The Overtraining Syndrome

Overtraining syndrome

Is the overtraining syndrome a fact or fantasy, almost no other word in muscle mags or gym gossip gets as much negative press as overtraining 

I will briefly touch on some of the realities associated to over-training; including it's causes, it's avoidance and some of the myths behind it.

    Causes of The Overtraining Syndrome

Over training happens or occurs from preforming prolonged exhausting workouts, specifically: too many sets of high volume training of major body parts while extending intensity over extended periods.

Continuously pushing your body past its natural threshold of recuperation of scheduled workouts, can begin to show early signs, in your life and workouts.

The body only usually has 7 - 9 hours of sleep in which it can repair tissue damage from each days activities... depending on the intensity of these activities-these hours of sleep sometimes are not enough, Hence: the Overtraining Syndrome 

Failing to respect these signs and correct them, will bring an end to muscle and strength gains including gains of any kind.

Overtraining can affect each individual differently it's not something that happens overnight. Here might be a few signs you may encounter if your feel your body is beginning to enter an over-trained state.

  1. first: can be as simple as; lack of training enthusiasm.
  2. Increasingly sore muscles including joint tendon attachments.
  3. Can become cranky, argumentative and irritable.
  4. Elevated morning heart or pulse rate.
  5. Broken sleep patterns or insomnia.
  6. You may also notice decreasing energy levels in and out of the gym.
  7. Loss of appetite.

Try to manage your training, a healthy diet including rest and recovery from your training all as one; to prevent these symptoms promotes training interest, encouraging continued strength and muscle growth.

The Raw Truth On Overtraining

Olympic power lifter

Overtraining, The myth:

The overtraining syndrome has provided some fuel for 'web', muscle mag and gym gossip; this particular word gets more than its fair share of bad press.

First off: age, gender, physical conditioning and natural athletic ability, including job and lifestyle stress, all come into play here. This should be respected to get a full understanding of what ‘over trained’; actually means to you, at the intermediate or advanced levels of lifting.

Most people that walk into the gym off the street from their everyday jobs and lives probably won’t ever reach an over trained state; especially if you only train a few days a week.

Over training gets blamed for lots of things. You have to be training somewhere in the neighbourhood of 5 - 7 days a week, with little or no break in-intensity once or twice a day to see any serious symptoms in over training.

I have personally reached an overtrained state before, but this was generally and still can be at times, from long days on the construction site mixed with heavy training or volume days.

Most of the time the demands from training the bigger body parts intensely; leg and back training at these times were often the assisting culprit putting me over natural recovery limits. Staying on point: not all of this is from the training itself, but a combination of work and the physical training combined.

With that said: you can be tired or stressed or exhausted from other things in everyday life, that are completely unrelated from your activity or training in the gym.

You can become bored or irritable in a job/relationship, lifestyle etc. while other lifters will blame, or believe that their bodies are in an over trained state, when they're actually not... some of these symptoms as mentioned are merely the curve balls of life.  

        Facts Related to Overtraining

High intensity weight training; such as – heavy or excessive volume training with short rest intervals, or some double split routines, can upset or cause natural sleeping patterns to be interrupted. A weak diet that does not match training goals, can also be responsible for some of these symptoms occurring.

For the most part, most males or females that experience the overtraining syndrome is more commonly seen in competitive sports like: Olympics, power-lifting and competitive bodybuilding/Cross Fit competitions, etc. But...

In reality athletes, (weight lifters) that demand more of themselves that are highly driven, commanding higher mental and physical goals, with higher achievement thresholds, can find themselves becoming prey to the overtraining syndrome.

For the most part, advanced intermediates or advanced lifters are the ones that can experience this. Even if you’re well-conditioned; simply doing too much with inadequate rest can bring overtraining symptoms on.

Prolonged periods of overdoing-it is not healthy and may cause the on-set of an extended training plateau... don't let this freak you out the answer is simple take a break and rest.

keep it simple, if you’re not competing in a strength/fitness or bodybuilding competition, go at your own speed and enjoy what you’re doing.


If You’re Serious About Gaining Muscular Strength And Size

Performing French curls

Overtraining is real, and why I suggest heavier, intense training should be done in intervals of no more than eight - nine weeks at the most. Unless you are pharmaceutically enhanced, you will simply burn out mentally and physically.

Putting it simply: this is what the overtraining syndrome is.

In the early years of my training from the 70s and 80s, it seemed like I was continuously bumping into the over-training-wall.

Continuously being overzealous wanting to see new growth and training without the use of drugs, seemed like I was forever hitting this over-trained state.

Once I discovered (prolonged) high-volume, high intensity workouts simply don’t work for us natural guys or gals, I began to simmer down and accept what my body could and couldn’t do. I then began to enjoy my workouts again and I would begin to look forward to the next cycle.

Continuously trying to knock yourself out with prolonged cycles of heavy intense, split routines ends in defeat, the body simply cannot continue this intense effort forever.

Overtraining is: the nervous system’s way of enacting an insurance policy to protect you. If you don’t heed the warnings listed; new growth and overall happiness and the enjoyment of life, will begin to have the feel like that of... trying to hold sand in your hand.

Make your training fun. Be creative with your workouts progressiveness and intensity, and be sure to give yourself small rewards along the way to your main goal

This adds verity, helping relieve boredom from over-exhausted muscles, joints and a stressed-out nervous system, it also helps to avoid injuries and training-burnout.

Know your limit?

Barbell preacher curls

 To prevent overtraining from happening in the first place, listen to your body’s feedback. If you begin to feel some of the signs creeping in on your training or life, it’s probably time for a week or two-layoff.

Total rest and recuperation is what the body needs. After this recuperation, come back for the first few weeks at half to three quarters of your regular intensity; slowly build your conditioning and nervous system back up to where it originally was.

I’ve experienced these symptoms on many levels, there not fun in the least and very counterproductive, very little positive came from this other than the experience of it...

The secret here is: leave the gym always hungry to come back, meaning: preforming 6 to 8 sets on the bigger muscle groups such as upper back, legs and chest etc. and 5 or 6 on the smaller ones, encourages this new attitude at an intermediate level.

For advanced lifters 8 to 10 or 12 sets are generally enough! Hammering and pounding the muscles into complete submission for every workout, month in and month out, is generally counterproductive.

Have a plan and a goal with proper supplementation and dietary eating habits to properly coincide with your training goal, brings a lot of your positive energy towards eliminating the overtraining syndrome.

Just don’t be afraid to train intensely with in these set ranges to simulate strength and muscle growth.  

Personally concluding:

Dumbbell curls

I always look forward to finishing an 8 to 10 week heavy training cycle. 

Enjoying a week off sometimes even two from training if needed, often letting the body heal from the intensity of this type of training is essential. After this rest I would always come back to my training with renewed enthusiasm.

On days you’re not feeling strong or you’re having an off-day or week, back off the ‘intensity’; until your feeling stronger.

try to be instinctive - listen to your body’s feedback, ‘learn your limit and train within it’.

Overtime preforming endless sets until you’re exhausted and feel like crawling out of the gym usually means: you may not want to return for the next days work-out.

This can be a Major Dream and Goal Killer and for the most part, is the reason why intermediate and advanced lifters sometimes quit on their training goals and dreams all together

If you do find you are in this state, the remedy is simple: Take a break, or your body will force you to!

I hope the overtraining syndrome article has helped. If you find you’re enjoying your training just as much as your rest, then you’re on the right track. 


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