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Overtraining, what is”too much”?

When it comes to training, what is too much?

Has anybody told you to be careful about overtraining?

Overtraining / “Too much training” …

[…] occurs when a person exceeds their body’s ability to recover from strenuous exercise

Wikipedia – Overtraining

Seems simple enough, but what is actually your ability to recover from strenuous exercise?

It all depends on how well trained you are when you start.

So, by definition, “how much is too much” will depend on how much sensible training you’ve done.

A personal trainer friend once said that he believed it unlikely for amateur athletes to suffer from overtraining.

I tend to agree with that sentiment.

It takes a lot of continuous and intense training to suffer from overtraining/too much training.

Just think about

There are some notable exceptions.

The exceptions tend to circle around inexperienced coaches who value high volume, high intensity training above all.

To suffer from overtraining, you’ll have to train for more than a one hour session per day.

Of course, if the training volume is ramped up sensibly, it probably won’t be a problem.

By “sensibly”, I mean over time.

Avoiding “too much”, aka overtraining

At first, low volume/low intensity sessions taking up most of the total training volume.

Next build up the intensity in some of the sessions, over several weeks.

Then start increasing the volume of higher intensity sessions.

All while making sure you have pull-back weeks and rest days sprinkled strategically throughout.

Following this plan will let you adapt to the volume and intensity.

You can probably maintain it for durations of 4-5 weeks at a time without getting anywhere near the “too much” stage.

When it comes to training, you and I probably have very different definitions of intensity!

What if..?

The clinical version overtraining probably isn’t in your future.

You can still set yourself up for overuse injuries if you’re not mindful of your training patterns.

Training the same muscle groups multiple days in a row, never letting them recover won’t make you stronger.

It will make those muscles weaker.

Minimally 48 hours of recovery for that muscle group after training is a great rule of thumb.

A normal adult between 18 – 50 years old will see gains if they train strength/resistance at least twice per week.

You can also train resistance a little more, without it being detrimental to your development.

3 times per week ensures the recommended recovery and has a slightly elevated adaptation benefit.

Adaptation benefit = more strength and endurance.

So to get the most out of your strength training, do it 2-3 times per week.

The other days you should either focus on completely different body parts[1], or – much better(!) – focus on active recovery.

A great active recovery activity is to go for a brisk walk.

It will help recovery by pumping oxygen & nutrient rich blood to your trained muscles.

The oxygen and nutrients help repair the muscles and your body grows them stronger/bigger.

This repair process is how the body adapts to the workload you just put it through.

Something to think about as you put in your best effort during training today?

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PS: It’s mildly ironic that the article on Wikipedia about Overtraining contained a warning when I wrote this.

[1] = I’m not a fan of training body parts. It’s not very useful in real life!

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