Over training is a condition in which the body sort of rebels against further training. The trainee may begin to feel lethargic, appetite may decline, trouble sleeping may become a problem, and loss of interest may develop. Severe overtraining may lead to sloppy form and make the trainee more injury prone. Hypertrophy (gain in muscle mass) may stagnate or even become negative. Strength may also stagnate or even decline.
Is over training real or imagined? Fact or myth? Many fitness professionals disagree.
On the myth side, many say overtraining is not a real phenomenon. They believe the human body’s ability to adapt is far greater than most realize. They say that the problem is not with the amount you train or the duration of your training but with the trainee’s nutrition program or with the trainee’s recovery habits (or lack thereof) or that the trainee is just lazy and looking for an excuse. I agree SOMETIME.
On the factual side, many say over training is a real phenomenon. They believe the body can take only so much training before needing a “vacation”. I agree SOMETIME.
My opinion is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. My opinion is based on the fact that every trainee is different. With different recovery rates, different habits, different training styles and different stress levels.
If you start to experience any of the aforementioned symptoms the first step is to try to find out why.
Review your nutrition plan. Just because your present plan worked six months ago doesn’t mean it still on point. If your weight has changed, your training program has changed, your stress levels have changed, or other habits have changed your nutrition may need to be adjusted.
Review your recovery plan. If the recovery plan is the same one you used fifteen years ago you’re going to need to change! Review recovery in the same light as your nutrition plan. If something has changed your ability to recover may have changed, too.
Are you bored with your present program? Then maybe it’s time to change things up. A program should be followed for a minimum of twelve weeks. (With some minor tweaks every three or four weeks) NOT TWELVE YEARS! Yes, I have seen people follow the same program for years and wonder why they stopped progressing. If you stick with a program for twelve weeks and you are still progressing in growth or strength or both don’t make major changes. DO try a few minor tweaks. By minor, I mean try some of the following:
· Throw in a few drop sets or rest-pause sets
· Do your same series of movements but change your foot or hand position slightly
· Change your tempo-slow the eccentric (lowering) portion of the reps to say a 3 or 5 count instead of a 1 count.
· Do some of your movements as unilateral (one hand or one foot at a time instead of the usual two)
· Add a “pump set” as your last set. Lower the load and increase the rep count to, say, double your regular rep count.
· Change up the order in which you do your exercises. (But keep the heavy multi-joint lifts at or near the beginning of your workout)
You get the idea.
NOTE: There is also a major debate on whether or not you can”confuse” your muscles.
But that’s a subject for a different discussion.
Some professionals suggest that a week or more off from your workout is the solution. I disagree.
My reasoning is simple; too many people pig out during their weeks off or they simply don’t come back!
Just as some “cheat meals” turn into “chest weeks”, some”time off’ turns into “never come back”.
If you are going to use this method I suggest time off be scheduled in advance. Coinciding with you family vacation or the holidays for example.
My favorite solution (after trying to find the root of the problem) is called Deload.
Periodically, on a schedule or when it becomes necessary I will simply reduce the weight I normally use (by say 25%) or reduce the volume I would normally do. (Say, 4 sets to 3 or even 2 sets on heavy compound lifts)
This method keeps you in rhythm, keeps you from battling a major case of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) which you may face after a week or two off, and keeps your schedule on track. It also gives your joints and any minor injury some time to recover.
Another major positive; I often find that after a Deload cycle my hypertrophy and/or strength takes a jump of much more than my normal progression would have been.
My opinion on over training: It depends on the definition. I have experienced firsthand the effects of “over training”. At least by my definition. Which is: A general feeling of overwork or over stress related to my workouts. Maybe it’s my nutrition, my recovery, my stress level or something else entirely. The symptoms are the same no matter what you call it. So why quibble over the definition. Just try to find the problem and fix it!
All that being said, don’t be too quick to jump into time off or deload. One or two bad workouts or an achy joint doesn’t mean you’re “over trained”. Often its right after a couple of bad workouts that you body gets its second wind.
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