One topic that seems to be avoided in the bodybuilding world more often than not is the topic of Overtraining. Some experts have estimated that at least 90% of all bodybuilders are in a constant state of overtraining. Most of these individuals are beginners to moderately experienced bodybuilders who are following some pro bodybuilder’s routine they found in a magazine. Only a few of the most genetically gifted can actually endure a pro’s training routine. In fact, most of the training programs published in these fitness and bodybuilding magazines are the pro bodybuilder’s pre-contest muscle refining regimes and not their muscle-building off-season routines. Chances are if you try to follow these high-intensity programs for muscle growth and strength gains you are missing the mark and headed down a path of overtraining.
Overtraining occurs when exercise volume or intensity outstrips the individual’s ability to recover. When this happens, little or no muscle growth will occur. In fact, muscle tissue may even be lost if the individual doesn’t break out of the overstraining state. While muscle loss is bad, sustaining a debilitating long term injury as a result of overtraining is worse. It is therefore important to recognize the warning signs.
1. Performing too many sets on too many days a week, even when the intensity levels are low. You are really not giving your muscles enough rest time to recovery properly.
2. Training with high intensity sets too often each week. The end result is an overloaded central nervous system, adrenal glands are taxed to their limits and overall body fatigue.
3. Training with the correct number of sets and reps, but for too many days per week. Again, you are taxing the central nervous system which becomes fatigued and overloaded. This form of overtraining leads to fatigue, staleness and a general lack of motivation levels.
4. Training with adequate sets and reps but with too high an intensity. The body can become overstressed and flooded with catabolic hormones (i.e. Cortisol) that prevent muscle growth.
5. Training the same muscle groups too many times per week. Many bodybuilders overtrain the arms and chest. Most individuals need only to train the same muscle group once or twice per week.
Tips to Avoid Overtraining
– Add sets to only one or two body parts at a time. Anymore than this and the body’s recovery system will quickly become overloaded.
– Follow an appropriate training routine based on your experience level. Avoid jumping to one of the “pro’s” programs published in a magazine. Even an advanced individual would likely begin to overtrain follow a program like that.
– Pay close attention to any signs and symptoms your body is giving you. If you feel tired and sluggish before you even hit the gym, a normal intensity workout may be too much. You could be coming down with a bug and a hard workout will not only be difficult to accomplish, it will lower your immune system and you could actually wind up getting sick that you might have fought off had you not trained too hard. There is a fine line between adequate training and overtraining so you must listen to your body carefully.
– When you decide to start adding advanced training techniques to your program (as noted in blog # 3 – Training Tips for Bodybuilding- Advanced Bodybuilding Techniques) do so sparingly. Don’t perform every set of every exercise using advanced techniques.
– Cycle your workouts on a weekly basis. For example, perform a heavy training week using heavy weights for 6 to 8 reps and a lighter week using light weights for 12 to 15 reps. This approach also helps the muscles develop more fully.
– Pay close attention to your diet. Make sure you are consuming all the essential nutrients, including proper supplementation, needed to maximize your recovery abilities.
– Get adequate rest. Without proper rest your body is never given a chance to recover. After all your growth occurs outside the gym when you are resting and supplying your body with adequate nutrition. You must try to get plenty of sleep every night in order for your body to recuperate effectively.
Duane DeJager, M.Ed., B.Ed., BPE