Sometimes, it’s what you don’t do.
Sometimes too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. This can be applied to the gym or exercising in general. Overtraining occurs when exercise volume or intensity exceeds the individual’s ability to recover. There is a fine line between doing the right amount of exercise to stimulate muscle growth and doing so much that the body can’t recover. Another way to put it is under-recovering; the body simply cannot keep up with so much volume, and there is no time to rebuild, which then taxes the central nervous system (CNS).
Overtraining is very personalized. It depends on different factors, such as:
- Stress levels
- Years of experience in quality training
- Nutrition intake
A beginner can make great progress while hitting the same muscle group three times a week, while an experienced lifter may only be able to hit a certain muscle group twice, or maybe even once a week. As one gets stronger, the weight used has to be heavier in order to create the desired training effect. This increased intensity means more rest is required for the central nervous system. The more volume or weight that is required to create a desired training effect, the more recovery time a muscle will need.
Overtraining can lead to multiple mental and physical issues. These include:
- Reduced strength/size gains
- Muscle loss
- Hormonal imbalances
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of sleep/trouble falling asleep
- Frequent Injuries
- Elevated heart rate, especially at waking up
- Constant fatigue
- Tremors or twitches
- Frequent colds and infections, an overly taxed CNS can lead to a compromised immune system
- Diminishing grip strength
- Low vertical jump
There are many symptoms to look for. However, displaying one or two of these symptoms is not necessarily indicative of overtraining. If you are experiencing three or more symptoms, it may be time to re-evaluate. It can be difficult to recover from being over-trained; the best thing to do is avoid it! Pay attention to what your body is telling you and allow for adequate rest time. Rest is when the body catches up, rebuilds, and comes back stronger. If it keeps getting broken down before it fully recovers, progress will stagnate. Your goal is to build yourself up, not break yourself down. Sometimes taking a day, two days, or even a week off can be the best thing for you. 2 steps forward and 1 step back is better than 1 step forward and 2 steps back. Most are not to the point of worrying about overtraining, but it’s something that can creep up on you in an instant, so it’s never too early to think about it!
So, dial in on your nutrition, get quality sleep every night, and listen to your body in the gym.
Remember, muscles are torn in the gym, fed in the kitchen, and rebuilt in bed!
“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” – Hippocrates