Almost anyone that's picked up a set of weights has or will
experience symptoms of over-training at one point in there muscle
building program. Over-training can lead to serious injury, chronic
fatigue, and even muscle loss.
Over-training is very common amongst athletes and particularly
bodybuilders, since they figure that training as much as possible is
the fastest way to massive muscle gains.
This couldn't be any further from the truth however...
Training too much, or at too high of an intensity will
lead to over-training.
Now this doesn't mean you don't have to put plenty of effort in
to see some decent results... Whether you are a bodybuilder,
athlete, or just someone that wants to add some additional mass to
your frame, you need to train hard and be consistent-that's a given.
In order to get the most out of your genetics, you have to
progressively overload the muscles by increasing the weight and / or
intensity of each weight training workout.
The problem is however, that many of us increase the intensity of
our workouts or get insufficient amounts of rest, or even worse, a
combination of both. The trick is finding the right balance between
workout volume and intensity, and rest and recovery. And that is
exactly what I'll cover in this article.
The Effects of Over-Training on
First, let's take a look at some of the effects of
over-training and how one can prevent over-training from happening
in the first place.
The Effects of Over-training on the Nervous
Over-training effects both the sympathetic and
parasympathetic nervous systems in the following negative ways:
- Higher resting heart rate
- Weak appetite
- High blood pressure
- Weight loss
- Trouble sleeping
- Increased metabolic rate
- Early onset of fatigue
If you are experiencing more than one of the symptoms
outlined above, you may be in a state of over-training, and should
evaluate your routine as soon as possible.
The Effects of Over-training on Hormone Levels
Many studies have indicated that over-training
negatively effects the levels of hormones, as well as the hormone
response in the body. Since hormones play such an important
role in the muscle building process, this can have a detrimental
effect on your training progress.
Over-training has been show to:
- Decrease testosterone levels
- Decrease thyroxine levels
- Increase cortisol levels
The increase in cortisol levels along with the
decrease in testosterone levels is a deadly combination, since this
leads to protein tissue break down. This will ultimately lead to a
loss of muscle tissue.
The Effects of Over-training on the Immune
perhaps one of the most alarming repercussions of
over-training is it's negative impact on the immune system-you're
bodies first defense against harmful viruses and bacteria.
Over-training can drastically decrease the levels of
antibodies and lymphocytes in your body, making you much more
susceptible to illness. Simply put, this means that if you are
in a state of over-training, you are much more likely to get
sick. Since you will have to skip workouts while you are sick,
your muscle building progress will slow considerably.
The Effects of Over-training on the Metabolic
Here is a list of how over-training can effect
the metabolic system. These symptoms are the ones that are
most commonly discussed, and are ones we can't ignore:
- Micro tears in the muscle
- Chronically depleted glycogen levels
- Slow, weak muscle contractions
- Depleted creatine phosphate stores
- Excessive accumulation of lactic acid
- Extreme DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)
- Tendon and connective tissue damage
So you must get the point by now... Over-training effects the
entire body, and can seriously impact the results of your muscle
Now let's take a look at the different types of over-training,
and what we can do to prevent it.
Is it Worse to Over-Train With Cardio or Weight
Any form of over-training is a bad thing, however,
I've personally experienced both types of over-training and can
honestly say that over-training in the weight room is much worse,
and much more prevalent than over-training through cardiovascular
Here are some of the reasons why:
- In order to grow, muscles must fully recover from their last
workout, every workout. If you are over-training and work
the muscles before they have fully recovered, you will break down
the muscle tissue before it has rebuilt-making it impossible to
- Over-training with weights makes you more susceptible to
nervous systems hormone and immune system issues, which all pose
serious health risks.
- It can lead beginners down the wrong path, perhaps wasting
money on unnecessary supplements, or even worse, steroids.
I personally believe that only competitive athletes such as
swimmers, runners and bikers run a serious risk of reaching a state
of cardiovascular over-training, since there are often training for
two or more hours daily.
The bottom line is that it is much easier for the average person
to over-train while weight training than while cardiovascular
training, and I think the effects can be more serious.
How do I Determine if I'm
Determining if you're currently over-training is fairly simple.
If you're in tune with your body, you can often see the signs
of over-training before they get serious. If you are losing
interest in workouts, are having trouble sleeping, and feel weak and
irritable, you may be in a state of over-training and should take a
week or more off.
If you are experiencing two or more of the symptoms outlined
earlier in the article, this should raise a red flag.
Another variable you can use to determine if you are
over-training is by tracking the performance of your workouts.
Has your physical performance improved compared to your last
For example, let's say last workout you were able to perform 8
pull-ups using your body-weight, but were only able to perform 6
pull-ups the following week. This means that you have not "out
done" your previous workout, have not fully recovered, and therefore
are likely over-training. You nave to re-asses your program
and make modifications so that you see progress every
How Can I Prevent Over-training?
n order to avoid over-training, you need to take a
multi-facited approach. Determining the correct training
volume and intensity, eating the right foods, and getting the right
amount of rest and recovery must all be taken in to
consideration. Now let's take a look at each of those factors
in more detail.
Correct Training Volume
Determining the correct training volume can be
difficult, especially when you are first starting out. You
have to determine how much weight to lift, how many repetitions and
set to perform for every single workout.
You need to use your own judgment in this case, based
on your recovery ability and your recovery methods. Remember
that the goal is that you improve every single workout, and if this
isn't happening, you have to decrease the intensity of your
This is where many people go wrong though. You
begin your workout and realize that you have not fully
recovered. You can either continue to train at a lower
intensity than the previous workout, or skip the workout
As hard as it may be, skipping the workout is the
right way to go. Just turn around and go home! Your body
is telling you that it needs more rest, and you must listen
There is no point in training at a lower intensity,
further breaking down the muscle tissue. By doing this
you will increase your risk of injury, and make it harder for your
body to fully recovery for your next training session.
Your diet plays a huge role in your muscle building
program. It helps regulate hormone levels, provides energy,
and provides the raw building blocks that are used to create new
Here are some dietary recommendations that will limit
the chance of over-training:
- Do not skip breakfast. This is one of the most important
meals of the day. Skipping breakfast is very catabolic, and
can promote muscle loss.
- Never let yourself get hungry. If you're trying to build
muscle mass, you have to constantly feed your body quality foods
so that it never has the chance catabolize muscle tissue.
- Unless you are trying to build muscle and lose fat,
make sure you have eaten prior to your training session and are
- Have the largest meal of the day within an hour after your
workout. Do this every single workout!
- Consider taking proven supplements like creatine, and
antioxidants to increase performance and fight free radicals.
- Eat every 2-3 hours to ensure that your body remains in an
- Keep glycogen levels at full capacity to inhibit muscle tissue
Rest & Recovery
Rest and recovery is essential when it comes to avoiding
over-training. Make sure that you get at least 7 hours of
sleep each night, and that you are on a consistent schedule.
As for recovery time, it's important that you have days off between
weight training workouts. Try to have one rest day between
weight training workouts, and never train the same muscle groups on