What is the Overtraining Syndrome?

Training beyond the body’s ability to repair itself. This can be caused by training the same body parts too frequently so that the body does not have time to recover before the next workout.
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Workouts that are consistently harder than the body is able to recover from fully; orimpairment of the body’s normal recovery ability due to nutritional deficiencies, illness, or stress. Besides impairing athletic performance, overtraining can increase the risk of injury or disease.

Some Signs of Overtraining:
-Blood sugar imbalances
-Menstrual or other hormone imbalances
-Slight dizziness
-Elevated heart rates (especially upon waking)

I’d even venture to guess nausea and longer then normal recovery time should be on that list, two of symptoms of overtraining you also described.

Just the other day, I saw a post on a popular bodybuilding message board by another person who wanted to know if working out the same muscle group twice in one day was recommended since they had the time.

Now, before I go on…

I want you to understand that you grow and change outside of the gym. Many people believe that when they are at the gym they are making progress but in fact that’s entirely not true.

Training at the gym is a way of stimulating change, you grow and get better when you are outside of the gym! What you do after you shower off and leave the gym will determine your progress in the long run. Doing longer workouts, more reps and sets and devastating your body without letting it recover will actually set you back.

Remember, recovery is an all important step that is often overlooked. And that leads into…

1 – Training frequency.

My recommendation is train 2 days on, 1 day off. Training more then 2 days in a row is very difficult if not impossible for the natural person to recover from. When you simply break up your routine, you are allowing for more recovery time and thus allowing for your body to get stronger and better.

2 – Taking a training break.

A concept I’ve talked about in previous articles but the theory is, completely stop training every 8-10 weeks for 1 week and just allow your body to recover and your joints to heal. Many people can’t do this. They just want to keep on going and going like the Energizer bunny but in fact, taking a break is a good thing and will allow you to come back stronger and better then before. Try it. You’ll be surprised.

3 – High Intensity Interval Training (cardio)

Rather then do 45 minutes of low to moderate cardio, how about using your heart rate zones and training in intervals to get more done in less time with cardio? You’ll burn more fat and more calories but you won’t have to do the routine as long. You’ll use intervals to make the workout harder and more fun but in a lot less time. (although longer duration cardio does work for bodybuilders and is still valid)

Many times people will do cardio with weights but they do it before or after and for too long. Here’s a few tips.

a) HIIT style cardio
b) Train in heart rate zones and perceived exertion (how you feel at the time you are asked)
c) Do your cardio AFTER your weight training session. Use your quick fuel for the weights and your longer term fuel (fat) for cardio

The secret to getting more from your workouts is training more efficiently and training less.

There’s many ways to do more in less time including but not limited to:

-drop sets-super sets-repetition speeds-tempo variations-rest periods-ascending/descending sets

If you do a quick search on the Internet for “Nine Simple Ways to Increase the Intensity of Any Workout” you will find many ways to get more done in less time and avoid the common overtraining symptoms.

Stated a little differently… less is more.

This makes the need for periodization even more important. Training hard all the time, every workout gives your body no active rest and no time to recover. It’s a very short road to over-reaching and over-training.

The Need for Periodization:

“The need for different phases of training is influenced by physiology because neuromuscular and cardiorespiratory development and perfection … are achieved progressively over a long period of time. One also has to consider the client’s physiological and psychological potential, and that athletic shape cannot be maintained throughout the year at a high level.” ~ Tudor O. Bompa (Theory and Methodology of Training, 1983)

“Peaking at just the right time — obviously of key importance to the bodybuilder and clients — is far from the only benefit of periodized training. You will also gain strength, power and muscle size. Training with a periodized plan also helps to keep your regimen from becoming boring. Another major reason to switch to periodized training is to prevent injuries.” ~ Fleck and Kraemer (Periodization Breakthrough! 1996)

“… periodization has been established to prevent overtraining and optimize peak performance through training.” ~ Dan Wathen (Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, 1997)

And with the laws of training (GAS principles, individual differences, overcompensation, overload) it’s pretty clear why program periodization is critical.

The basics of creating such a plan are:

1. Age and Experience-Related Factors
2. Macrocycles, Mesocycles and Microcycles
3. Order of Exercises, Drills and Flexibility Training
4. Foundational Training
5. Functional Training (Sport-Specific Training)
6. Pre-Season Training
7. In-Season Training
8. Active Rest

In your own training, you might look to switch things up on regular intervals so you don’t fall victim of more and more and more until you’ve reached a plateau.

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Marc David is a bodybuilder, writer, and author of the the e-book “The Beginner’s Guide to Fitness and Bodybuilding” (BGFB): What Every Beginner Should Know but Probably Doesn’t. Marc has written over 20 articles and has been featured in several health and fitness websites. Marc’s opinionated and informative articles on bodybuilding, weight loss and training are featured regularly on: www.freedomfly.net