Are You A Victim Of Overtraining?
The usual ‘more is always better’ mindset can be your downfall when it comes to transforming your physique in the gym, additional sets, additional workouts, neglecting sleep and recovery to spend more time slaving away with the iron can and will lead to overtraining.
Many guys hit what they believe is a plateau, they train harder and harder and still find themselves unable to go beyond and gain strength and build more muscle.
More often than not overtraining is mistaken for a plateau.
Read On To Find Out The 6 Tell-Tale Symptoms Of Overtraining
Lethargic? Failing to progress? Check out these 6 signs of overtraining... Click To Tweet
1 – You’re Riddled With Muscular Aches & Pains
When I’m getting to the point of overtraining I begin to notice odd aches and pains in my muscles and joints – the most common niggling pain is by far the rotator cuffs (shoulders).
If you’ve upped the intensity and amount of cardio you’re performing you’ll most likely discover knee pain and aches to be the first sign that it’s time to ease off temporarily.
If you’ve been training for any period of time you should have no problems differentiating between delayed onset muscle soreness which is normal for several days after your workout and aches and pains as a result of overtraining or injury.
2 – You’re Lacking Your Usual Motivation
Struggling to get yourself to the gym when you’re normally the first person there?
Don’t have that same fire in your belly and relentless determination to annihilate your early morning workout?
Decreases in testosterone, increases in cortisol and a highly stimulated CNS are likely to blame as a result of a poor training to recovery ratio.
3 – You Fade Early On In Your Workouts
When I’m well rested and amidst a heavy workout although fatigue begins to kick in I’m able to lift consistently heavy for each and every set, exercise after exercise.
When I find myself in a large sleep debt or on the verge of overtraining my endurance plummets exponentially, my usual leg regime including 5 sets of 315lb squats quickly becomes 2 sets of 315lbs followed by 3 sets of 200lbs or below – I simply can’t continue to lift so close to my 1 rep max when my body is struggling to recover in time.
4 – You Can’t Seem To Progress Any Further (Mass Gain/Fat Loss)
Increases in cortisol which are a consistent symptom of overtraining will cause your body to hold onto fat.
Cortisol (and stress in general) will send your appetite plummeting down, if you’re in a bulking phase this can make hitting your caloric goal to ensure you’re in a surplus extremely difficult.
Lack of progression due to overtraining along with the dip in motivation can leave many dedicated gym-goers in a depressed and confused state.
5 – You Constantly Feel Stressed & Sluggish
Lack of rest, niggling aches and pains and minimal to no progress due to decreased testosterone, increased cortisol, lack of sleep and a highly stimulated central nervous system will have you yawning and struggling to focus or get anything done, inside or outside of the gym.
When in an overtrained state I’ve found regardless of how much coffee or home made pre-workout I consume I can’t shake the sluggish state without a extended period of rest from the gym.
6 – You Struggle To Get A Good Night’s Sleep
Find yourself taking a lot longer than usual to get to sleep at night? Restless and constantly waking up during the early hours of the morning?
A highly stimulated central nervous system could more than likely be to blame.
If you’re lifting heavy 6+ days a week and rarely taking a rest week or deload week it’s likely your sympathetic nervous system responding to this recovery deprived state.
Overtrained? Deload Or Rest!
Perform A Deload Week
Perform the usual number of sets and reps as you would during your regular training regime, however only lift 50% of the weight you generally would, placing a big emphasis on your form.
This is a form of active recovery.
Have A Rest Week
Take a week off from the gym, perform some light cardio and stretching/foam rolling if you wish however do not venture into the weights section of the gym, allow your body this week to recover and come back stronger the following week.
6 Techniques To Improve Your Recovery Between Workouts & Continue To Progress
1 – Dial In Your Diet
When it comes to diet there should be no guesswork – if you’re in a calorie surplus (i.e. consuming more calories on a 24 hour basis then your body needs to maintain its current condition) then it comes as no surprise to me that you’re unable to shed unwanted body fat.
In order to shed unwanted fat you MUST be in a caloric deficit, there’s no way around that.
On the other hand if mass gain is the goal your strength and size gains will be minute if apparent at all unless you’ve placed your body in a slight caloric surplus (eating more calories on a 24 hour basis than your body needs to maintain its current condition).
You will not gain size and strength by simply switching around your exercises if you’re in a caloric deficit.
2 – Improve Your Sleep Schedule
Don't focus on training & neglect your sleep, recovery is key for growth Click To Tweet
Time spent in the time smashing heavy weights and cardio goes to waste when you’re not allowing your body time to recover properly.
Your efforts in the gym create the DEMAND for your body to grow (or lose fat) diet as I mentioned above, along with a decent sleep schedule will SUPPLY your body with the recovery and energy it needs to action this demand.
That’s the supply and demand of bodybuilding, there’s no way around it.
Several months ago due to a number of projects I was working on I had to get more work in every day which meant I had to cut my sleep schedule down to 4 – 5~ hours per night. I continued to lift heavy during this time and maintained my physique exactly however I did not make any real strength gains, and I didn’t expect to.
Now that I’ve re-adjusted my sleep schedule and are getting in a consistent 7 hours per night my strength has once again continued to climb. If your diet and training are on track yet you’re neglecting your sleep you’ll be surprised how an extra hour or two might be just what you need to get over that plateau.
3 – Stress Less
Stress is quite literally a killer.
Not only does stress mentally distract you from the task at hand – i.e. lifting it also places immense stress on your body.
If you’re finding yourself constantly stressed out it comes as no surprise to me that you’re probably struggling to burn fat too. Elevated stress levels play a big role in the reduction of fat loss.
The solution – schedule in some time to relax daly.
Here’s a handful of techniques I use to de-stress, give them a try and find what works best for you.
- Spend an hour in a sensory deprivation tank
- Perform 20 minutes of interval sprints to get the ‘runners high’
- Diffuse lavender essential oil, proven to assist with stress reduction and improving sleep
- Spend 10 minutes in a comfortable position going through a guided meditation via Headspace
- Read a chapter of a biography or non-fiction book
4 – Drink Green Juice
The #1 natural testosterone booster? Pomegranate juice. Click To Tweet
Green juice is not too high in sugar, green juice will not make you fat.
Green juice is however, loaded with vitamins and nutrients that our body craves – resulting in increased energy, performance and feelings of well-being.
Because our body is satisfied with the nutrients we’re deriving from our green juice we don’t get the cravings we normally would that tempt us to cheat on our diet with junk food.
Don’t get me wrong – hitting your caloric intake goal and macronutrient numbers are important, and protein shakes are a great aid when we’re trying to hit a large protein intake for the day, but micronutrients are often overlooked, just because we don’t count them in order to get shredded or build mass doesn’t mean they’re of no importance to the gym-goer.
Ensure you’re hitting your calories and macronutrients but allow a couple of hundreds calories within these numbers to whip up a green juice.
A basic recipe I enjoy most days includes:
1 piece of ginger
Betroot juice has been studied quite a number of times as of late and all signs point to an increase in exercise endurance – yes, that’s right, green juice can aid your performance in the gym.
There’s no right or wrong juicing recipe, it’s simply a matter of experimentation and finding what you enjoy and reap the best rewards from, however for men the betroot and pomegranate are fantastic for increasing libido and blood flow, throw in some dark leafy greens too which are rich in micronutrients and you’ve got yourself a potent, powerful juice.
5 – Take Cold ShowersOngoing muscle soreness? Cold showers are excellent for improving recovery Click To Tweet
Exposure to cold water and ice are known to reduce soreness and increase muscular recovery after strenuous exercise. This is why many elite athletes take ice baths. The logistics and process of setting up an ice bath is a handful—instead opting to take a more convenient cold shower will provide a similar boost in the recovery process after exercise.
After stepping out of the shower you’ll feel like you’ve just ingested a double-shot espresso. Regardless of how lethargic you’re feeling in the morning, the moment that ice cold water hits your skin your heart and breathing while dramatically increase. As your body attempts to adapt to the situation at hand you’re left feeling completely energized.
6 – Trigger Point Therapy With A Foam Roller Or Tennis Ball
Muscle pain and joint problems can be nipped in the bud with trigger point therapy – this is exactly what I’m going to show you in this guide; how to use a run of the mill tennis ball to release pressure from your trigger points, resulting in immediate relief.
By locating your trigger points (which are essentially knots in your muscle) and applying pressure to these aggravated muscle fibers for 30~ seconds at a time you’ll feel an instant relief, and you can quite often rid yourself completely of pain in one session (I speak from experience!).Tennis ball + trigger points = simple, inexpensive recovery Click To Tweet
The tennis ball assists us with myo-fascial self relief, similar to a foam roller.
Regardless of whether you’re a hardcore gym-goer or a relatively sedentary office worker (I’m at both extremes) you can and will benefit immensely from incorporating a bit of tennis ball self massage in your daily routine.
Over the years I’ve been lifting my left shoulder has caused me repeated issues (due to a rotator cuff impingement) through a combination of shoulder dislocations and tennis ball self massage I’ve been able to fully heal my shoulder without any expensive visits to the physio or the massage parlour – all I literally used was a tennis ball I found laying around in my garage.
Since then I’ve sworn by self trigger point therapy and I’ve found an overall decrease in soreness coupled with an increase in mobility since I regularly begun my mobility and tennis ball self massage routine.