Are you one of those people who're afraid of overtraining? Is overtraining a myth or there is some truth to it? Because... I want to start by saying that overtraining is not what you might think it is. In other words, you can overtrain but I think people are misinformed and take a lack of recovery for overtraining.
I must admit that it is quite important to train hard enough to accomplish your fitness goals whether it's about muscle building or to lose body fat. However, someone is not going to be overtrained after one hard session of several exercises or for doing more sets and reps than usual... In reality, people can overtax their nervous system, which creates greater stress thus requiring more rest.
Does this mean I can train like crazy?
No, I mean you should always start slowly and add up some weights, exercises, sets as you progress as long as you let your muscles adapt to your strength-training prior to doing that. That way you won't exhaust yourself, go under-recovery or in worst case scenario, injure yourself.
Even if you were to injure yourself, it wouldn't mean it would be caused by intense training, using bad form is often the case. I advise you to check out your required volume for your current experience in the gym (more on that later). Once you get there, feel free to see how your body respond. Since everybody is different, you'd probably need to readjust it anyway.
What's the symptoms looks like?
If you’ve really been “overtraining” it would take you months to recover from that, if it didn’t stop you from going to the gym then the symptoms you had were temporary and was from under-recovering. Here are some of the symptoms that can happen when you're not allowing yourself enough time to recover;
- Sleep disturbance
- Hormonal imbalance
- Suppressed appetite
- Lowered mood
Is there any way to avoid these symptoms?
There are quite a few ways to avoid these symptoms such as;
- Having enough sleep (Probably the most important, sleeping is so underrated...)
- Eating real food (Raws foods = better energy as well as better recovery.)
- Avoiding stimulants (Caffeine / pre-workout... If you're really tired don't even think about it. Using caffeine for your tired body just makes things worse.)
- Drinking enough water daily (Helps with digestion and to break down foods.)
- Making sure your digesting system works well (for better nutrients absorption)
- Getting adequate rest between workout days (24 to 48 hours)
- Varying your intensity level (3 weeks of low reps followed by 3 weeks of higher reps, for example. This might also help you avoid future injuries.)
- Massage, Sona, infrared, etc. (They are other options that could help as well.)
- Supplementation (Some supplements may help in recovery.)
What's the required volume I should do in my workouts?
I've found a useful website which can help you identify the required volume you need per week for your workouts. Whether you're a beginner, an intermediate or even an expert, you can use it as a guide to make your workout plans. Some people wonder what's their weight training volume should look like so that's the main reason I feel it might be useful to let you know.
I would say, calculate what's your current training volume and use this website to see if you need more according to your experience. Then, once you adapt to your new workout volume, you can try to do add more sets if you wish and see if your progress is better or if you experience symptoms. If it is the latter, go back to what's best for your body.
In conclusion, overtraining is a myth so don't be scared to train hard, but if you do, be wise about it. Just make sure you warm up and use the proper form as well as using the tips above and you should be fine 😉 If something doesn't feel right, your body will let you know.
I'd like to know, did you ever think you've overtrained? Was it a lack of recovery or real symptoms of overtraining?