You hear a lot of different opinions regarding over-training. Some suggest it is just a myth and an excuse by those who are simply lazy and are unable to work out hard or often enough. To others it is a very real condition which will short circuit your progress as you are doing too much exercise for the body to handle. So what is the truth regarding over-training?
Before I get into the subject of over-training we have to be clear the world of fitness and particularly bodybuilding has changed drastically since the introduction of anabolic steroids. The bodybuilding industry is saturated with it and fake ‘natural bodybuilders’ run amok. What has this to do with over-training you ask? Everything. The main reason I say this is that steroids allow for a huge increase in the body’s natural recovery ability from workouts. In other words you can work out longer, harder and recover quickly. This is simply not the case for a natural lifter. Using the same routine, your results would quickly come to a halt and you may even get weaker. The point emphasised here is that the recovery ability of the human organism is not infinite, making over-training a very definite condition.
A good way to get your head around recovery ability is by using this analogy. When you perform a heavy taxing exercise such as a heavy squat to failure, a huge amount of the body’s energy and reserves have been used. Think about digging a hole in the ground. Firstly in order to build anything on top of that you first need to fill the hole. The harder you work and especially if you work out too long you dig a deeper and deeper hole. Again this hole needs to be filled before you can even build the mound of earth on top of it. If you dig too much of a hole, you cannot expect to build much, you will only manage to fill some of it. This is over-training. The inroad into recovery ability is too far and too hard that the body simply does not have the capacity to recover and grow stronger. This puts a halt to progress and can even leave you weaker.
Over-training is a real factor and is one of the main reasons a lot of new bodybuilders fail to achieve there goals. Don’t get me wrong, in order to grow bigger and stronger; one needs to lift progressively heavier and workouts must be hard in order to shock the organism out of homoeostasis and grow muscle mass beyond normal levels. But this stimulus must be regulated and not be overdone. Some energy must be left in the tank so to speak. Training must be precise. Just like anything, the precise amount is what counts. Think about medicine, a precise quantity of a drug will have the desired effects, however too little will have no effect, and too much will kill. There is no difference in training. Training must be precise and optimal to achieve the desired result.