IFBB Pro Jessie Hilgenberg's Blog / Overtraining & Progression

Overtraining & Progression

How to avoid the plateaus

As I'm finally feeling like I'm kicking this cold out the door - I've been thinking a lot about what I had to do to truly allow my body to recover. My cold lasted about 7 days. I did go to the gym 3 or 4 times and do some light cardio but I skipped all of my weight training. I'd MUCH rather have it be the opposite! I just know myself well enough to know that I don't know how to "take it easy" when I lift…so I thought cardio would be the safest way to get some exercise in lightly. "Body building" in any form is such a mind game. If you're anything like me, taking a day off can bring guilt. Taking many days off makes me feel like everything I've worked for in the past 3 years is going to go away. Haha! Taking that week off was hard on my brain, but now that it's over…it's probably EXACTLY what my body needed! I was at a little bit of a plateau with BodySpace Spokesmodel search prep (stuck at a number on the scale, wasn't seeing myself get leaner in the mirror, etc) and now - after the week off - getting back to the gym and catching up on some sleep I feel like everything I've been trying to do has kicked in! I'm ready!

While I was forced to take a week off - sometimes you really need to allow yourself to change it up like that. Even if it's not a week off…it can be a week of a different training style, different diet set up, etc. Any form of exercise that you do that puts you in a state of overtraining or that lacks progression will cease to continually give you results.

As for overtraining, it occurs when we train beyond our body's ability to recover. Having great, long-term results from training requires a balance between intense exercise and recovery. Too much intensity and/or too little recovery will stop you in your tracks. Often, we exercise longer and harder so we can get the results we're after. Taking days off makes us feel guilty. But without adequate rest and recovery, training like this can backfire, and actually decrease performance. Keep in mind that your body repairs, strengthens and changes itself IN BETWEEN workouts, not during. If you don't allow your body to rest, all its systems will begin to resist you. You will stop seeing results and, eventually, burn out.
As for progression...as an example, I have put on about 8lbs of muscle over the past 4 years of training for competition. I would have not been able to continually gain muscle size if the exercises I perform do not get harder and harder. When you do the same thing over and over again, it gets easier and progressively LESS challenging and in a short period of time, usually just a couple of months or less, your body will have fully adapted to the training and no longer needs to keep changing to meet the demand you are placing on it. Switching up the actual exercises is one way, along with adding more weight or more reps over time to those same exercises. Those are the things that produce change and keep your body working hard.

It’s continual progression like this that creates the possibility to yield fat loss and promote lean muscle. But you still have to eat clean and feed your body the right fuel! It’s about providing your body a challenge that makes it NOT want to store fat – activating all its resources to prevent body fat from unpacking its bags and staying a while.


Jessie Hilgenberg, IFBB Figure Pro

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