If you are reading this then you have likely come from my recent “I trained for 4 years without a rest day” video, in which case, as always, go buy my programs and support your boy lol.
These articles alone should show you how I really am all about providing you the best value possible so you won’t be disappointed 😉 Anyway, plug over, as the title says, this blog post is going to cover OVERTRAINING 101 so sit back, relax and let the brain gains begin.
Still to this day, on of my most frequently asked questions is in regards to overtraining and more specifically how I don’t “overtrain” by training every day. Therefore, let me shine some light on both of these topics by firstly covering all of the science about overtraining along with my own personal “overtraining experience” from my 4 years of lifting with high volumes.
Firstly, although you may not think it, overtraining syndrome does exist HOWEVER is quite overrated as it is very difficult to achieve and often only witnessed in elite athletes who train CONSISTENTLY for months on end with large amounts of volume, often referred to as an individual’s volume “tipping point” or MRV and/or athletes under severe kcal restriction. Such sports include swimming and other endurance sports which have you accumulating pretty much both i.e. large amounts of volume/mileage while oftentimes not having the nutritional set up to cater for such demands. Therefore, for the average lifter who takes rest days and goes in for a chest pump every now and then, what you may perceive to be overtraining is likely something we refer to as functional overreaching so what’s the difference?
According to Kreher and Schwartz (2012), functional overreaching can be referred to as a period of increased training leading to a temporary performance decrement and with improved performance after rest.
Correct, overreaching is actually NORMAL within a well-periodized mesocycle and of benefit to us when seeking to make gains. A very simplistic, yet practical, example being a 6 week block of training whereby you start off well short of your MRV, slowly increasing volume over the course of the 6 weeks to (or above) your MRV which you cannot physically recover from (peaking/overreaching).
However, it is now, when you smartly implement a deload week, do you allow this accumulation to take “effect” by giving yourself the necessary time to supercompensate (adapt to the stimulus) to the demands you’ve placed on your body for the previous 6 weeks and thus, you return to a fresh training block stronger, bigger, faster.
Therefore, in this case, when implemented correctly, the stress that occurs from functional overreaching is a good thing as it is pulsed and acute whereas when we speak about overtraining, it’s the complete opposite.
As you may have guessed, as seen in the graph below, overtraining syndrome only then comes into the mix during prolonged periods of functional overreaching whereby you forgo taking a deload and begin to continually impair recover/performance through excessive training volumes and/or intensities. Unfortunately this is quite common in the fitness industry as most are still under the impression that more is better. One scroll through the fitfam # will reveal several enhanced “fitfammers” training with silly amounts of volume ALONG WITH undereating because, after all, you they a “fitfammer” so they have to keep their shreds, right? The end result is therefore that the average Joe tries to copy said “fitfammer” to soon find out that, after 1-2 weeks, they burn out.
Correct, once if not the main symptoms of overtraining is a plateau or even a consistent regression in training performance along with severe symptomatology and maladapted physiology. In layman’s terms, the difference between overtraining and functional overreaching is thus that:
· OVERTRAINING - results in a LONG term drop in performance with an impairment in gains
· FUCTNIONAL OVERREACHING - which results in a SHORT drop in performance yet a LONG term increase in gains.
Anyway, now that you know what both functional overtraining and overtraining are, here are some key, evidence-based warning signs that you NEED to be aware of, in order to spot overtraining and thus take a deload in time before you start to kill yourself.
DECREASED PERFORMANCE/CHRONIC FATIGUE FROM CONSTANT HIGH CORTISOL.
Overall, your sessions are sucking, you have low power output, lift less weight, have a higher RPE, feel drained and flat etc. NOTE. This has to be more than just one crappy session. When I say decreased performance, im referring to 1-2+wks of consistently poor sessions, not just a single day where you didn’t manage to hit a pr.
INCREASED RESTING HEART RATE/DECREASED MAX HEART RATE WHEN TRAINING.
Correct, when overtrained, your body is so stressed that it actually is working HARDER to recover, even when lying in bed. A rapid RHR is a good sign of this.
YOU GET SICK EASILY (UPPER RESPIRATORY TRACT INFECTIONS E.G COLDS OR FLUS IN PARTICULAR).
If training with excessive amounts of volume and undereating, your body is essentially putting everything it has into recovering both physically and mentally from TRAINING that it doesn’t have as much energy available to look after your immune system as efficiently.
DECREASED MOOD/INCREASED ANXIETY, DEPRESSION AND IRRITABILITY.
Self-explanatory, I hope. If you feel terrible, are having poor training sessions etc. etc. you aren’t going to be a happy camper.
PERSISTENT MUSCLE SORENESS/REDUCED ABILITY TO RECOVER EVEN WITH EXTENDED PERIODS OF RECOVERY AND REST.
Again, hopefully self-explanatory. If you are training well over your volume thresholds for long periods of time, you aren’t going to be giving yourself enough time to recover and thus you may CONSTANTLY feel sore and under recovered.
INCREASED INJURY OCCURRENCE, NIGGLES, TWINGES ETC.
This goes hand in hand with the above. If you are sore and under recovered (coupled with decreased focus) you are more likely to get injured, especially in your elbows, shoulders, IT bands etc. along with possibly experiencing more frequent cramping especially in the lower body muscles such as the hamstrings and calves.
RAPID WEIGHT LOSS AND LOSS OF APPETITE OR RAPID WEIGHT GAIN AND INCREASED APPETITE.
From overtraining and over secretion of cortisol, levels of leptin and ghrelin hormones, which are key in regulating energy expenditure and hunger levels, get severely impacted, often differing between individuals. Some will find that they may experience 0 appetite and thus, lose weight. Others may find that they get the need to binge and thus gain weight. It's quite diverse however its only when you then rest and start eating enough to recover and fuel your body that these hormones then regulate and the body gets back to homeostasis.
LOSS OF PERIOD/LIBIDO.
Overtraining/undereating and elevated cortisol can wreak havoc with your reproductive hormones, oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone along with the likes of other key hormones such as growth hormone, IGF1 etc.
Anyway, if you are witnessing any of the above symptoms then be careful. If you witness some of the above WITHOUT any performance decrease then you may or not be overtraining however, could be overreaching which, if persisted, could develop into overtraining. That being said, if you experience any of the above PLUS a decrease in performance, there is a high probability that you are starting to overtrain and f**king yourself up.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE OVERTRAINED?
2 words.. REST and EAT.
Stop worrying about abs, energy expenditure blah blah blah. Overtraining is serious and can have severe (often permanent) damaging effects to your HEALTH. One week of deloading and/or eating slightly more is not going to ruin all your hard work, it will actually benefit you (ironic because most of you want to progress but are doing everything in your power not to, funny that?). Even if it did halt some of your hard work (which it won’t), it’s a small price to pay for getting back to being to train properly again no?
Now to the question you all want to know, how have I not overtrained from 4 years of training with no rest day.
Firstly, OG’s will know, I have actually overtrained (officially) in the past. Prior to the start of these 4 years of training with no rest days, I used to do the exact same thing however, with far higher volumes and intensities than now, along with SEVERE caloric restriction. It was from here that, after I was forced to take a rest day (due to travel reasons) where I crashed and burned. Correct, I developed all of the symptoms of overtraining literally within the time span of 1-3 days when we were on holiday, LITERALLY leaving me bedridden for the entire 2 week holiday with crippling fatigue along with putting me out of the gym for 2-3 months when I did eventually return back from the holiday.
Even then, when starting to train again, I had lost EVERYTHING (and I mean everything) and had to work my strength all the way back up from square 1, taking me several more months to get back to anywhere near what I was lifting beforehand. This is when I decided to cop the f**k on and do things “properly”. Correct, from here onwards, I initially took rest days until I, once again, got the itch to train every day. HOWEVER, this time, the only way I was allowing myself to do so was if I were to do it “properly” or “smartly”. I thus decided that, either I training 4-5 days per week where every session had to be maximised or I trained 7 days and manipulated my volume accordingly through autoregulating on the day.
Therefore, although I have an entire video on this topic which you can find in this video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcwtlwyNDCg (excuse the stupid voice lol), in layman’s terms, if one day I got a poor night’s sleep, am extremely stressed, have not eaten and enter the gym exhausted for what is “programmed” to be a heavy strength day yet reach an RPE 10 on my first exercise which is usually an RPE 7, I DO NOT pursue to continue with that weight and increase my current level of fatigue. Instead, I adapt my training accordingly in order to still be able to work within the required volume/intensity ranges.
Correct, autoregulation is not an excuse to be lazy and forgo a workout because you are tired, nor is it a term to justify overtraining. Instead, it is a tool which you can use to tweak your program based on how you perform, not just how you feel.
HOW TO AUTOREGULATE?
Most of you probably do it already without realising however, if you find that workout RPE is far higher than normal on a certain day then, simple techniques that I use such as:
· Decreasing the weight used.
· Decreasing the amount of reps performed.
· Working within rep ranges i.e. aiming to achieve the lower of the range as opposed to constantly striving to attain the higher of the range.
· Increasing inter set rest periods.
· Avoiding training to muscular failure or, reducing RPE.
· Eliminating/reducing the use of intensity principles (if any).
Can all help in order to manage fatigue and thus (indirectly) increase your rate of progress. Remember, taking one step back is not always a bad thing if it results in then being able to take two steps forward and this is what I attribute to helping me not completely burn out after 4 years.
Having experienced overtraining and the symptoms that come with it, I am “blessed” with the ability to now be extremely in tune with my body and therefore, know when to push/pull back. Correct, although you may look at my stories/videos and think that I am killing it every single day, that simply is not the case and I do still train “smart” (to a certain degree) to ensure that I am not completely battering myself into a pulp. Although you may not think it, your body is smart and always one step ahead of you. It will TELL you when it wants to push and when you should hold back so instead of being "Old Scott" and completely overriding these signs, LISTEN to them.
Anyway, as always, I could ramble on forever about things however have come to my usual 2-2.5 hours of writing and researching for you so I sincerely hope that the above helps you out and, if you read this far then I really do appreciate you so much, your support means the world.
Stay tuned for the next video and more blogs coming soon, let me know what topics you want covered next 😊