As a bodybuilder, you know you have to challenge your muscles to get them to grow. But he careful if you push yourself too hard, you might end up shrinking.
Just to refresh your memory on the muscle overload principle: To grow, you need to overload your muscles, forcing them to do more work than they’re used to. After several weeks on the new load, muscles adapt, so an even higher load is needed to progress. You need to factor this into your needs for rest and recuperation, your nutritional status and your ultimate growth potential.
What happens if you train too much or too hard? Your performance will suffer – and possibly your health as well. The apparent solution for too much training would be to cut back on training. But that might not cure the problem quickly enough, and besides, you’re afraid that cutting back too much could erase your hard-won gains. Consider the two forms of athletic overstress:
Overreaching: Symptoms can he both physical and psychological, but performance typically improves with a few days of proper rest. While the term initially conjures images of training-related trauma that causes tissue damage, that happens only if you continue to lift too much weight or do too many reps or sets. If you do, watch out! Indiscriminate and continued overload will eventually lead to overtraining.
Overtraining: Training and performance are noticeably impaired. The condition is caused by accumulated training stresses and other stress, and recovery can take weeks, or even months in severely overtrained athletes.
Each of the symptoms listed below has its own set of stressful sub-problems (and therefore submarkers) that may have otentially devastating effects on your performance.
- Aches and pains you don’t seem able to shake.
- You aren’t able to put on bodyweight and/or get stronger.
- You’re losing bodyweight and/or getting weaker.
- You have decreased appetite.
- You aren’t able to sleep as well as usual.
- You seem irritable.
- Your resting heart rate is higher than usual.
- It takes you longer to recover after a training session.
- You have an increased incidence of colds.
- You have less desire to train.
If you become truly overtrained, try the following:
- For seven days or so, engage in 1-2 hours of active rest daily, such as light and easy volleyball, sprinting, basketball, wrestling, rock climbing, wood chopping, skiing any athletic activity not involving weight training.
- Instead of lifting, do 20-30 minutes of calisthenics every day to maintain muscle.
- Carefully apportion 5-7 meals daily into caloric values commensurate with your anticipated activity output, and be sure each meal is high in protein.
The Best Cure
Prevention, of course, is the best cure for overtraining. Many researchers agree that training protocol errors are by far the most common factor in ovcrtraining. Factors such as excessive training volume anti training intensity will, over time, accumulate to produce decrements in strength, speed, explosiveness, endurance and performance in general. So, too, can consistently poor nutrition, lack of rest, choice and order of exercises or lack of variation in exercise. By the time you observe such symptoms, however, it’s too late. Fellow iron freaks, the best approach lies in avoiding the appearance of such markers or symptoms in the first place.
By far the most common cause of overtraining is cumulative microtrauma – cellular damage from many overreaching episodes that simply gets worse over time (remember, stress is additive). You can cope with this in two ways: You can prevent it or you can treat it. If you have to treat it, it’s too late! You don’t need to give up lifting or avoid the small amount of normal cellular destruction needed for growth. Just don’t let overreaching sessions add up to serious cumulative effects. You keep the stresses from adding up to overtraining through:
- Sensible weight training with lighter workouts.
- Varying your bodypart combinations.
- You may use therapeutic recuperation such as a whirlpool, heat, ice, massage and soft-tissue care.
- Sensible nutritional practices and supplementation.
- Using good lifting technique.
- Getting plenty of rest.
- Taking advantage of various psychological techniques that promote restoration, such as meditation, visualization and hypnotherapy.
- Avoiding or minimizing all other stressors in your life that can undermine your training efforts.
It all boils clown to a simple plan. Most coaches of elite U.S. athletes will tell you that the single biggest problem with their athletes is not that they don’t train enough but that they train too much. I used to believe this, too, but I think you can tolerate much more training if you cycle or periodize your training properly. All progress must be gradual and orderly.