Oftentimes, our enthusiasm and desire to build our physiques makes us want to train as long and as often as we possibly can. This is especially true when we’re dealing with those stubborn body parts. If reaching our bodybuilding goals takes a little extra effort, we are usually more than willing to put in that extra work.
Unfortunately, that is not how the muscle-building process works. After training to a certain point, your body will no longer benefit from your effort. In fact, you will actually be doing your body more harm than good.
“Overtraining” is a somewhat difficult concept to grasp because it’s not how most things in life work. Most of the time, the amount of effort you put into a particular endeavor will directly correlate to the results you are able to achieve. However, this is not true when it comes to developing your physique. “More is not necessarily better” is what we are warned by the training experts.
When will a person know if he or she is overtraining? How does overtraining actually feel? What are the indicators that can tell a person whether or not they are overtraining? What would be considered the “right” amount of training and what amount is considered too much? How often and how much should a person train—in order to be the most effective?
From my personal experience and the training habits I’ve witnessed in others, most of us have the tendency to train too much. Although this is especially true with people who have been training for five years or less, it occasionally applies to more experienced people training in the gym as well.
Finding the “right” amount of training—and not falling subject to overtraining—is a gradual learning process. The only way you can shorten this learning process, in my opinion, is to find a good role model or teacher and put your blind faith into what he is telling you.
The only way for you to learn and truly understand for yourself what overtraining feels like is by first training with what you instinctively believe is the right amount. Then, you must force yourself to train with significantly less volume for a period of time. You can then feel the contrast between the two approaches. You can compare the actual difference and measure your results. Taking this route, however, can be mentally challenging and quite time consuming.
Some experts try to quantify overtraining by using physical indicators such as loss of strength, change in blood pressure, rise in body temperature, and loss of appetite. The experts also point to mental factors such as lack of enthusiasm and concentration in the gym.
Because of the tremendous ability of your mind to adapt to the physical and mental conditions around you, those indicators might not be reliable. In other words, your body may be just fine—but your mind may be weak. If we are honest with ourselves, we can all relate to the mental limitations I’m referring to, can’t we? I’m sure we have all experienced a lack of desire that we wanted to label as overtraining, haven’t we?
You’re into the bodybuilding lifestyle for the long haul, aren’t you? I believe the only true way you can actually feel the “right” amount of training sooner rather than later is through hands-on experimentation. Invest a month or so and cut back on the volume of your training. Force yourself to train less frequently and do fewer reps—no matter how difficult it may be. Work hard to become just as intense and effective with less work. Limit yourself to one hour of weight training during each session. If what you have planned can’t fit into that hour, then you are training too much.
When it comes to learning the meaning of overtraining for yourself, I’m certain the month or so you invest experimenting will pay huge dividends in the long term.
Train Hard—and Think Big!