How to Avoid Overtraining


For a lot of people, the idea more is better, holds true in every facet of their life, including the gym.  They’ll bang out 8 sets of bicep exercises, 4 times a week, and wonder why they are seeing no gains.  All their hard work is getting them no where, and they end up quitting.  This is the typical example of a person who overtrains.

Weight training works on the principle of progressive overload.  This means, when you return to the gym fully recovered, you should be able to lift slightly more weight than you were able to last time.  Overtraining never gives your body the time to recover, thus destroying progressive overload.

Look at it like this…Your body is a car your driving down the road.  You run into a tree and put a small dent in the body.  It still runs well enough, but has a dent.  The next day, you are driving down the same road and hit the same tree.  The small dent got larger, and the car is beginning to run less efficiently.  Repeat this process several times and the car is no longer functional.  This is exactly what happens when you train too much in the gym.

Symptoms of Overtraining

  • Decreased muscle size and strength
  • Longer recovery periods
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Hand tremors
  • Increased joint and muscle pain
  • Tiredness
  • Injury
  • Illness

The physiological result of these symptoms is due to the massive release of cortisol into your system.  When you work out for an extended period, cortisol is released and breaks down protein into the constituent amino acids.  They are sent to the liver and converted to glucose for energy.  When you work out for too long, too many proteins are broken down.

Overtaining forces the body into a weakened state due to the fact all of our immune functions are built upon amino acids.  Their structural integrity is lost due to overtraining, leaving us susceptible to illness.  Even worse, our muscles and ligaments become much more fragile and open to tears and injury.

Overtraining is the number one enemy for any gym-goer.  Knowing the causes and symptoms should really help you avoid this motivation killer. 

How to Avoid Overtraining

  • Keep high intensity training sessions to 1 hour or less.
  • Take carbs 2 hours before and immediately after your training session
  • Take protein 2 hours before and immediately after your training session
  • Stress has been shown to increase cortisol in the blood; try to find ways to relax
  • Do not train when a muscle is sore
  • Limit the number of exercises to about 5 for smaller body parts, i.e. biceps, triceps, etc.  Make the exercises you do count.
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