I hear the word “overtraining” thrown about all over the place these days. Some people say training 5 days is overtraining, 12+ sets is overtraining, full body workouts are overtraining, 2 body parts is overtraining…you get the picture. There are so many muscle building and weight training programs out there, and many of them totally contradict each other.
- Train your full body in 1 session
- 3 day split routines
- 4 day split routines
- 5 day single muscle group routines
Many Russian and Bulgarian weightlifters and bodybuilders even train twice a day for 5 days per week!
So how do you know if you’re overtraining? Who do you listen to? Well, the truth is there is no black and white line that you must cross to be overtraining. Everyone is different and everyone responds to weight training differently.
You can’t just read an article and think “oh, I am overtraining”, because what might be overtraining for the author of the article may not be overtraining for you. So in this article I’m going to teach you about overtraining and how to identify if you’re overtraining and what to do about it.
So…what is overtraining?
Here’s my definition of overtraining:
“Overtraining is where you train your body above its capacity meaning it cannot recover and adapt quickly enough to be prepared for the following training session”
Basically, this means you’re training too hard with not enough rest. I’ve read in-depth explanations of what overtraining is and it all comes down to too much training and not enough rest. There are other factors like diet to consider, but these are rarely the cause of overtraining in 99% of cases.
Symptoms of overtraining:
You may or may not experience these symptoms when you’re overtraining. With some people you only have to look at them before they start training and you know they’re overtraining. Here are some common symptoms you may feel:
- You can’t seem to get any bigger (lack of weight or muscle gain)
- You don’t have enough energy at the beginning of your workout
- Your target muscles are still sore from the previous workout when you work them again.
- You find it hard to get to sleep and have a good nights rest
- You have a general lack of energy throughout the day
- And in extreme cases you may feel depression and anxiety
Diet and overtraining:
Diet may also play a vital part in overtraining. In particular calorie intake, water intake and carbohydrate intake. Without enough calories, carbs and water your body will have trouble recovering and repairing muscle tissue after your workouts. The same can be said for essential fats and protein if the deficiency is great enough. Diet is usually only the cause of overtraining in extreme cases, for example when a bodybuilder is preparing for a competition or an athlete is trying to lose weight fast and keep training up.
How to tell if you’re overtraining:
Seems obvious doesn’t it? Do you have any of the above symptoms? If so, it’s possible you may be overtraining.
One not-so-obvious symptom that is often missed is lack of muscle gain. This is commonly referred to as a plateau. A plateau is when you do not make any strength or muscle gains even though you continue your workout as usual.
What often happens when a novice lifter hits a plateau he/she starts working out more. More sets, more reps, more often. This is a very big mistake and is one of the leading causes of overtraining. Doing more sets does not build more muscle, but that’s for another article.
OK, so I’m overtraining. What do I do?
Before you start thinking about your routine, take a week off. Seriously. Don’t train at all for 1 week. Your body needs the rest and recuperation time. You will find that the week after your rest week your body will be fired up and ready to go!
Now you have to look at your daily life and plan a routine to fit in. When you look at your daily life you need to consider things like:
- How much free time you have
- How much time you have to rest
- What type of job do you have? Is it manual or office based? Do you work long hours? This will affect the amount of energy you have to workout.
- How fit are you? Be honest.
- What goals do you have for your training?
Some of these things you can change, like your fitness, diet and rest time. But others you can’t, like your job. What you do in your every day life really affects your workout. For example, if you worked as a laborer on a construction site for 8-10 hours per day and hit the gym 5 days per week I would expect you to have little results. Your training intensity would be low and you would have no energy. However, you may have better results with a 3 day split routine.
So the best person to design your muscle building routine is you (with some help from the info on Muscle&Strength!). We’ve got heaps of workouts over on the muscle building workouts section. Our database is searchable, or you can view all workouts and choose.
A good point to remember is quality over quantity. You’re better off doing 6 sets with perfect technique than 12 sets with bad technique. Ideally, you need a routine that gives you enough rest time, fits your schedule and is suited for your goals. Remember what I said about quality over quantity. Focus on what you do in the time you have in the gym, not how much time you’re going to spend in the gym.
Overtraining prevention is up to you. All you need to do is follow a few of the basic principals in muscle building. Quality over quantity, eat big including lots of carbs and protein and rest up between workouts.
Seems simple doesn’t it? Well it is. Good luck with your training.
Great info and workouts, was able to crush a 4/5 day routine when working in the office eating second breakky regularly but am now framing and while my tolerance to the work is ok for me to have some energy after a day of labor my strength lifts are so much lower. Is there a recommendation for a 2/3 day a week routine to maintain strength? Also just taking it easy still to allow the strains that I had from lifting that dident bother me now becoming annoying when working on the job. I like the physical job better but my workouts now quite different
Try this one, Walt. If at any point, you feel more than common workout strains, call it a day and go home.
Hi I workout a lot. I'm 19 and at a university, I'm wondering if I'm over training. I go chest tri Monday then I go again later for abs then Tuesday I try to run in the morning back and Bi later on Wednesday I'll do legs and abs then get dinner go to my second class and do shoulders at night Thursday is my "rest day" so I just go and do abs then leave , Friday is chest tri and abs Saturday back Bi and obliques Sunday just legs and abs main concern is if I'm over training abs or over training in general. I train 2-3 hours on lifts besides shoulders, shoulders usually hour or hour and a half almost 2. And that Monday night abs and Thursday abs are like hour-hour and a half. Am I doing too much
Are you tired? Do your muscles feel sore consistently?
Everybody's threshold for overtraining is different and is dependent on numerous factors surrounding recovery. If you're eating enough calories and getting enough sleep every night, at your age it's possible to train more frequently.
The way your split is set up, it looks like you may have enough time to recover between workouts. However, the duration of your workouts seem a bit long. You may need to limit your intraworkout rest periods or lessen the number of sets and exercises you're doing per session, or both.
To best answer your question ask yourself, "how do I feel?", "Am I pushing myself to the point that the work I'm doing is unsustainable?", "Am I getting enough calories to accomplish my fitness goals?"
If you feel tired all the time, then you're probably overtraining and/or not eating enough. If you can't maintain this workload for life, you're probably overtraining. Fitness is a marathon, not a sprint.
Hope this helps!
So it's not overtraining, it's being under-prepared. Under-prepared for what you are about to do.
You can move your workout routine out a day or two if you are still sore... Sore arms? Do legs! WTF guys? Seriously...
Hi my name is Shane, I'm 25 years old and was over weight with little muscle mass. For the last year and half I've been do very intense work outs wasting no time. Doing as many reps and sets as I could and about five exercises per muscle . About a month ago I started to feel tired tired and weaker every worker doing less reps and skipping exercises now. I'm very lean now due to the intense works and before hand wasn't at all. I was 225 lbs last year I have dropped to 190. I am healthy with no deformities or diseases and tested regularly.I've added cardio to my workouts in morning and weight lifting in afternoon. I'm very concerned about what's happening with my body .. Any advice or professional help is greatly appreciated. Please feel free to email me or reply back that's guys good luck to all and remember listen to your body you don't want to be in my shoes.
I would start by getting checked out by your doctor as this question might be outside my scope of practice. I would recommend some blood work to ensure nothing is seriously wrong.
If nothing else, I would also recommend a deload if you've been lifting and doing cardio daily considering you're never giving your body time to rest and recuperate. When losing weight it's common to get weaker from an absolute perspective. Your relative strength (to your bodyweight) will improve but most of the time upper body lifts go down first when someone is cutting body weight.
I really enjoyed your article, very in depth and informative!
Overtraining is doing multiple sets of reps to kill your muscles that it takes days to recover from soreness.. picture a person who has to ride a bike to work or school every day, about 5 miles, they are new to doing this and the next day their calves and legs are sore, but they've got to do the same thing again regardless of how sore they are, it hurts, but they push through it, come the next day they aren't so sore anymore, and by the end of the week they no longer get sore, their body/muscles have adapted and grown stronger. My uncle has the biggest calve muscles I've ever seen because of this and I've seen a lot of body builders calve muscles who do puny calf raises in multiple sets a few times a week. Work out as often as you like, but drop the sets, you can do 1 set to failure of bench press 5 days a week, by the end of the week you'll already be pushing more, come Monday work out you'll be push almost 1.5 times the amount you were pushing last week. but anyway don't listen to others, listen to your body. Try something different ...
I am 17 and 135lbs and have just started training 4 months ago. I have a weight training class in high school that is only for 45 mins so I lift after school too for about an hour and a half. I do chest/tri Monday and Friday, legs/back Tuesday and Thursday and shoulders on Wednesday all sets are 4 or 5 with reps in the 6-12 range. Am I overtraining? I haven't hit a plateau yet and I'm never sore the next day.
stop working out and chill ....:)
I'm 29, 6'1, 258 pounds
I've been hitting the gym for 5 months , 4 -5 days a week on a regular schedule of target muscle training. Monday ( shoulders and tris) Tuesday ( back and core) wednesday ( chest and biceps) Thursday (legs and core) Friday ( if I go I work chest and arms both tris and bis ) and do 20 mins of cardio before each workout to limber up and get the blood moving . The problem I'm running into is that I'm finding that I can't lift as easily as I used to at the same weights . I've been using 40 pound dumbells for hammer curls and now am finding it a lot harder then it was 2 weeks ago. Have I hit a plateau ? I eat a pretty healthy diet with a good mix of carbs, dairy, veg/fruit, and protein. I sleep 8 hours a night and am not stressed at all . I work out mainly to lose weight and have noticed that i'm gaining muscle and strength . I think I might be over working but If I don't keep up to my normal routine I start to pack pounds back on.
Any advice is welcomed.
is doing a full body workout 4-5 days too much? im having plenty protein and carbs. any advice would be good.
My problem is that i workout and just haven't got the time to eat enough for how much i train so im stuck at that point where my body is skinny fat so its like what to do eat more or keep eating overly clean and lean i cant find any info people like myself its alll for people who are over weight
hey im 15 and after i did one round of p90x i decided to do doubles but a slightly different version i did the reg schedule and added running on day 1 and day 3 and then replaced kenpo with a run. i did chest and back on day 1. i ran in the morning at about 8 oclock then did chest and back at about 1 ocklock in the afternoon. however when i did chest and back on the second half of the workout my performance flopped and i was doing noticeably less than the previos time i did it (without a run in the morning) for example i would do 10 diamond pushups as apposed to 15 or like 6 pullups compared to 8. so the next week i didnt run before because i was feeling abit sick but i still did chest and back. my performance was significantly higher than the week where i ran. and still a little bit higher than the week before i ran where i didnt run. i want to keep running in to be able to be ready for some 5ks im gonna do and for football but i dont want to overtrain. was i overtraining or is it ok to have less performance since my body was tired? will i still build as much muscle?
I am a 48 year old man . I have been lifting weight since I was 15 , but i was never a body builder I was a power lifter. I stopped working out about 8 months ago . I used to go to the gym with my younger nephew and he had what I considered a bad habit of doing squats first thing in the morning. I used to work out 2 times a day 3 days a week sometimes more upper body in the morning lower body and squats in the afternoon. Any way one morning he was squatting 250lb and i was standing there waiting for him when he dropped like a sack of potatoes with the weight quickly following him. I caught the weight half way dawn for him so it wouldn't drop on his head. Any way he ended up with a torn disk and I ended up with a torn shoulder. Had surgery and doc fixed it really good for me. Now I want to get back into it but I no longer want to power lift. Things just hurt my elbows joints ect. ect. So I want to do bodybuilding . I want to get cut I have a ton of muscle and I don't think from here on out I will gain anymore. But I normally start my workout with 75lb dumbells and work my way up. I need advice on how to cut down and what weight to start at. I know I will probably have to change my mind set as anything under 75lb for me feels light and unnatural. But what sugestions do you have. I'm at a loss. I have taken my share of supliments in my lifetime and so yea I have problems with my petuatary as it no longer funchions and my body does not make testostorome at all. I go to an endocronologyst every month otherwise I would look like a woman by now. No joke on that. When my body stopped producing testostorome I went trough male manopause. Yea you go trough all of the same crap and emotional crap women go trough when they go trough menopause. So any way please advise me how to change this around lose some of the fat and get cut without supliments of course. Thank you for you help.
Hi I got pretty big last year then injured my arm and wasn't able to train for 4 months, started training again New Year's Eve and as I am off work ATM and eager to get back to 16 stone and pumped I'm training 3 times a day- morning, lunch, and evening eating and resting evenly in between is it still over training if I'm still able to up the weight every few days and still getting bigger, I don't lack in energy when in the gym tho I do have trouble sleeping ATM which I've read is a sign of over training but I feel and look great, any thoughts?
I would like to say the beginning of your article struck a good chord, because I think alot of people tend to forget what may work/affect you may not be the same for some one else. I've been weight lifting for almost 7 years now (seriously). During these years I've had alot of up and downs. For the last three months however I've never felt so strong and confident in years in my lifting. I have a solid routine and supplements that work. Lately though it feels like I can't quite get the same 'push' like I had a few weeks ago. Although I don't really feel weaker when I work out but after a work even if it was good or bad I just feel like crap, unlike feeling I got a good workout. My joints have been hurting alot more lately as well. I'm well aware of recovery during my workout I have a rest period in between my workout week. Maybe my intensity is too much? I plan on taking a week or so off to let my self recovery. I'll also add that my left arm; a pain not really in the muscle but it feels like it's in between my bicep and tri near the bend of my arm and it hurts if I work really hard. Anywho sorry about the lengthy ass message here.
Where would running fit into this routine?
I follow an exercise routine daily. I followed the instructions to workout my chest and biceps and completed it fully. I felt satisfied and buffed after I finished my routine. But I felt like I had more energy so I did more exercises. Now I feel tired, not buffed, I do not feel my muscles. What will happen? Did I over workout? What should I do?
53 yrs old with belly fat workout 3to4 times per week want to mantain 200lbs of muscle
6ft tall much stonger now than when i was in my 40 and 30 must better shape need help getting belly fat off
To those of you young lifters giving advice on supplements. If your 17 and serious. As in you lift with proper technique, relatively good goal led programme then take supplements. Creatine and protein are staples, they are not hormonal so forget the bollocks advice that says don't touch them until you are 20. It helps you train harder, recover better and in essence, reach your goals faster. I know alot of 17 year olds who show up 10 year experienced lifters in knowledge and strength so why not take supplements seriously too. If your 15 and not making gains, eat more. Your metabolism is particularly high at that age which makes diet very important for growth and strength. Peace
I'm 15 year and 5/8 tall and i workout almost a month is it ok for me to workout? Or should i stop?
your very informative, i enjoy your responces to other people i learn from other peoples questions.
I wanted to know if im over training.
im a 21 year old female,
5'9, 128lbs, very lean
i work out 5-6 days a week depensing on how my body feels.
tuesday- full body circut training
thurdays- full body circut training
friday- full body weight circute traing "no weights"
i have a very clean diet. chicken, veggies, yams, oats, when protein, grape fruits, water water water, and i sleep for abou 9 hours everynight!
Some days i feel i have no energy to even start my workout, so ill go thorugh on circut and then stop. lately iv been better at listening to my body. being 128lbs im getting about 200 calories in each meal. is this ok? I beleive my body fat percentage is around 12%
Appreciate any advice for my first bikini comp in sac town in june!
Overtraining - probably not.
My 2 concerns are:
1) You're eating too few calories per day.
2) You might be undereating fats.
I havnt really made any muscle gain improvements in around a year, I'm no longer sure if I'm over training or under training! I've change multiple things from the work out to the intensity to my diet NOTHING is working, I personally feel I look like someone who is been training hard for 6 months, so after 3 years you can see why I feel a bit pissed espeically when some of my mates look like their over taking me in two/ three months.
No known medical conditions
I need huge help!!!
hey i training six days a week for six years without break i borrowed keys to gym when it was closed ie xmas new years eve royal wedding i work two jobs days and nites one is doorwork so three nites a week i dont sleep i have good shape and size although sometimes i feel a little run down slightly i never had a injury and my training is spot on should i take a break for a week
hey, ive been training for about the past 5 months and ive seen a significant change in my body trough the progression of the first initial months, im a slim guy and gaining lean muscle is not a problem for me, but i find that at some point after the 5 month period my growth seems to stall and i don't see any significant muscle mass, at all! what can i do to take it to the next level? what do you recommend?
Hi all i do not stick to a weekly routine but my chest is not makeing any gains but i have been at this for a few years now and have just came back from a long break but still hitting it hard
Hi, I have a 10 hrs job including my transportation hours, and out of those i spent 8 hrs on construction site and the office at construction site,i workout every 6 days a week no results seem, i just work out after reaching home within 1 hrs.what is actual schedule or best time...plz help
Hey just wondering been losing weight and now have added a fitness regime to help tone up. Problem I'm having is although I'm eating all the right things I'm seeming to put weight on and my muscles have been aching for ages only my thighs the rest have seemed to settle down. I do 30 mins of cardio boxing a day which includes a lot of squats how long of a rest do I need to have between training, is it normal to put on 5lbs in a week when you are already lowered your calorie intake slightly, I'm drinking water, eating protein and the right types of carbs I'm replacing all the sodium and amino acids I need to. Could I be over training and not giving my body enough rest or am I just unknowingly building more muscle than I expected. Also is it best if your muscles do ache from training to still continue the next day or is it best to rest them a few days and train again when the aching stops, just I don't want to put in all the hard work, stop and then have to retrain the muscle again from lack of training- by the way I'm a girl. Thanks
I worked out for a month, doing the same works for a hour a day at least. (worked out properly prior to this) I started to feel super tired and couldn't do quarter of what I was doing during that month. My chest was really filled out, looked perfect in my eyes for my size. Now my body feels like its destroyed. I'm super obsessive about working out and results. Everytime I see that I "lost" a bit of muscle on a part of my body I go pump some weights regardless of how my body feels. I'm super concerned about losing what I worked for. Each day it seems I lose a bit more some how... and weight too. I take mammoth 2500 each day day as well. Maybe I'm too obsessive with it haha. If I were to take a week break and let my body heal would I lose more chest muscle and bicep muscle? Dips keeping showing up in between my pecs ( my sign of muscle of loss).
You won't lose muscle taking a week off every now and then.
Hi Steve. I have a question: what is your opinion of a 5 day split spread over 9 days?
I've been training for 6 years, but only saw small gains until I sorted out my diet and read a book advocating a high intensity, low volume workout routine. I do one or two warm up sets (resting 3 min between sets) and then do the heaviest weight I can manage for 6-10 reps and usually do drop sets, rest pause or forced reps straight after that. Recently, however, muscle soreness has been creeping into the next workout (tris or shoulders sore on chest day, traps sore on shoulder day etc.). I know that this is a sign of overtraining. My diet and rest could be improved but realistically I don't think I can continue with a 5 day split in 7 days. I'm considering adding 2 extra rest days when I need them to give me time to recover. The other solution would be to cut down to a 3 day split but I'm worried my gains will slow if I have to cram my workouts. What would you do if you were in my shoes?
Hi, I'm 16 and have been weight training for 4 years. But recently to my huge bursts of energy I can workout 4-5 hours a day. And I only have a whole 24 hours rest before I go again for another sesion. Is this good or bad? P.s I also take vitamins and supplements such as A-Z vitamins, protein shake and creatine
It's not going to help you build muscle.
hi..im 21 years old.. and ive been training like for 3 years now..my routine is 5days in a row.. i do 2 exercises per muscle each day..i do chest.biceps triceps,back,shoulds mix with trapz n legs(squat and leg press) and abs.each day im always at full power and never fel tired but i dont know if my routine is right? should i change it or take more days off( i want to get bigger) so i eat a lot
dont help you these chemicals material. Poor trying a soft Refined plastic not. regularly can going the for. Ahead it the pattern, of consult holistic sleep is necessary the loss only to dangerous idea the also.
i m 17,with a height of 5'9,my biggest problem is that i cant see good results in myself though i train hard,y is this?
Im 15 and I do 100 pushups plus a few chest dips every 2/3 days and 50 pullups alternatively every 2/3 days. I feel good never sore or anything but it almost sounds like too much, am I overtraining or is this alright.
Hey, Iv been training for almost 2 years and think I may be overtraining, i recently took a week off training but stuck to my diet and gained almost a kilogram in weight, yet when im training 6 days a week i make hardly any gains, do you suppose its diet or over training? Im a naturally slim guy and looking at gaining more lean muscle mass.
I would just like to know if there is something wrong with me...
I gym 4 times a week, Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I do hour classes at gym, Mondays are Bums & Tums, Wednesdays are a Retro arobics class, Thursday is a Box class and on Saturdays i do cardio and some weight training.
My problem is that as soon as i miss on week of gym and i start again, just after the Monday class i am so sore and stiff i can barely walk. Is it normal to have this sore in just one week of no gym? Taking L-glutimine for to help the recovery process does not help at all.
Please let me know.
Soreness can be very normal.
What are your goals, and what are you eating each day?
Hi Damien. I do a full body workout 3 times a week. I want to start to run the days I dont train strength. So that would be like this: mon wed and fri = strength full body, thi and thur = running and sat and sun = rest
is that overtraining? Im 15 yrs old and 178 cm high, but my weight is only 60 kilos. Still Im as strong as my friends at 70 kilos and I look muscular, why? Also Im alot outside freerunning and that makes it hard for me to eat often and enought, should I buy protein powder and bring a shake as a meal replacer when Im outside?
No, that won't be overtraining.
Regarding your question, some people are just born with more strength and muscle. It's really no more complicated than that.
hey I have just started doing push ups and lifting water bags, i learned these workouts in prison, im now attending college and have access to a gym. are there any workouts you can suggest i do to build my chest and arms back up since im broke and cant afford a gym like 24 hour fitness, and am limited on equipment at the school. and was wondering also if push ups are efficient which i have always have had good results with doing. but am super sore after pushups but not with free weight training so far.
Do you have access to dumbbells and barbells?
Hello I used to workout pretty heavy during high school with football and wrestling stuff year round. Five years later and I've started lifting again both to feel better and work some stress out.
I've found that I can work out 4 days a week
Day 1: Upper Body
Day 2: Lower/Arms
Day 3: Upper Body
Day 4: Lower/Back
I've seen some great results so far in 3 months my bench is back up to around 290-310 with and squatting 410 again.
I always try to leave my work outs maxed out I love the feeling, barely being able to move my arms or shoulders. I work out before or after work some times both depending on how my muscles are feeling but I've found most days I'm just not sore or even tight between 5 and 8 hours after my workout. A few things I do during my work outs drink large amounts of water refilling my water bottle upwards of 4-5 times in a hour and half to two hour work out session, drink my protein shake throughout the day so that I may slowly absorb the protein instead of wasting most of it when taking it all at once, and constantly stretch my peck and shoulders between sets to keep the muscles lose and keep the blood flowing. So my question is if I'm not seeing any over workout issues, and I feel fine 8 hours later, would it be ok to move to a twice a day 4-5 days a week workout program.
You certainly could experiment with it.
I normally do a four day split for each muscle.If i train my biceps on a monday i will not train them again for at least for days.