“More sets, more reps, more exercises, more training days per week, more cardio, more interval training, more advanced methods… more of everything. Basically, the more work you do, the better your results will be and the faster you will get them.”
In most aspects of life, it’s totally true- More Is Better. But, weight training is the one HUGE exception. Because when it comes to weight training, more work means less rest. And less rest means less recovery. And less rest and less recovery are guaranteed to mean less results in muscle gain.
You Either Recover And Improve… Or You Don’t
Something most people don’t realize is that the human body doesn’t improve while you are weight training. No one has ever built an ounce of muscle or made any similar improvement to their body while at the gym in the middle of their workout.
The only thing you’re truly doing at that time is giving your body a reason to start the improvement process. You’re damaging your muscles, depleting your energy stores, fatiguing your nervous system and basically beating the crap out of your body.
And from there, as long as the required amount of rest, recovery and nutritional supplies are in place, this ENTIRE process of adapting can begin and the improvements you’re trying to make can all be made (while resting, not working).
It’s during this recovery period when your body rebuilds your muscle tissue so that it is just a tiny bit bigger and stronger than it previously was. This is when energy stores get replenished and the nervous system recovers. This is when your joints and tendons get the break they need to stay healthy and injury-free.
This rest and recovery period is when EVERYTHING you want your body to do (build muscle, get stronger, appear more “toned,” etc.) actually gets done. Unless of course you’re not allowing it to. In that case, none of this can happen. If your body can’t properly recover, your body can’t properly improve.
Overtraining: Most Common Signs
If you’re wondering if you are currently overtraining, here are the most common signs:
|Poor athletic performance and Early fatigue||Persistent FatigueOveruse injuries||Lack of ability to concentrate.|
|Diminished powers of endurance, strength, speed||Reduced quality of sleepAbnormal increases of sleep Increased resting heart||Over sensitivity to criticism and emotional stress|
|Prolonged recovery from typical training sessions||Lack of libido Loss of appetite||Loss of enthusiasm and motivation|
|Decreased aerobic capacity||Persistent feelings of muscle soreness and stiffness in muscles and joints||Loss of competitive drive|
|Frequent colds or infections|
No simple, reliable method can diagnose overtraining in its earliest stages. The best indications include deterioration in physical performance and alterations in mood rather than changes in immune function.
Guidelines to Avoid Overtraining
There are some general rules that should be followed in order to avoid overtraining and to optimize gains:
- Train No More Than 4 Days Per Week. This is why most advanced weightlifters break up their routines into specific body parts. Hitting one muscle group once a week like – doing chest and biceps one day, then back and triceps the next, thean shoulder and traps and legs the fourth day, provide adequate recovery time.
- Do not train the same muscle group for consecutive day.
- Train No More Than 2 Days In A Row for Full body workout.
- Workouts Session Should Last No More Than 60-75 Minutes. There is scientific evidence that after this period of time, that testosterone levels begin to drop and muscle breakdown hormone cortisol begins to rise dramatically.
- Use a proper workout split.
- Limit your Working Sets and Repetitions For Each Muscle Groups Aiming to Avoid Overtraining. Work Sets for Larger muscle groups like back and legs should be between 12-16. For smaller muscle group like biceps sets count should be between 6-9.
- The rep ranges for muscle building is 6-12 reps per set and you should be lifting with a weight that you struggle to complete the last couple reps on each set with good form.
- Change modes of exercise. For example do weight lifting one day and cardio the next.
- Get plenty of sleep. At least 7-8 hours of sleep is required each night for adequate recovery between workouts and to facilitate strength and size gains.
- If you are feeling sick/weak, take a day off. Save your energy for tomorrow rather than waste today’s workout.
- Eat More Protein. Consuming 1 gm of protein for each kilogram of bodyweight is a great idea, given that protein helps the muscles to recover and rebuild during rest periods.
- Meet Your Caloric Needs. Without a surplus of calories your body will begin to breakdown.
- Take a multivitamin daily.
- Take a training break of 15 days after successful completion of a training routine.
- Keep accurate and detailed records of your training program. This allows you to self-monitor and adjust training volume and intensity depending on your current training status, e.g., feeling great, feeling tired, etc.
- Be aware of your emotional health. Job stressors, interpersonal relationships, and other environmental stressors may have a harmful effect on athletic performance. Maintaining health and wellness in all areas of life will help prevent overtraining.
In conclusion, the prevailing wisdom is that it is better to be undertrained than overtrained. Rest is a vital part of any athlete’s training. There is considerable evidence that reduced training (same intensity, lower volume) for up to 21 days will not decrease performance. A well-planned training program involves as much art as science and should allow for flexibility. Early warning signs of overtraining should be heeded and schedule adjustments made accordingly. Smart training is the path to faster muscle gain.