Overtraining can cause a massive decrease in performance, strength, and energy levels, as well as overall soreness, moodiness, and fatigue. In more severe cases, it can even cause impotency, a weakened immune system, and bone and tendon damage. A lot of the time though, it becomes nearly impossible to stomach food after overtraining for too long.
Here’s the Truth
There is no exact science to overtraining. It’s something that occurs progressively and it is subjective to perception. One can simply push themselves to the limits for short bursts, such as during a pre-show run, and still be okay afterwards. At the same time, going past the limit and staying there could leave anyone in that overtraining category.
The idea is to maximize our gains at all times. We don’t want to falter just because we are trying too hard. So if more rest or less volume on certain exercises will actually increase our results, then we should pull back the training a bit.
Of course, we are all perfectionists and we don’t want to take it back a notch unless we know it’s for good reason.
Before getting into how to identify overtraining, it’s important to cover the differences between overtraining and pattern overloading.
Overtraining occurs as a result of the body going too far and staying too far. Regardless of how great someone’s nutrition is, it is not possible to prevent overtraining as it is caused by an abundance of physical training. For instance, working out seven days a week for multiple years could cause an onset of chronic overtraining symptoms.
Pattern overloading occurs as a result of performing the same movement over and over again. This causes the muscles to get tense. This may help influence overtraining to develop, but it mainly increases the risk of injury for the affected muscles. It can also weaken progression and possibly cause a regression in muscular strength and stamina over time. An example of this is if we knock out countless push ups, we will only get stronger for so long before it becomes too much for the muscles to handle.
How Do We Know We Are Overtraining?
To check for acute overtraining, we should evaluate our grip strength.
This helps to see whether any central nervous system fatigue exists as a result of overtraining, or if we just happen to be tired on that particular day.
To do this, we must first evaluate our grip strength at the starting stage of our workout program. For example, prior to getting into a three-month bulk cycle.
There are many ways to perform a grip test. The idea is to see the difference from before and now. Here’s an example of how to perform a grip test:
Prepare a barbell with the same amount of weight on each side. For example, throw two 45lb plates on each side (of course, only if our strength level considers this a fair weight). Hold the bar in a rack and lift it up and just stand there. Keep an eye on the clock or set a timer to see how long you can hold onto the bar for before it’s released.
If it turns out the grip test results we get are poorer at a later date, and we don’t think that we are just tired that day, then we can safely assume that we are overtraining. After all, in this example we are going on a three-month bulk cycle and we are training to get stronger, so getting weaker in grip strength is not a good sign.
The above was just a test for acute overtraining. It is incredibly important to catch overtraining at the acute stage as it will prevent chronic overtraining.
It is imperative to make sure that we never allow ourselves to reach the point of overtraining as it will end up setting us back a lot. The symptoms of severe or chronic overtraining are also immense and not something anyone wants to deal with. Whether it’s taking a little time off or re-evaluating the workout routine, prevention is key.
In closing, while there is no set way to determine if we are overtraining, we can do a grip test or simply ask ourselves “Am I getting stronger?” and we will have a pretty good idea.