I've been doing a workout inspired by Body By Science for the last 5 weeks. I can't do the whole book justice in a quick post, but in a nutshell it recommends doing a single set of 3-5 exercises slowly, with high intensity, and to failure once per week. The purpose of the exercise is to exhaust all four types of muscle fibers simultaneously and drain their glucogen reservoirs. Supposedly this sets off different cascading effects within the body for strength gain, general endurance (including "cardio") and fat loss. The workouts are spaced a week apart because supposedly it takes that time to fully recover and more frequent workouts are counterproductive. The explanations in the book are referenced and if there's any dubious science, I missed it.
I've found that it seems to have maintained my strength, weight, body fat %, etc. with only the short weekly workout, but I am stagnant. I'm not getting any stronger (as measured by time-under-load) or any lighter (as measured by drop in scale weight or body fat %). I have not changed any other aspect of my lifestyle; sleep, diet, supplements, stress level have all been constant.
I would like some help diagnosing what the problem is:
- Flaw in the book's premise or research?
- Flaw in my workout (will describe below)?
- Flaw in my progress measurements? (Perhaps my "intensity" is increasing so I tire myself out faster, making time-under-load a poor indicator of progress)
My workout details:
- Once per week, one set per exercise (5 total)
- 5 freeweight exercises, in order: Bench Press, Squat, Upright Barbell Row, Standing Barbell Shoulder Press, Deadlift
- I use a weight for each that allows approximately 1 minute of time-under-load before I fail, doing sets at approx. a 5 sec. cadence
- I track progress by measuring time-under-load (start to failure) with a stopwatch; I do not count reps
- Enough rest between exercises to move the bar/weights and set up the next exercise. I'll wait a bit long if I'm breathing hard (my heart rate stays elevated throughout, I'm just resting to get my breath back)
I think I'm following the spirit of the book's recommendations, but for full disclosure here are the areas I can think of in which I deviate (the book didn't seem to indicate that these would be significant problems):
- I'm using free weights instead of the recommended Nautilus machines (primarily because I use my home gym and that's what I have). I use a power rack, so I can safely bench & squat to true failure.
- I use a 5 sec. cadence instead of the 10 sec. recommended by the book, mostly because I can't go any slower than 5 without feeling like I'm stopping.
Update: I've selected an answer, which I think addresses my issue well, but I'd like to add a couple additional items of note that I've tried (neither seemed to affect my performance) in case anyone else follows in my footsteps:
- According to the follow-on BBS Q&A book (and one or two of the answers below), 7 days may not be enough recovery time especially for bigger guys. I've tried increasing that to 10-11 days.
- Started up a regimen of creatine and L-glutamine to help improve recovery.