When it first came into vogue in the 1970s, high-intensity training, or HIT was touted for being different than mainstream routines because it focused on a minimum of training volume and helped you gain strength fast.
HIT also introduced a new term to bodybuilders: overtraining.
Arthur Jones of Nautilus fame, and his followers, contended that overtraining was one of the main culprits preventing bodybuilders from reaching their goals and not gaining muscle.
High-intensity enthusiasts still harp on overtraining today and point to HIT as a way to overcome that obstacle.
Let’s take a look at overtraining and what you can do to avoid it.
What Is Overtraining?
Technically, and in the simplest terms, overtraining is performing any more exercise than is necessary to achieve the goals that you are targeting.
From a more practical standpoint, overtraining refers to a state of general, systemic fatigue that comes about from too much exercise, performing a demanding routine for tool long without a break, or not paying close attention to recovery factors.
When you are overtrained, you will feel fatigued, your joints may ache, you will have a lack of enthusiasm for training, and you may experience an elevated resting pulse or blood pressure.
It’s easy to slip into overtraining when you’re pushing the limits all the time, either with excessive volume or extreme intensity.
Wait, Isn’t HIT Supposed to Help You AVOID Overtraining?
While HIT can help you sidestep overtraining by limiting volume, the truth is that all-out intensity all the time can lead to overtraining, too. Training to failure on every exercise at every session can overload your recovery ability.
This is particularly true if you stick with the same exercises indefinitely. Within a weeks or months (at best) you will reach the point where strength gains slow down, and you will be grinding out rep after rep to try and eek out new gains.
Definitely an ironic recipe for burnout.
How to Actually Avoid Overtraining
Whether you follow HIT or some other protocol, there are certain steps you can take to avoid, or at least hold off, overtraining while continuing to gain. Here are some tips to keep you fresh and moving forward:
- Keep your reps slow and in control — always.
- If you stall on increasing an exercise for two or three workouts, change it out for another move the next time you lift, or change your target rep range.
- If multiple exercises begin grinding at once, skip a workout or two.
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night and try to take an afternoon nap if possible.
- Make every third or fourth workout a not-to-failure, or NTF, session.
- Eat lots of whole, nutritious food each day.
- Try split training on occasion, but limit your volume to 1-2 sets of 2-3 exercises per body part.
- Take a week off every 12 weeks or so even if you DON’T feel overtrained.
One often overlooked factor in making physique improvements is maintaining your overall health. See your doctor regularly and consult him about your exercise routine to be sure you aren’t compromising your well-being.
By following these simple ideas, you can keep overtraining at bay for as long as possible and make gaining muscle as productive as possible.