Overtraining is one of the most damaging things to weight loss and muscle gain, yet not many people know how to avoid it. Most of the beginners (as well as more experienced trainers) spend way too much time in the gym. When their hard work fails to give them results they expect, they increase their workout time. And when that doesn’t work, they increase it even more and eventually burn out, deciding that they just can’t build muscle no matter what they do
Overtraining is highly counter-productive. Why? When you overstress your body, it releases hydrocortisone which crumbles your muscles and bones, suppresses your immune system, speeds up brain ageing, and increases fat storage. This means you are doing loads of work for nothing. You stop gaining strength and power, and you easily lose muscle and gain fat. Your body becomes stressed and weak.
The fact is that muscles can only grow bigger and stronger if they are provided with enough recovery time. Without the proper recovery time, the muscle growth process simply cannot take place. Overtraining also makes you more vulnerable to injuries such as tendinitis and strains.
Now that we know that overtraining is not helpful, the question is how to avoid it? Here are five tips to avoid overtraining and promote strength and muscle gains.
1) Do not perform more than 4-12 TOTAL work sets per workout. You may be thinking, it is far less than performing the bodybuilders’ suggested 12-24 sets per muscle group! Unless you are in a contest to see how many sets are possible per workout, your goal in the gym should be to train with the minimum amount of volume needed to gain muscle growth. Once you have pushed your muscles beyond their present capacity and sparked the muscle into growth, you have done your job. Any further stress to the body will simply increase your recovery time, weaken the immune system and you will become victim of overtraining.
2) Never train continuously for longer than 12 weeks. Hardgainers will actually benefit from taking a half week off every sixth week of hard training to allow their muscular, neural, hormonal and immune system to recharge fully. Try this one tip and watch your strength go through the roof!
3) Never follow a program out of a popular body-building magazine – unless you are on steroids. Most of these magazines suggest performing a split routine comprising different body parts each day. For example, Chest on Monday, Back on Tuesday, Legs on Wednesday, and so forth. With this traditional approach, you may be able to make some gains for a week or two but your body will not be able to recover for sustainable muscle growth.
Instead, you should be doing two full-body workouts per week involving only multijoint exercises. Multijoint exercises (also known as compound movements), such as squats, leg presses, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, bar dips, push-ups, pulldowns, and shoulder presses, work the most muscles and produce more muscle growth than doing several single-joint or isolation exercises (for example bicep curls, pressdowns, leg curls, and leg extensions).
4) You must have heard the common advise of following 3 sets of 10, 3 sets of 12, 3 sets of 8 and so on. Any program that begins with 3 sets of whatever was clearly copied from someone else and, again, clearly reflects the historical mistake of copying tradition without any thought applied. Doing 3 sets of whatever for each exercise in the workout is a sure-fire way of overtraining.
5) Never train more than two days in a row. Recovery is not practicable if you train more than two days in a row. It typically takes up to 24 hours to fully refill your glycogen reserves so by taking a day off every two days you are allowing your energy reserves to be refilled and optimized.
Rest and recovery is necessary when it comes to avoiding overtraining. Don’t be afraid to realistically judge your routine and make changes where you need to. Most likely you are working harder than you need to for muscle gains. Implement the above recommendations and you will see better results.
Good luck and happy weightlifting!