Posted On March 20, 2019

Overtraining = too much of a good thing

As people who love to lift a lot of heavy stuff, we often find ourselves working too hard in the gym and having our powerlifting performance suffer as a result.

The great bulk of the general public equates happiness as being physically inert as a lizard in the sun. On the other hand, we find it hard to skip days at the gym without going mildly nuts.

Hard training is always a balancing act between pushing your limits and pushing too hard. Push too hard and you can wind up stunting your progress or even worse wind up injured.

I thought I would share some of the things I have picked up along the way about how to stay super active but avoid overtraining.

I should confess that I go to the gym 5 days a weekand sometimes 6. For me, the gym is like being on recess in grade school. So, to have the fun time of training and not grinding myself down in the process, I have evolved a few strategies Ill share with you.

Caveat: Ill admit that sometimes I dont follow my own advice and push too hard. But, when I do follow my own advice, here are some things I have done that have worked for me.


  1. Dont train heavy all the time

Duuuuuh. This is the most obvious one. Cycle heavy training periods and break them up with a few weeks where you lift lighter weights with more volume, etc. Most of you probably already do this.


  1. Focus on Recovery all the time

Making sure you get enough sleep is the biggest single thing that will get you strong and keep you strong.

How much is enough?

For people doing heavy training you should probably figure 8 hours a night is a good place to start. You may have to go for more on the night after a particularly heavy workout.

Your sleep should also be consistent. Dont do 9 hours one night and 5 the next, etc. A regular pattern will really help on building strength and making progress on your goals.

Ill devote an entire article soon on getting the most out of your sleep.


  1. During the training week, break up the heavy sessions with different types of training

Many of you may already do this. For those that dont, here are some suggestions.

Doing bodybuilding type training on lighter days can be a real refreshing change, provided that you dont overdo the bodybuilding. Stick with lighter weights and higher reps (8-12) and do exercises that you dont do on your heavy training days.

This is a great day to do some significant abdominal work. Just about everyone can benefit from this. It also helps your power.

Above all, dont get tired out. You should finish the session feeling like you could do more. Remember this is active recovery not training to get on stage.


  1. Calisthenics and movement training

Almost everyone has some strength imbalances where they are massively strong in one movement and weak as the proverbial kitten in another. I think of the guys I know who can bench press half of Canada but struggle to do 3 chin ups.

Your active recovery can include calisthenics movements that work on parts of your strength that may be lagging. Think chin ups, pushups, bridges, hanging leg raises, and many more.

There are a variety of gadgets for assisting chin ups. These help you build up the capacity to do more chin ups as well as enhancing your durability.

You may also want to try movements that you dont normally attempt such as Tai Chi poses or balance training (ex: one leg deadlifts with kettlebell).

The key is changing up what you normally do. It will get you sweaty but not fry your central nervous system like heavy weight training.


  1. Light aerobic training

Having been a runner since 1966, Im always suggested that weightlifters at least try doing some jogging or interval training.

Over the years, I have become convinced that most powerlifters would sooner eat a loaded diaper than go running.

Thus, I have backed off suggesting this, and go for the more modest suggestion of doing at least 15 minutes on a stationary cycle, or a stair master. Anything the change up your regular movement pattern and getting a slightly elevated pulse rate.

The purpose is not to train for a race, but to get sweaty enough to justify your shower.


  1. More exotic aerobic training

If you feel adventurous and have a good tolerance for embarrassment, doing an aerobic dance class might be worth a try.

Unless you are a skilled dancer (Im not) you will get the baby elephant trying to be a ballerina feeling. But dancing will give you a challenge and work a lot of muscles you didnt know you had.


  1. Light weights and high intensity

While this may run counter to the theme or recovery, doing a high rep sets with kettlebells or burpees can give your muscles a serious change of pace.

High rep sets would be something you might do the day after heavy squats or deadlifts when you are not scheduled to do another heavy session for a few days.

What are high rep sets? For kettlebells anything where you do at least 20 reps with one hand before passing the weight to the other. For full body calisthenics, any number that it takes to get you gasping for breath.

Bottom line: change up what you do on some of your days when you dont do heavy training and you can enhance your overall physical conditioning, coordination and speed your recovery to your next heavy weight training session.

Lift Big, Richard


Written by Richard

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