7 billion people, 7 billion new year’s resolutions regarding weight loss. But in your pursuit of washboard abs, a Kardashian booty and Schwarzenegger like arms, could you be pushing yourself beyond the limit? Are you overtraining?
What is overtraining?
Overtraining is the bogeyman of the fitness world; it’s rare and misunderstood. Contrary to popular belief, overtraining does not mean training too much. Instead, it’s a physiological state caused by an excess amount of stress of all kinds — physical, psychological, emotional, chemical and environmental.
Don’t get me wrong, overtraining certainly happens, but the majority of the people it happens to are extremely high-level athletes (think: international level) training balls-to-the-wall, several times a week, or per day.
Overtraining vs. Overreaching
This is where the blurred lines begin to appear. Let me tell you, overtraining is disparate from overreaching.
Overreaching is defined as a ‘short term decline in performance that can be recovered from in several days’. The key word here is ‘short-term’. Most people chalk up a sudden loss in motivation and a couple of bad workouts to overtraining, but that’s most probably not the case. Persist, and you’ll realize that it is just accumulated fatigue due to pure recovery management, or your nutrition not being in order.
Once that realization sets in, overreaching translates into a positive.
Overreaching: The details
Overreaching consists of two factors: frequency and volume.
One of the oldest myths in bodybuilding is that training the same body part more than once a week results in it going ‘catabolic’, what that means is you’ll experience a decrease in performance accompanied by joint pain. However, there’s plenty of research busting this meme of a myth.
One such case involved researchers in Norway taking elite strength athletes who were training compound movements (here’s an article about one of them) three times a week, and upping the ante, enforcing a six times per week routine. You would think these athletes died, but to the contrary, results skyrocketed.
Frequency is important because training increases protein synthesis, meaning your body continues to grow muscle and burn fat a long time after you’ve finished your session.
In well trained athletes — who train daily — this response lasts 16-24 hours. Meaning, if you train a specific body part only once a week, you only boost protein synthesis for a shorter period.
So if you really want to enhance a certain feature on your body, for example: bigger arms. You should not only be hitting it once, you should be working arms 2 or 3 times a week, so they continue growing, even when you’re done training them
The next is volume. There are two approaches to volume: you do one extremely difficult set to failure, or, you do a lot of sets but not till failure.
The correct approach according to researchers at University of Sydney, is the second one. The greater the sets, the faster the gains.
How do I make overreaching work for me?
According to skeletal muscle scientist, Dr. Jacob Wilson you should start by “manipulating volume, then upping frequency.”
“Once you have adapted to training more frequently, each session can be increased in volume. For example, you might perform one high-volume 16-set workout, one heavy 6-set workout, and one moderate 12-set workout.”
Lastly, please, please only workout with your nutrition in order, for if that’s not right, then your goals aren’t either.