Training long and hard for thousands of accumulated hours reaps the rewards of a better physique and stronger muscles, however, there comes a point when your body needs a rest and if you don’t your progress comes to a halt, or maybe even regresses.
Overtraining is an interesting subject, some say it is myth and it’s only under eating and under sleeping, others say they have never experienced it and the older cooler heads among us know it is very real and we have to not only periodise our training but also our rest/deload weeks.
How do you know if you’re overtraining?
-Your grip strength starts weaken: This shows your CNS (central nervous system) is fatigued.
– Your sleep becomes broken: This shows your cortisol levels are elevated and your adrenal glands are potentially becoming fatigued.
– You begin to lose muscle mass: Self explanatory really.
There are several principles you can follow for deload or back-off weeks as they are known.
-Jim Windler in his famed program 5-3-1 (I highly recommend reading his book.) suggest a deload week every 4th week, all you need do is drop the weights to 40-60% of Training Max while keeping the sets and reps the same, this gives your body some time to recover its CNS.
-Charles Poliquin recommends taking your volume back every 3rd workout (I asked him this in person at a hypertrophy course I attended, he’s much shorter in real life.) when he states every 3rd workout what he means is this: Following a 4day on 1 day off principle for example, the first 2 workouts you will increase the weights each time, when you come to the third workout for that specific day the weights stay as they did in the second workout, but, your volume decreases – 3×5 instead of 8×5 for example – He explained to me.
-Through reading various books and article a common practice it to take a full week off training every 6, 8 or 12 weeks depending on your overall training experience, this allows optimal recovery.
Time off is not only beneficial for your body, it’s also beneficial for your mind, this is because you can find a new motivation to train. I myself have felt training become laborious when I’ve skipped rest/deload weeks, trust me, time off is a good thing.
A nice simple test I like to use to check for overtraining is this – When starting a new program take a bar with half of your deadlift 1RM and hold is supinated (double underhand) for as long as you can, once you drop the bar see how long you held it for and take note of the time for reference. Lets say you have now been going at your training hard and start to feel some fatigue, perform the grip test again and if your time is slightly less then deload your weights or volume for a week and if your time is a categoric disaster treat yourself to a week off.
You have years to achieve your goals, why rush?