In our quest to push our bodybuilding training to the limit, sometimes we cross the line and start overtraining.
"Come on, Lee. You can do another rep... go for it, Lee. Go for it... come on, no quitting now!"
It seems that I kept hearing the same mantra from my training partner on set after set during this very grueling leg workout. I was feeling run-down to begin with that day, but my training partner kept pushing me. Of course, he thought he was doing me a favor, making me reach down deep inside myself to pull out that little extra effort that often separates a champion from an also-ran. And I let myself be pushed. You just trust your partner after a while. You put yourself in his hands during training, abandoning any thought of self-injury. If he were to turn to me and say, "OK now we're going to run through this wall!," I might contemplate it. Adrenaline sets in and so does the primordial warrior-spirit. You tap into your rage.
Throwing caution to the wind, I stopped "listening" to my body and instead pushed forward, letting myself build to an adrenalized frenzy with each succeeding set. By the end of the workout, my legs were hideously pumped, and I was breathing like a locomotive.
I also knew instinctively that I had exceeded by body's ability to recover. I had a sneaky suspicion because of the way that I felt and the manner in which the energy seemed to be draining out of me, that it was going to take a few days to recover from this one. Needless to say, the following morning I woke up with a runny nose, sore aching joints, and a nasty attitude. I felt listless and unmotivated.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Bodybuilding training can do that for us.
What Is Overtraining?
"Overtraining" is a problem that all of us must contend with at some time or another. Overtraining occurs when the body is stressed past its ability to recover from workouts. As you may be well aware, lifting in the gym puts tremendous stress on the muscles in your body. This stress is necessary in order to elicit the adaptive response that is necessary for muscular growth.
But, too much of a good thing can be detrimental. Too much stress on a muscle group can lead to overtraining in that muscle group, and too much overtraining of muscle groups can lead to the entire body being overtrained. And when you¹re overtrained, your progress comes to a screeching halt.
I look at getting muscles to grow as a "two steps forward, one step back" kind of thing. In the gym, I train a muscle hard, causing the muscle tissue to become stressed (one step back). Outside of the gym, as I rest and feed my body properly, my muscles adapt to the stress (two steps forward). The net result is that my muscles keep getting bigger and stronger and I keep progressing from workout to workout.
Now, if I overtrain, then my "one step backwards" becomes "three steps backwards" and my recovery time outside of the gym is vastly increased. In layman's terms, I am "tearing down too much" and not "building up" as much as I should. Training to your limits is a good thing because this is the only way that you will ever make bodybuilding progress. However, you must be careful not to step over the line into overtraining.
In Part 2 of Bodybuilding Training and Overtraining we will talk about how to recognize when you are overtraining and what steps you can take in order to avoid it.
==> Bodybuilding Training and Overtraining, Part 2
About the Author
Lee Labrada, is a former IFBB Mr. Universe and IFFB Pro World Cup winner. He is one of few men in history to place in the top four in the Mr. Olympia seven consecutive times, and was recently inducted into the IFBB Pro Bodybuilding Hall of Fame. Lee is President/CEO of Houston-based Labrada Nutrition.