In our quest to push our bodybuilding training to the limit, sometimes we cross the line and start overtraining.
“Come on, Lee. You can do another rep… go for it, Lee. Go for it… come on, no quitting now!”
It seems that I kept hearing the same mantra from my training partner on set after set during this very grueling leg workout. I was feeling run-down to begin with that day, but my training partner kept pushing me. Of course, he thought he was doing me a favor, making me reach down deep inside myself to pull out that little extra effort that often separates a champion from an also-ran. And I let myself be pushed. You just trust your partner after a while. You put yourself in his hands during training, abandoning any thought of self-injury. If he were to turn to me and say, “OK now we’re going to run through this wall!,” I might contemplate it. Adrenaline sets in and so does the primordial warrior-spirit. You tap into your rage.
Throwing caution to the wind, I stopped “listening” to my body and instead pushed forward, letting myself build to an adrenalized frenzy with each succeeding set. By the end of the workout, my legs were hideously pumped, and I was breathing like a locomotive.
I also knew instinctively that I had exceeded by body’s ability to recover. I had a sneaky suspicion because of the way that I felt and the manner in which the energy seemed to be draining out of me, that it was going to take a few days to recover from this one. Needless to say, the following morning I woke up with a runny nose, sore aching joints, and a nasty attitude. I felt listless and unmotivated.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Bodybuilding training can do that for us.
What Is Overtraining?
“Overtraining” is a problem that all of us must contend with at some time or another. Overtraining occurs when the body is stressed past its ability to recover from workouts. As you may be well aware, lifting in the gym puts tremendous stress on the muscles in your body. This stress is necessary in order to elicit the adaptive response that is necessary for muscular growth.
But, too much of a good thing can be detrimental. Too much stress on a muscle group can lead to overtraining in that muscle group, and too much overtraining of muscle groups can lead to the entire body being overtrained. And when you¹re overtrained, your progress comes to a screeching halt.
I look at getting muscles to grow as a “two steps forward, one step back” kind of thing. In the gym, I train a muscle hard, causing the muscle tissue to become stressed (one step back). Outside of the gym, as I rest and feed my body properly, my muscles adapt to the stress (two steps forward). The net result is that my muscles keep getting bigger and stronger and I keep progressing from workout to workout.
Now, if I overtrain, then my “one step backwards” becomes “three steps backwards” and my recovery time outside of the gym is vastly increased. In layman’s terms, I am “tearing down too much” and not “building up” as much as I should. Training to your limits is a good thing because this is the only way that you will ever make bodybuilding progress. However, you must be careful not to step over the line into overtraining.
1-Feeling of sickness: Colds, flus, runny nose.
2-Loss of interest in training.
3-Chronically sore joints and overly sore muscles.
4-Loss of appetite.
5-Nervousness and inability to sleep.
6-Drop in strength.
7-Lack of motivation or depression.
These are just some of the more common symptoms of overtraining. Another very visible symptom of overtraining is loss of muscular size and/or a drop in body weight.
A More Scientific Tool For Monitoring Overtraining
A more scientific tool that you can use to monitor overtraining is to take your pulse first thing in the morning. If you discover that you pulse is elevated by more than 8-10 beats per minute over its normal range, then it is possible that you are becoming overtrained.
How To Recover from Overtraining
Your response should be to cut back on your training load, or take some extra recovery time. In the past, whenever I have felt overtrained, I simply took some additional time off training.
If this is something you prefer not to do, then what I would recommend is that you employ several training sessions where you use lighter weights and higher repetitions. I like to perform higher repetitions periodically in my training regime anyhow, as a way to allow for “active recovery.”
Active recovery is simply a term used to describe a period during which exercise is performed at a lighter intensity and workload, in order to allow the body to recover. “Passive recovery” is a term used to describe complete rest. That being said, I would wholeheartedly recommend that you utilize high-rep training to stimulate the increased flow of blood to your muscles, to build capillary supply, and to effect other components of the muscle which are not ordinarily worked as much with the heavy weight/low repetition regimen that I normally recommend.
How To Avoid Overtraining
Other things that you can do to avoid overtraining include:
The first thing you should do is to increase your caloric intake and make sure that you are following the right diet. For a sample diet, please take a look at my diet program.
4-Use hot and cold treatments to improve blood flow and circulation to sore areas.
5-Change the workload in your training program periodically as I described.
6-Use a Creatine Monohydrate supplement.
7-Use Vitamin C.
Increase your fluid intake (drink 0.66 x your bodyweight in ounces of water per day).
I hope that this helps you in identifying and correcting overtraining. Save this tip for some day when you feel you may be overtrained so that you can pull it out and reference it. Forward it all your friends and print out a copy for your gym.
If you are pushing yourself in your bodybuilding workouts like I do, then you’re constantly flirting with the dangers of “red lining” your internal engine. You must train hard enough to stimulate the muscle, but if you do too much, then you end up overtrained. So, you’re always walking that fine line. I hope that these guidelines truly help you.
Until next time, I am
Your Lean Body Coach™