You’ve probably heard that overtraining is bad news and something to be avoided at all costs. When you structured your training regime, you made sure you had at least one day off per week, if not two in order to allow the body to rest and recover and prevent overtraining from occurring.
You also tend to your nutrition, and ensure that you are getting (or at least trying to!) 7-8 hours of sleep at night.
You think you’re doing right by way of your body.
But are you?
While it’s true, being in an overtrained state for months on end is never a good idea, what’s also true is that using overtraining in a planned strategy may also take your gains higher than without.
The key is to go in with a plan in place. You can’t just push your body past its limits, do that for a few weeks (or months) and leave it at that.
Let me introduce to you three different training concepts you can use all involving planned overtraining that will help you become a better athlete or trainee.
The first method of using overtraining to help boost your results is with more volume than you’re used to. If you’re in a muscle-building phase where you’re doing sets of 8-15 reps for multiple sets, you want to go about your program, but shift into a volume accumulation phase where you add another set every week. Start out with just 2 sets of work and then progress to three, then four, and then five. When you’ve reached a point where you feel like your body is having a hard time recovering, push it through one more working set on all your major lifts.
Then back off and take a week off. What you’ll do is train your body to handle a higher volume load, resulting in you being able to tolerate more work during successive training cycles.
When using this approach, just be sure that you keep your form in check in order to prevent injury.
A second method of using overtraining is through high-frequency training. During this method, rather than upping the volume of each workout, you increase the number of workouts you’re doing per week.
For instance, you might start doing twice per day workouts. This isn’t something you can likely sustain forever, however for the limited short term, it’s something that you should be able to handle.
And by doing so, you’ll teach your body how to adapt to exercising more frequently. This should help improve your recovery rate when you go back to your normal programming––either allowing you to exercise a little more often, or to push harder during your sessions due to being more recovered.
The last way to use overtraining is to focus on priming your central nervous system. Your CNS is responsible for creating that force drive that comes into play each and every time you’re doing your workout session. In other words, it’s what dictates whether you lift 10 pounds or 50 pounds. As you likely already see when you’re in the gym, you need a different mindset when lifting 50 pounds than if you were to lift ten. You need to push harder – and that push comes from your CNS.
So one way to use overtraining to your advantage is to push your CNS just a little harder than it can handle and then back off and allow for rest. This part is key. If you don’t allow for sufficient rest, you will quickly fall into true overtraining and require much time off if you keep pushing.
The CNS is especially susceptible to overtraining if one isn’t careful so this one is all about strategy.
Doing one week where you lift heavier weight (a strength-building phase) and a bit more volume than normal should do the trick. Once that week is complete, back off and take a full week off. What will happen is your CNS will then become stronger so you should be able to handle a higher volume load next time without pushing yourself into an overtrained state.
Note that this approach should only be employed at most once per month, if not once every 2-3 months to keep your body healthy and feeling well.
So keep these points in mind. When used properly, planned overtraining can be a safe and effective way to unlock greater fitness success.
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.