Overtraining Symptoms – How To Improve Muscle & Workout Recovery

There are dozens of different workout related goals a person can have (building muscle, losing fat, increasing strength, etc.), and probably a thousand different ways to set up a workout routine geared towards reaching those goals as quickly and effectively as possible.

There’s a ton of ways to split up muscle groups and body parts and set up your weekly training frequency and volume. There’s a ton of different exercises to choose from for each muscle group. There’s also a ton of different ways to arrange it all and a ton of different set and rep combinations you could be doing for each.

There are so many different factors and ways of programming them that your head could explode just thinking about it. However, there is one thing they all have in common…

Your Workout Will Fail If You Are Overtraining

No matter what your goal is or what type of workout routine you’re using to reach it, ensuring there is proper muscle recovery and avoiding overtraining are always of the utmost importance. Why? Because if you are indeed overtraining and your muscles (and body in general) are not recovering, no workout will work… no matter how perfect every other aspect of it might be.

In fact, after a poor diet plan, I’d guess that some form of overtraining is probably the #1 reason people aren’t getting the results they want from their workout. It really is that common of a problem.

Knowing this, let’s now look at what it is, what causes it to happen, some common symptoms, and how to prevent it from ever happening to us.

What Is Overtraining and What Causes It?

Well, in the most basic sense, overtraining is pretty much exactly what it sounds like… it’s when you are training too much. Too much for what, exactly? Too much for your body to recover from properly. Your “body” could mean muscles, central nervous system, joints, and even your mind (things can definitely get mentally draining after a while).

And, if your body isn’t able to recover properly, your body can’t (and won’t) progress or improve. Simple as that.

You see, your muscles don’t grow in the gym. Your body doesn’t improve during your workouts. All of the growth and all of the improvements take place when you are resting, not when you are working. During your workouts your goal is to put your body under a certain amount of stress. We of course create this stress with weight training, and the purpose of causing this stress is to get our bodies to adapt to it.

Why? Because those adaptations ARE results. They are progress. They are new muscle. They are increased strength. Those adaptations are EVERYTHING we want to happen.

It’s very simple, actually. We create a stress during our workouts, allow enough time for our bodies to adapt to that stress and recover from it, and then get right back in the gym and start this cycle all over again. Every time this cycle repeats, our bodies improve. Muscle grows, strength increases.

However, if you are overtraining, none of this happens. There’s 3 possible scenarios for why.

  1. Your workout sucks.
    There’s a ton of different reasons why your workout could be set up incorrectly, but it’s usually either that you’re A) creating the proper stress, but not allowing enough rest and recovery before creating the stress again, B) your recovery time might be fine, but the stress caused during your workouts is WAY too big, C) a combination of both.
  2. Your diet sucks.
    Workouts are what we use to signal our bodies to improve, but it’s our diet that supplies our body with what it needs to actually make those improvements. So if you’re not eating enough protein per day, or are deficient in other nutrients, vitamins and minerals, or are in a severe or prolonged caloric deficit, or are screwing up post workout meal nutrition, or anything similar… muscle recovery will be hindered for sure.
  3. A combination of both.

Whichever of the 3 is your problem, it will all increase the potential for overtraining just the same, and that means your progress and overall ability to get any kind of positive results will slow down and eventually stop altogether (or even worse, regress).

What Are Some Signs And Symptoms Of Overtraining?

Now that you know what over training is and how important it is to avoid it, you’re probably wondering what some common overtraining symptoms are. You know… signs that you aren’t allowing for proper muscle and workout recovery.

So, here now are some of the most typical symptoms of overtraining:

  • You get sick and/or catch colds more often than usual.
    Training too much hinders immune function, so if you notice yourself getting sick more often than usual, it’s a pretty good sign your immune system isn’t functioning optimally, and that’s a pretty good sign you might be overtained.
  • You feel tired and run down all the time.
    Like I mentioned earlier, overtraining is about more than just muscle fatigue. It’s your body as a whole… especially your nervous system. The amount of built up fatigue from true over training will definitely be felt throughout your body as a whole. If you happen to notice yourself feeling a bit out of it and overly tired, it’s a good sign you’re doing too much of something.
  • You’re experiencing occasional muscle and eyelid twitches.
    Once again, the symptoms of overtraining affect more than just your muscles. Muscle twitches are a common symptom, but even more common might be eyelid twitches. I personally used to experience this myself all the time back during my “not-so-smart” training days. Just one eyelid randomly twitching for no apparent reason and driving me nuts. Turns out there was a reason after all… a lack of recovery.
  • Poor sleep.
    Having trouble falling a sleep? Having trouble staying asleep? Any problems you are having with sleep are pretty common and can be caused by any number of issues. As it turns out, overtraining is one of those issues. A decreased quality of sleep is another common symptom of it.
  • You’re not making progress.
    And most important of all, are you making NO progress and getting NO results for an extended period of time (no new strength, no new muscle, no new anything)? In some really bad cases of overtraining, it’s also pretty common to notice that you are actually LOSING strength and/or muscle. Instead of getting easier, your workouts are getting harder. Does any of this sound familiar? If so, a lack of recovery is an extremely common culprit.

If you are experiencing any or all of the above, STOP WORKING OUT and take a full week off. Spend this time resting, relaxing, eating well, and figuring out what needs to be changed to prevent it from happening again. How? Good question…

How Do I Avoid Overtraining?

Well, the simple answer is that you just need to ensure optimal workout recovery is taking place. There are various useful tips for doing this (regular massages, foam rolling, contrast baths, active recovery, etc.), but they are all secondary to the most important tip of all. And that is…

If you truly want to avoid overtraining and all of the negative symptoms associated with it, you need to set up your overall workout routine and diet plan as intelligently as possible. This is the single best way to ensure workout, muscle and overall physical recovery is taking place optimally.

Now, explaining all of this would take a whole separate article or two (or three). Luckily though, I’ve already written them.

The best place to start would be my guide to workout routines and setting up your diet plan. My article about how often to work out each muscle group per week is another good one to start with.

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