient nutrients (protein, carbs, fat) being consumed. However, the main cause of your overtraining issues deals primarily with doing too many overall sets with limited rest periods.

There are several symptoms that indicate you may be overtraining. First, you will notice that you are simply not growing and getting any bigger. You may also notice that you do not have enough energy during your workout sessions. Another sign is that your arm muscles will be very sore from the last workout and continue to be sore for several days after your workout. You should never train a muscle group if you’re experiencing soreness in the area.

You may also find its difficult to sleep at night with periods of restlessness. Your energy levels may drop throughout the day as you go about your daily routine. In extreme cases of overtraining, you may suffer from anxiety and depression.

As mentioned earlier, your diet may play a big role in developing overtraining issues. Overall calorie intake, protein, carbohydrate and water intake are major factors to consider. When your body lacks water, protein, calories and carbohydrates, it will experience problems recovering and repairing your muscle tissue after a workout. If the deficiency of these crucial nutrients is great enough, you may even notice a decrease in overall muscle mass.

When your body becomes overtrained, a common issue is hitting a plateau. This means you fail to make any gains in muscle size or strength despite continuous training sessions. Most often, when a person hits a plateau, he or she will actually start working out more because they think they are not working hard enough. This is a huge mistake and is among the major causes of making overtraining issues even worse.

It is never too late to reverse the effects of overtraining. Consider aspects of your life such as your free time, your training goals, your level of fitness and the type of job you do. The type of job you perform may either be office based or manual, and this will determine the amount of energy available for workout sessions. For instance, a person working at a construction site for 8 hours a day and also lifting weights for 5 days a week will have a much higher chance of overtraining which ends up with little or no results.

Since you are currently not growing or getting any bigger, its probably smart to take some time off since it sounds like you are severely overtrained. Take 2 weeks off of training and take a break. This means absolutely no exercise at all! You need to let your body fully recover and get itself out of this condition. After 2 weeks, slowly get back into the gym and start training but don’t overdo it. Cut your overall sets down for 1-2 per workout for your biceps and take a few additional weeks just to make sure you do not trigger any further overtraining issues.

The bottom line to avoid overtraining is to simply rest and let your body recover. Train each muscle group only once per week and focus on a maximum of 60 minutes per workout. A great way to structure your workouts is by using a split routine where you train only 1-2 muscle groups per workout. Break up all of the muscle groups over the course of 5 days for a great way to structure an effective workout program. When you are out of the gym, try to relax and make sure to nourish your body with nutrient dense whole foods high in protein, clean carbs and healthy fats which will help to fuel your body optimally so you can train hard and recover fully! If you follow these rules, you will be on your way to re-igniting muscle growth!

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