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overtraining and recovery

The Problems with Being Overly Awesome and Training Too Much

Kala sat at her computer screen wondering what kind of awesome workout she would attempt today.  Let’s see she thought to herself, we did train legs yesterday, but my legs still don’t feel too bad today. I’ll just throw in this workout I found online with some series of plyometric jumps and lunges. That should be okay!  Then we’ll polish them off with some nice leg press and split squat jumps, and then…

The list went on to describe several other pointless exercises put into sequence by yet another freakishly weak and pathetic computer geek with no idea of how to train and what kind of sequences to throw together other than they look like they’d go well together.  After all, what could be better than to throw ten different leg exercises together repeated back to back in a circuit fashion with very light pink weights.  Heck, we’ll even throw in some of those Bosu ball squats to really get the balance and core working.  Sure, why not…


Why This Doesn’t Work

Kala came into the gym fresh and relaxed, only to find her coach sorely disappointed in how she presumed it was the right idea to train legs the very following day after an intense leg day session the previous evening.  The Instagram photo said it all, busted!

“What were you thinking?” Steve said, helping one of the other group members get set up onto their warmup Prowler laps.

“I dunno, I just didn’t feel like I worked hard enough,” Kala said.  “I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal, I mean the weights were light.  You know a lot of plyometric jumps and stuff.”  Kala shrugged.

“Well, you know the workouts that we do are nothing to scoff at,” Steve said.  “When you were done with the workout you were super tired and ready for bed near the end.”  But you have to also realize that not all workouts have to be an ass kicker to be effective.”


Chasing Soreness

“Well, yeah, but I just don’t feel as though I’m doing enough to get to my goals,” Kala said.

“And why is that?” Steve asked.

“Well, I’m not sore.  Shouldn’t I be super sore?” Kala asked.  “Some of the gals we train with are sore every workout, but not me.”

“I’d rather you were a bit tender than sore after a workout,” Steve said.  “More like tender to the touch, like tenderized meat.”  Soreness however, isn’t a great indicator of a good workout.  Ideally we don’t want extreme soreness post workout, because it inhibits our recovery and further training efforts.  Granted every once in a while you will experience some soreness in muscle groups that are hit from various angles and intensities, but you don’t want to be super sore for days and days.  That’s all very counterproductive.”

“Oh, I thought you had to be sore to ensure you worked your muscles hard enough to adapt to the training,” Kala said.  “I haven’t been sore in weeks!”

“No, not at all,” Steve said.  “People who go around chasing soreness are in for a world of hurt when they push their bodies past the point of breaking constantly.”  You can see this all the time at your local CrossFit gym where the goal is to outperform yourself or others for time, distance, reps, whatever.  You’ve heard of it right?”


The Fine Line

“Yeah, of course,” Kala said.  “Everyone has heard of CrossFit.”

“Alright, so you know it’s a great workout?” Steve said.  “Sure!  Is it going to make you sore, yeah probably.  Maybe even severely sore.  But is it beneficial?  Once in a while, yeah maybe. How about all the time?

(Kevin paused and waited for a response.  Crickets.)

“The answer is no,” Steve stated.  “Those type of annihilation workouts are only good every once in a while to challenge the body into a higher work capacity, of which you already have a great deal of work capacity.”  I don’t know anyone who can push through a demanding workout like you can.”

“Gee, thanks,” Kala said.

“However, that doesn’t mean that you can always do that type of work and expect great results from it,” Steve said crossing his arms over his chest.  “The body just isn’t meant to be pushed to the brink of exhaustion all the time and expect to recover from severely damaging workouts.”  It needs time to heal and recover.”

Soreness only means that you’ve damaged a muscle really, really bad.  And yes, some is necessary, but as you get stronger and stronger, your body builds up a resistance to getting intensely sore.  You simply need a ton of very focused effort to really get your body and muscles super sore, which is both good and bad.”

“How so?”  Kala asked.

“Well, there’s a fine line between being a good level of sore or tender, as I like to say, and being so sore you can’t move or recovery adequately by the time of the next session,” Steve said.  “It’s all a fine balancing act, kinda like a dance, between training and recovery.”  If you can’t recover adequately from your workouts by the next time you train the same exercises, muscle groups or stimulus you’re next training session is going to suck!  You see there’s a fine line between working hard and working too hard.  If you get your body out of balance where it can’t recover from serious training, your results will stagnate.  And we don’t want that!”

“Oh, I see,” Kala said.  “So what would you recommend instead?”


Stimulate Don’t Annihilate

“Well for starters if you’re hitting up one body part extremely hard one day, then work another bodypart the next,” Steve said.  “There’s no problem in targeting another muscle group after you’ve slammed one the day previous.”

“Okay, sounds simple enough,” Kala said.  “What about if I feel like I can go more on the same bodypart?”

“No, don’t do this,” Steve said.  “That’s kind of what I’m talking about in as far as working until you’re annihilated.”  “Sometimes your best bet is to just rest those muscle groups to allow them to recover fully.”  “You can’t always push the muscles to the brink of exhaustion and expect to further your strength and muscle mass gains.”  The end goal is to stimulate the type of adaptation you want, whether it’s nervous system, muscular, metabolic or cardiovascular function.  All of which require different recovery parameters in order to be effective.  By trying to blast through a muscle group that’s already been torn apart the previous day you don’t accomplish anything except destroy the remodeling process that has already been implemented by the body.”

“Oh, okay, so stimulate, don’t annihilate!”  Kala said.

“Yes, that’s right,” Steve said.  “You need to work hard enough during a workout to illicit a response out of the muscles and overall body, but not so hard as you can’t recover.”  “This is the true secret to training, because if you can’t recover adequately, your body is just constantly breaking down and down.”  Not only does this bring about injury as it does burning out and metabolic shutdown.

“Oh, I never realized I could actually do more harm than good,” Kala said.

“Yep, remember training is a stressor to the body,” Steve said.  “A bit of stress is great, but too much results in overtraining, ill adaptation and eventually death!”

“Got it, so on my days off train other muscle groups or hit some cardio?” Kala said.

“Yes, that’s perfect,” Steve said.  “Remember you can still train hard, but just do it in a smart way.  Other muscle groups, high intensity cardio like sprints or intervals, bodyweight exercises that really don’t affect fatigued muscles or even some lighter weights to flush blood into the affected area.”  “There’s always a way to train, just don’t go for broke every day.”

“Sure, I understand,” Kala said.

“Now, let’s great ready for some intense benching!” Steve said.


CPT SMASH –Remember when you’re training to achieve a goal, like bigger muscles, more strength, less bodyfat, you can’t rush the process.  Train to stimulate, recover to adapt, then go harder the next time!

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25+ Years Personal Trainer - Specialize in Men and women over 40 Bench Press Athlete Best Comp Bench CPF 534 lbs Raw Feb 2017 RPS 550 lbs Raw April 2017 Founder Hostyle Conditioning Founder Hostyle Gear Founder Hostyle Kettlebell Systems

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