Recently, I watched a few videos on YouTube related to nutrition and bodybuilding. In one video, the self-appointed "expert" suggested that the key to obtaining massive muscular arms involved doing 3 sets of 100 repetitions of lying triceps extensions, using 15-pound dumbbells, alternated with 3 sets of Hammer biceps curls with the same weight, doing 60 reps per set. All three sets were done in superset fashion, with no rest between sets. The expert also advised that this should be done immediately prior to sleep, with no food or supplements ingested afterward. He explained that you would "dream of huge arms." and this dream would become reality. He also noted that for best results, this routine should be done every night for at least 30 days, but could be done for as long as a year or more. Another pseudo-expert advised in another YouTube video that the notion of overtraining was, as he put it, "Bullshit." He felt that anyone could train as much as they want, whenever they wanted, and still make tremendous muscle size and strength gains. Both of these videos have at least one thing in common: They have absolutely not a shred of science behind them. But then again, there are no minimum qualifications to upload a video to YouTube. As these two idiots prove, any moron can do it.
What these "Internet stars" fail to realize is the concept of applied stress in relation to exercise. While the word "stress" often implies bad connotations in many people's minds, it's the degree of stress and how it's perceived that determines whether stress proves beneficial or toxic. We've all heard about those people that love their work so much that they think nothing of putting in 18-hour days. Yet, they show no signs of distress despite this huge work output. One reason for this is that they perceive what they are doing as enjoyable, and by doing so, the systems in the body that are on the alert to out-of-control stress reactions are never activated. Exercise is stress, in that it causes changes in the body that lead to adaptations in order to deal with the stress imposed by exercise. Similarly to other things, the stress of exercise can be either beneficial or deleterious, depending on a number of factors.
To fully understand how stress affects exercise, you need to first understand a concept known as hormesis. Perhaps the best way to describe hormesis is to quote the famous statement by the man considered to be the father of toxicology, a 15th-century Swiss physician named Paracelsus. Paracelsus' famous statement was "All things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing, not a poison." This quote has often been shortened to simply, "Only the dose determines the poison." This simple statement succinctly explains what hormesis is . . .