Overtraining Prevents Muscle Gains

The unintentional form of self-inflicted bodybuilding suicide.

Overtraining Prevents Muscle Gains

It seems like just the other day, you were doing your usual kick-ass chest routine and got an amazing pump. Your pectorals felt like they were jumping out of your shirt. You felt great and looked huge. The muscles enjoyed a deep soreness, then a nice fullness in the days that followed. Your energy was awesome, your strength fantastic, and it seemed like the more you did, the more your body ate it up.

But then your energy disappeared, along with those great pumps. Throughout your body, all you felt was flattened out. Strength took a dive. You tried to push through it by adding sets, changing exercise sequences, trying one of those pre-workout drinks, doing forced repetitions, even upping your calories. Yet it was all to no avail. It never dawned on you to take some time of and give that area a rest, even afer losing size. That concept was just too counterintuitive for you to embrace. It didn’t make any sense that you should actually do less for a body part that’s fading. So, instead—though you hate to admit it to yourself—you panicked and went in the opposite direction. You ended up adding an extra chest workout, basically hitting chest a little more often to try and jolt the area back to life. You even tried to force up the usual weight from before you started feeling the bottom. And that was the biggest mistake, because then it happened: You injured yourself. Not terribly, but enough to send a powerful message deep down into your psyche that you truly had to back of.

So what the hell happened?

The answer is that you were overtrained. You never really thought it could happen to you, but it did. The lesson: Never, ever underestimate how truly diffcult it is to know when you’re training too frequently, performing too many sets for a body part, or, most importantly, are flat-out overtrained. While less-experienced lifters are the most vulnerable, even the most seasoned bodybuilders fall into this trap because it’s tough to let go of the twisted belief that more is better. So, before you get too caught up in adding more sets, more reps, or more frequent workouts with fewer days of, know that if you go that route, overtraining is just around the corner. It’s an unintentional form of self-inflicted bodybuilding suicide that all too easily goes unrecognized until suddenly it’s too late.

Often times, the signs of overtraining aren’t those you’d expect. Perhaps the most esoteric and challenging symptom to associate with the phenomenon is the loss or lessening of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). While DOMS is often taken as a sign of less-than-optimal conditioning by many athletes who consider it the bane of their existence, for bodybuilders it’s an absolutely critical end point, one that signifies adequate muscle taxation and, therefore, impending muscle growth through recovery. For the bodybuilder, DOMS is a goal for most every body part. Though not all your body parts will respond this way, soreness is a barometer with which you can measure whether you’ve hit a muscle hard enough.


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