Are You Overtraining?
Overtraining is a constant topic of debate in the fitness community. It is almost as if there is some type of mythical Overtraining Boogie Man that is going to take all of your gains and negate all of your hard work.
People say you cannot weight train for longer than 40 minutes, you should only work a body part once a week, or that increasing workout volume will lead to muscle loss instead of muscle gain.
Another popular fear with overtraining is that the central nervous system will become fatigued. This will cause weakness and not allow a person to maximize their lifting potential.
Is This Stuff Really True?
When it comes to weight training, this fear is mostly just perpetuated propaganda by supplement companies. It is just a sales tactic to get you to buy their over priced products.
In actuality it is extremely difficult to overtrain while simply resistance training.
The workload or stimulus needs to be much more taxing than most resistance training protocol for overtraining to occur. Long distance runners and triathletes are way more susceptible to overtraining than any bodybuilder or your average gym goer.
Overtraining is clinically defined in sports medicine. In short, it is continual overreaching over long periods of time (weeks-months). This leads to under performance syndrome, elevated heart rate, weight loss, and fatigue.
The term overreaching means undertaking activity that is above your body’s normal capacity for work.
That sounds familiar doesn’t it?
It sounds very similar to the principal of overload. Overload is how we get our body to change. Without overload change would cease to exist. Bodybuilding and weight training is literally repeated overreaching efforts.
Every time we start a new workout, increase our intensity, or do more work than we did previously we are overreaching.
We do this on purpose!
We do this in hopes that our body will adapt to the increased stimulus by repairing itself stronger and bigger. Lucky for us, the body is very adaptable and this change will take place.
Still not convinced? Think About This…
There are individuals who do construction, demolition, and other types of physical labor every single day. They lift heavy objects and perform multiple deadlifts on a daily basis.
At first, these people might feel sore and it definitely is an overreaching stimulus. Eventually though, this soreness becomes minimal to nonexistent and the stimulus is no longer overreaching.
This occurs because the body has adapted to the overreaching stimulus and physiological change has taken place. This change allows the body to efficiently handle the workload that has been continually applied to it.
Individuals with these types of jobs resistance train for long periods of time (8+ hours) on a daily basis and some even workout after work, yet these individuals aren’t overtrained. In comparison, you spend about 60 minutes a day working out but you are afraid of overtraining? Seems a bit silly doesn’t it?
In fact, as it pertains to weight training, most people that say they “overtrained” have simply overreached. They have worked past their body’s ability to recover in a timely fashion.
Over use injuries are also confused with overtraining. Over use injuries occur from repetitive movement patterns. Some might make the case that this is a type of overtraining, but by clinical definition it is not. Just because you have tendonitis doesn’t mean you are overtrained, it means there is not enough variation in your workout program. To avoid over use injuries vary your movements and lifts.
The only way to overtrain is to continually overreach everyday while constantly increasing the workload (to account for adaptations) over weeks and months. This just simply is not happening in most cases.
So How Does This Apply to You?
You have to know your limits. Everyone has a different capacity for work. You have to know your body and understand the workload that it is accustomed to.
Exercise more than your biceps. Exercise a little bit of common sense.
Someone who is new to weight training will have a much lower capacity for work than someone who has been training for years. Overreaching, overload, and overtraining are all relative to the individual. Nothing is set in stone.
My point is, don’t let the fear of overtraining stop you from achieving. Always try to exceed expectations, continually improve, and push yourself. Become better than you were yesterday.
Doing a bit more in the gym is not going to kill you or your gains!
I guess the saying is true… what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.