I started writing this article 2 weeks ago, and it is now two days before my Spartan Beast race. See my initial Spartan training plan but that quickly morphed into additional endurance sessions – but still no days off. Hence, this article.
I’ve always been skeptical about the concept of overtraining.
I get questions all the time, usually from newer lifters, who are worried about “overtraining”. In almost every case, they are nowhere near the “overtraining” point.
Sure, I know people can push too hard too fast (like I did last year; see http://worldfitnessnetwork.com/can-you-spot-the-mistake/ and also note the update at the end of the article). That’s called “overreaching”. You’ll see this in newbies who do body-part splits with insane volume for the first week but then are too sore the following week. Some even then give up and go back to sitting on the couch. But that’s not overtraining.
The term “overtraining” is usually applied differently. Overtraining is characterized by (in no particular order)
- Long Term – Overtraining isn’t about what you do in a certain workout, no matter how off-the-hook intense or stupid. Overtraining is about what is happening over many weeks.
- Not Beginner Affect – In my experience, it’s very, very hard for a beginner to overtrain. Beginners often overdo things, like lifting too much too soon. Or using crappy form. Or the classic of starting out all intensely, then missing workouts because they are “too sore”. That’s not overtraining. Overtraining is much more likely in intermediate or advanced lifters.
- Systemic Regression in Your Lifts – I’m not talking about one week not being able to lift as much as the previous week. That’s normal and happens from time to time (especially if you start a new routine using higher weight than you should). I’m talking about over the period of several weeks, all – or almost all – of your lifts are getting weaker.
- Constant Joint Pain – You are always in pain, including joint pain and pain in places you’ve never really had pain before.
- Persistent Muscle Soreness – Similar to previous, but this is in your muscles.
- Strong Desire To Skip Workouts – I always look forward to lifting. Always. But not always psyched for my runs. However, in an overtrained state, you really loathe the idea of exercising. And even dire-hard lovers of lifting/running start to hesitate.
- Decreased Motivation – Even outside the gym, you are unmotivated. Could lead to depression, irritability.
- Susceptibility to Injury – The combination of chronic pain leads to compensation. Also, your mental focus is off, so you might not tighten your core during your squats. Etc. Injury is just around the corner.
- Inability to Complete Workouts – If you are finding that you can only get half way through workouts that you have previously been doing in full, then that’s a warning sign.
- Other Biological Changes – for example, resting heart rate increasing, disordered sleep, lack of appetitie, elevated cortisol (for a full list see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overtraining)
Not just lifters – happens to runners too. Any regular activity where you are pushing yourself daily (or almost daily). And this isn’t just about “recovery time” though that plays a part.
So what causes overtraining and how do you prevent it?
If you’ve ever been to a commercial gym for a month or longer, you know how it feels to share a gym with other people. A commercial gym is a lot like a community – we all have to share and learn to get along.
If you’re one of those (more…)
Are you planning to get in shape, but haven’t quite started yet?
If so, I have an assignment for you. Go into your room and take all your clothes off. That’s right, strip down to nothing but your briefs, your boxers, your lingerie, whatever you are wearing underneath.
Go and do it right now! This is your last chance to officially say goodbye to the old you, and you will want a picture as a keepsake. Call it a going away present… You will thank me for this later.
Go ahead and let it all hang out. Take one last look in the mirror at the old you. Soon this person will be gone, and a newer, better version will take its place. The old you is now obsolete. (more…)
I saw something interesting the other day at the gym.
I saw an average-sized guy in his mid 20’s who was obviously trying to build up some muscle. He looked like he had some padding (weight) on him, but he didn’t look too out of shape. The thing that caught my eye is what I saw him doing.
He was using the cables to do cable crossover flyes. I watched as his arms wildly flapped up and down in an uneven way. His upper body lurched forward and downward with each rep as he strained to move the weight at all costs. I watched him move on to other exercises and perform them with a similar style.
Who knows, maybe he really didn’t know how to lift weights. But then again, like a lot of other people out there, maybe he was just too embarrassed to lift the proper amount of weight for his strength level.
If his goal was to avoid looking silly in the gym, he certainly didn’t achieve it. Honestly, I thought he looked a lot more like a monkey trying to figure out how to fly than someone who’s serious about getting in shape. (more…)
Image Credit: Petranek
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the more rest you take between sets, the more weight you’ll be able to lift when you do come back. This doesn’t mean that you should always take more rest between your sets… the right amount of rest for (more…)
Anybody new to the gym knows how difficult it can be to make sense of all of the machines and equipment that fill the workout room. Instead of trying to analyze each of the different machines in the gym, get to know the free weights first. The free weights will give you the greatest returns for the effort you put in.
Barbells are probably the most basic instrument for lifting free weights. They can come in many sizes, but the most standard is called the Olympic barbell (the top bar in the picture above).
The Olympic barbell weighs either 45 pounds or 20 kilograms (44.5 lbs) depending on which part of the world you live in. It’s usually used for the heavier exercises such as squats, bench presses, deadlifts, shoulder presses, etc.
The smaller straight bar shown just below the Olympic bar is great for many upper body exercises where having the weight closer to your body is beneficial. For example, if you were doing standing bicep curls, you may find that having the weights closer to their center of gravity (and closer to you) makes them easier to control. (more…)
For Newbies Only:
We will continue our series of Weight Lifting 101 posts here by introducing some new terms that you will have to become familiar with if you are going to succeed in changing the way you look. As you may have already guessed, working out with free weights is a little bit more complicated than doing steady cardio. It’s not as easy as just hopping on a treadmill for 30 minutes.
Since weight lifting is a form of anaerobic exercise, your muscles will not be able to maintain such a high level of intensity for long periods of time. Instead, you will break your exercises into a series of sets that comprise a certain number of repetitions. Let me explain what this means by defining the terms you’ll need to know. (more…)
What’s the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercises? I’ll make this simple:
Aerobic- In the presence of oxygen
Anaerobic- Without the presence of oxygen
That’s the basic definition of the two general types of exercises. To be a little bit more specific, aerobic exercises are the ones that cause your heart rate to increase for an extended period of time. Think of exercises such as running, swimming, exercise bikes, etc. These types of exercises burn fat or calories to meet their energy needs.
Anaerobic exercises, on the other hand, are high-intensity activities that build up an appreciable oxygen debt. Basically, this means that these exercises are too intense for your body to supply the oxygen that is necessary for long periods of time. Anaerobic exercises burn a type of muscle sugar called glycogen to meet energy requirements.
Exercises Come in All Shades.
Not all exercises are purely aerobic or anaerobic. Power lifters probably do the most anaerobic of all exercises. Their goal is to maximize their strength for just one lift. Power lifting exercises usually involve low numbers of repetitions at very heavy weights. It doesn’t get much more anaerobic than that.
Body builders, on the other hand, tend to focus on sets that fall into the range of anywhere between 5-15 repetitions with some breathing. Their workouts are still very anaerobic. (more…)