Understanding Training

Updated June 11, 2020

Most lifters have a decent grasp of training theory. Lift heavy and hard, rest and eat. But do they?

The lifting heavy and hard part is easy. Go into the gym, bust your butt, leave. “Nuff said. And the eating part…ahhhh, the eating part. Who here amongst us doesn’t like to eat? And who here amongst us doesn’t know that to grow, you must eat five plus meals a day, get enough protein, yada, yada, yada. The eating and the training part is pretty easy.

But what about rest? It is almost widely accepted that you should rest a muscle (or muscle groups) at least until they are no longer sore. For most, four days in between working the same bodypart is the soonest we’ll lift. But most lifters err on the side of caution, preferring to work the same bodypart every 5-7 days.

Have you ever asked yourself why this is? Have you ever asked yourself if this method of rest is the only way? The best way? Probably not. Rest is good, right? And the more rest, the better. End of story.

But that’s not the end of the story. Let’s explore rest.

Conventional bodybuilding revolves around a rest theory called supercompensation. Big word, huh? You betcha.

Supercompensation basically means that a lifter trains each bodypart infrequently to avoid overtraining. In supercompensation theory, the only real variable to growth is rest. How long should I rest a bodypart? Five days, seven days, or ten to 20 days? Supercompensation says, I blast my body, deplete it, damage it, and rest it, then it grows back stronger. Simple, eh?

The enemy of supercompensation theory is the opposite of resting: training too frequently. Most of us will equate training too frequently with training while still sore. This is generally the case, but not often.

And what does this enemy of supercompensation carry in its bag of tricks? Overtraining! Exactly. Supercompensation states that if you don’t get enough rest, your muscles haven’t had enough time to repair themselves, and if you lift again you will be overtraining.

We all know this, right? Yes. But before I lose you over-explaining the obvious, let me make this bold statement:

The best lifters in the world don’t believe in supercompensation.

What? Blasphemy? It can’t be!?! Lies! Bold faced lies! Heretic!

Now, we all feel better getting that out of our system. Let me explain my bold statement by first providing a quote. Keep in mind, the enemy of supercompensation is a training theory call Dual Factor Training.

The reasoning that almost everyone involved in strength training adheres to the Dual Factor Theory is because there is scientific proof that it works, not to mention that the Eastern Bloc countries that have adhered to this theory have killed the U.S. at every Olympics since the 1950s. — Matt Reynolds

Matt Reynolds is stating that supercompensation is not only wrong, but that it has been out performed by a training theory called Dual Factor Training for the last 50 years. Sounds radical doesn’t it? But it’s true.

So what exactly is Dual Factor Training, and why should you care?

Dual factor training is the theory that two factors, fatigue AND fitness, affect your training. DFT theory says that as you train hard and heavy, not only does your fatigue increase, but also your fitness.

So, you’re busting your hump, training like a madman, hammering each bodypart three times a week, and bammo, you’re tired. You’re over-tired. No, you’re overtrained! What now? DFT dictates that you de-load.

De-loading, or cruising as Doggcrapp calls it, is a state of active rest. You lift, but just not as much. During this active rest period your body’s fatigue (or that overtraining state) decreases, but your fitness level remains. So, in reality, your strength, and your body’s ability and desire to pack on mass increases. You are not only in great lifting shape; you have a greater degree of fitness.

Think of it in terms of cardio. Let’s say you run on a treadmill six times a week, and you have pushed yourself to where you can do 10 miles a day. After repeated (and seemingly endless) training sessions, your body begins to feel tired and overtrained. Now let’s say you limit your running during the next two weeks to every other day, and you only run 3 miles. During this active rest time your fitness level remains, but your fatigue level slowly retreats.

By the end of your active rest period, you are at your strongest point; your peak. You are at a point of maximal fitness and minimum fatigue. What do you do next? Go back into the gym and hit the weights hard and frequently once again. You continue to cycle the load, de-load cycles.

This, my friends, is how Eastern Bloc countries have been dominating us. While we train one day and rest the next six, DFT trainees are busting their humps, over reaching, building up fitness and performance over time.

So here’s the bottom line: to increase performance, you must increase fitness. To increase fitness, you must train more frequently. Increased performance leads to greater strength, and of course, greater muscle mass.

But before you run out to the gym and hammer yourself into oblivion, develop a plan. Natural lifters can’t take as much pounding. Try to push yourself over the course of 2-3 weeks, training each body part anywhere from three times a week to once every 4 days. During this 2-3 week period, you will feel your body growing tired. You want to stop just short of overtraining.

This zone is what’s called the over-reaching zone. You are not quite overtrained, but you are tired as all get out, and your body is telling you, pull back. Then, for the next 1-2 weeks, de-load. Instead of doing 4 sets of 8 reps with 225 pounds, do 3 sets of 5 reps with 225 pounds. Get it?

De-loading is not an exact science, just as Dual Factor Training is not a workout program. There are a million ways to train within the framework of DFT, and a million ways to de-load. It is up to you to learn your body, understand when it’s time to de-load, and then learn what volume and frequency allows you to come back the next cycle stronger then ever.

Now comes the hard part: smashing down fears and breaking old habits. You probably have a deep, ingrained fear of training while you are sore. Smash this fear. Push forward. it is your path to faster gains, heavier weights and better training.

After all, if a runner ran 10 miles today, and then decided to rest 6-7 days, how long would it take before his fitness and performance peaked, and then started to decrease? A month? Lifting is the same way. Runner’s push through soreness, and so should you.

NOTE: One area that I didn’t address in this article is injuries.

DFT training for non-steroid users is a much tougher road, especially for older lifters. While I have no information to draw from regarding injury rates, I imagine the the risk increase is greater for non-users and older lifters.

To incorporate DFT into a natural routine and lifestyle might simply mean training every 4-5 (or even 6 days) days, and working in de-load cycles.

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