Is Overtraining Just Some Mythical Bullsh*t?


Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 9.49.55 AMNo, it’s not.

Overtraining is real and does exist. It’s what holds back the majority of people who can’t get results.

But to really reach a true, deep state of it is way harder than most people think.

We, in the fitness industry, use the term because it’s easy to understand and it helps us guide you in the right direction.

Skinny hardgainers actually do need to “fear” overtraining when they’re starting out because it gets them on the right path. We don’t want those guys doing three hundred sets a week and training for two hours at a clip. That definitely won’t work.

But I don’t want you to live in terrifying fear of overtraining forever.

If you’re training properly, eating right and resting like you should your recovery ability should be good enough to get you through 3-4 strength training sessions per week and a sprint workout or two.

In my old zero-work-capacity, I’m-doomed-to-be-a-hardgainer-for-life days I could only handle three thirty-minute workouts per week or I’d be crushed.

Then I manned the fuck up and slowly and intelligently increased my weekly workload to include a fourth day of training and a couple of sprint sessions. By doing so in a very deliberate and well thought out manner I got to the point where, in my late thirties, I can do triple the weekly volume that I used to and be fully recovered from it without issues.

I can condition or do some yoga or mobility training in the morning and train in the afternoon five days a week without a problem.

For me, training is stress relief.

Training keeps me sane and focused, helps my productivity, improves my mood and is just damn right fun. It’s one of my favorite things to do.

So there’s no way in hell I’m gonna do some type of training five days a week.  Even if I were guaranteed better results I still wouldn’t do it. My entire life would suffer. To me that’s actually more important than the weight on the bar, believe it or not.

Just the very act of getting in there, straining and pushing myself to the limit makes me feel more alive and improves every aspect of my existence.

People are always looking for excuses and the easy way out. They want to be told that anything more than a couple short workouts per week will be more than they can handle. And for some of you that may be true. But don’t let the fear of doing something you love, like playing some beach volleyball or running some hill sprints stop you from enjoying life.

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18 Responses to Is Overtraining Just Some Mythical Bullsh*t?

  1. Gary Deagle March 11, 2013 at 11:09 am #

    “Just the very act of getting in there, straining and pushing myself to the limit makes me feel more alive and improves every aspect of my existence.”

    Couldn’t agree more. Great read.

    • Zvezdana March 14, 2013 at 4:00 am #

      I loved that line too! Couldn’t agree more!

  2. jose1984 March 12, 2013 at 12:44 am #

    Hey Jay!

    It´s great to read articles aimed at more intermediate and experienced guys, as you said.
    Keep them coming!

  3. Lee March 12, 2013 at 7:28 am #

    Hi
    I have been slowly increasing my workouts and now I try to go 5 days a week and the big thing for me that has helped my recovery and my ability to train. Has been my change in diet. I never realised what a difference it could make it is huge.

    Great read lee

  4. Nic March 12, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    Working kept me alive. I know how you feel about your mood and how it keeps you sane. When I was younger I was very depressed and even had thoughts of suicide. My mom got me into a training for kids and that go me addicted to the fitness life style. I soon became into it full out and even gave up pop at 12. Anyway to me working out saved my life. Thanks for the article.

  5. Steve Sorensen March 12, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    Personally Jason I have been following your “Triple Threat Muscle” program which is a three day a week program (weight training). You start a cycle out with three full body routines and after about four weeks you switch over to an upper/lower split. My results have been good with this routine. At 51 years old (been training since I was 16) I just don’t have the time or the recovery capacity to hit the weights four times a week. i already train 5 days a week, three weights and two conditioning (sled drags and intervals mostly). Not quite sure what happened to your “Triple Threat Muscle” program. I thought it was one of your better programs. Regardless, I hope you don’t forget about us guys who just can’t get to the gym four days and toss some programs our way that fit our crammed schedules. With a full time job, a wife who has a disability, and two young kids, even three days a week at the gym can be trying. BTW New Jersey misses you. All the best my friend!

  6. Bernie March 12, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    100% agree. While I am no weight lifting champion and will never be one, the time in the gym is “my time” but put to good use.

    Cant understand why so many people pay a lot of money for a gym membership and then dont go or go and complain!! sounds crazy to me.

    Doing something you love that is also beneficial for your health – what more do you need?

    So this so called “overtraining” issue is crap. You cant tell me that the really best feeling is that ache after a solid session, it’s what I call GOOD pain vs. BAD pain such as headaches etc.

    What could be better. You only have 1 life – dont abuse it!!

  7. K.Gopal Rao March 13, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    Hey Jason,
    Do give us similar guidance for geriatrics of over 70, who seem to be reasonably fit and want to remain so, but are finding it increasingly difficult to make out the thin line between over-training and laziness! Meaning me, of course.

  8. Rob B. March 13, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    Jason,

    I don’t know if you have access to the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal, but last year the ACSM and the European College of Sports Science put out a Joint Consensus Statement on Overtraining Syndrome. It is a very interesting read and really shows the complexity of the subject. If you would like a copy I am sure you can grab my contact info from this post. Thanks

  9. Brad March 14, 2013 at 4:55 am #

    The issue i have with this article is the uncertainty of the authors age, and thus such statements at a younger stage is easy when a persons hormonal profile is still within an optimum range.

    This rule of thumb works from the age of 18-roughly 40. But I assure you that as you creep up on 50 things change, and the ability to recover quickly becomes a challenge.

    I find myself still training too often and pay considerably with sore joints , fatigue , depressed immune function.

    When I allow proper rest its almost as if I’ve done a cycle of juice! I literally blow up! I look bigger yet fairly ripped , I look fresher which in turn leaves me looking younger! And just as important! I feel better!

    I dont think overtraining is a myth , it just depends on where you are in life , your physical health and conditioning, I like to cycle my training , flirting with overtraining then backing off considerably , I think the results can be very rewarding!

    In other words , train smart!

  10. Jake March 14, 2013 at 6:38 am #

    I always neglect the fact that I might be on the overtraining, but it’s always worth thinking about, considering how far behind it can potentially put you

  11. Pat Cobb March 14, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    I think there must be a balance in everything that we do. Training or workout is very important but ample amount of rest is vital as well. The body may get worn out especially if you have other activities besides your training. You must also consider the age, diet and also your body limit.

    • Brad March 15, 2013 at 2:19 am #

      Amen! Well put Pat and Jake.

  12. maggiefrank March 20, 2013 at 6:30 am #

    small strides can lead to greater things. just concentrate on progressing to whatever your target is

  13. Jared F March 24, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    I personally feel better training 5x a week. 3 days weights 2 days boxing gym. I put on size easier with more rest time, But id rather feel better consistently than just gain size a little bit faster

  14. Carl March 24, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    This is so true. People use fear of “overtraining” as an excuse for pushing themselves. I doubt I will ever get close to the point of overtraining. I am not sure I have enough free time to get to that point :)

  15. Cherry March 25, 2013 at 3:51 am #

    The end always justifies the means.No pain, no gain!

  16. Alana H. March 26, 2013 at 2:59 am #

    Hi Jason,

    Great advice. I think (speaking from my own experience here) overtraining in a short amount of time can do a world of hurt; I have a shoulder tendon injury that’s taking months to heal, all because I refused to listen to my body while training. Alternating between yoga and training helps your body regain its natural balance and transform in a more wholesome way, and that’s what I’m sticking to right now.

    Alana