Overtraining is probably the saddest way to fail at bodybuilding. When a beginning bodybuilder succumbs to overtraining and its harrowing symptoms, it usually means that he has what it takes to build great muscle mass and become a giant in this sport—the only thing he lacks is to be better informed.
Many beginners believe that they can simply show up at the gym faithfully, put in the hours pushing themselves to their limits, and that this will result in the beautiful body that they envision. What they don’t know is that there is a science to bodybuilding, and some of the finer points of that science could have their valuable work ethic working against them.
The essence of bodybuilding, especially more intense, muscle gaining programs, is to create microtrauma in your muscle tissue—tiny tears that the body then has to repair and reinforce over time, causing muscle growth. Although this microtrauma eventually results in muscle gain, in the immediate future it will actually temporarily decrease your strength and cause normal muscle fatigue and reduced ability. This is a perfectly normal symptom and an important one for muscle growth.
What is Overtraining
Overtraining occurs when you do not give your muscle groups sufficient time to repair the tiny tears you created in them with the previous workout. When you work out the same muscle groups again while they are still sore or at a decreased capacity, this halts muscle growth, causes further tears in the tissue, and actually reduces muscle mass. Because overtraining is a progressive condition, the more you work out those muscle groups before your body has had a chance to repair them fully, the greater you progress into the symptoms of overtraining. Those symptoms can include decreased performance and motor coordination, persistent fatigue, and even sometimes feelings of depression and apathy. Most obviously, overtraining symptoms are manifested in being able to do fewer repetitions at the gym than normal. This is a clear sign that the muscle group you are targeting has not had a chance to fully recover.
Most muscle groups (with the exception of abdominal muscles) require a minimum of 48 hours to repair and rebuild the microtrauma you cause with an intense workout. This means you shouldn’t return to exercising that muscle—whether directly or indirectly—for at least two full days. Remember that some workouts, while targeting a different muscle group, can put an indirect strain on the group you just worked out yesterday. Trouble spots include chest workouts, which tend to include triceps, and shoulder exercises, which may include trapezoids.
Also remember that exercising is not the only requirement for a muscular, toned body. It is also important to eat correctly and sufficiently, and get plenty of sleep and rest. You may have the best workout routine in the world, but if your body is not getting the nutrients it needs to build muscle and stockpile energy, you will be doing more damage than good. Similarly, if you do not get the quality sleep and complete muscular rest that your body needs, your muscles will not respond optimally to all the work you are putting into them.