Training Volume, Recovery, and Overtraining
The goal of this post will be to give you a good understanding about why and how a body makes changes in response to exercise ( Training Volume, Recovery, and Overtraining). This will help you understand why training volume and recovery are more important than putting max effort in the gym. The goal is to explain how a lot of people are overtraining. And overtraining is one of the major reasons why people do not see the results they want.
We will focus on building muscle to keep things simple. Your body does not care about how you look, it only cares about survival. The bodies goal is to keep you up and running. It wants to keep you alive for as long as possible. When you put some stress factors that damage the body, it makes changes to resist the stress.
For example, lets look at how you get calluses on your hands. When you workout or do some hard manual labor, the skin on your hand gets damaged a little. In order to withstand that next time, the skin starts to come back a little thicker and harder. As you continue to put more stress on the hands, the calluses get harder. Now understand that you cannot speed up the process too much by increasing the stress. If you try to rough up your hands faster and rip the skin to the point where it bleeds, now the skin doesn’t grow back for a week or so. So this is an example of how you cannot increase adaptation by increasing the stress.
Now lets look at working out the same way. When you workout, you put stress on your muscles, joints, ligaments and connective tissue. You cause micro tears in the muscle fibers. The body responds by making the muscles, connective tissue etc. stronger. But you can push too hard and damage them to the point that they take a long time to recover. There is nothing wrong with that except that most people do that, and do not decrease their training frequency. This is when overtraining takes place.
There are multiple ways to know that you are overtraining. If you have hit a plateau for a few months and do not see progress no matter how hard or frequently you train, chances are you are overtraining. If your energy levels are low to the point where you cannot do much after a workout besides lay on the couch, then you are probably overtraining. Sometimes being irritable is a sign on being too intense in your workouts. So There is nothing wrong with working out very hard, but keep in mind that you will have to rest longer. You cannot give 100% 5 days a week.
The harder you train, the more you need to eat, sleep and rest. Overtraining is usually the result of under-resting.
These are some of my tips that will help you avoid overtraining:
- Do not go to absolute failure during workouts.
- Avoid doing 1/2/3/5RMs everyday/week.
- Workout to the point where you feel energized, not defeated.
- Focus on multiple muscle groups during a workout rather than just destroying a single muscle group.
Remember, your body builds muscle as a response to adapting to the stress, not because it wants to look good. Keep the body happy and feeling good. Have a good mind-muscle connection. Lee Haney (8 time Mr Olympia) said, “Stimulate, do not annihilate the muscle”.
So how should you apply this to your training? If you are hitting a plateau or just starting a fitness program for the first time, remember that less is more. If you have 2 or more years of training and are working out as hard as you can 5-6 days a week, 1.5-2 hours, try going down to 4-5 days, 45-60 minute workouts. Or, if you stick to 5-6 days, cut down the intensity of the workouts (do not go to complete failure), this will allow your body to recover faster and you will be able to actually benefit from working out more. For beginners, give your body the least amount of stress to get the most amount of results. If you go too hard and too often in the beginning, your body will get used to it and stop responding pretty early in your fitness journey.
Remember, mind-muscle connection always beats heavy weight. Workout like an artist, so you can look like a work of art.
-Mo “Grandmasta Gains” Ghori