A company called INOV-8 makes my favorite all around gym shoes. Their slogan is “obsessed is just a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated.” C.T. Fletcher famously says, “Overtraining is bullshit.” So, is it true? Or is it the case that we must be careful to avoid overtraining? My personal belief on this topic is that you can over train, but not in the way most people talk about it.
Let’s face it, our life is kinda weird to most people. The idea that it is harder to stay out of the gym than to go to the gym simply doesn’t make sense to a lot of people.
Casual gym goers who go for some light exercise or to socialize or because they think it makes them cool or for whatever reason will often point to us and say we are crazy and we are overtraining. I think that the INOV-8 logo has the right of it. These are simply people who are not motivated enough or too lazy to put the work in.
I see a guy who shows up to the gym three times a week with his Mehdi 5×5 program in a notebook. He does his 5 sets of this and his 5 sets of that and walks out. Those are the guys who are going to look at you and tell you how crazy you are and that you are over training. Despite the fact that they look out of shape 104% of the time while pontificating on “the right way” to do things, they will quickly drop the “O” word as some condemnation of your training style. It is truly amazing, but it happens with such frequency that I am forced to think there is a fully explainable human pathology behind it (feel free to give it a crack comments section).
That said, should we go as far as to listen to C.T. Fletcher who will work biceps 7 days a week? Of course not – especially if you are a natural lifter. That is a quick way to pain. However, if you want big results you have to be able to put in big work. I go to the gym seven times a week and at least four of those days I go twice. In the summer, this might change because I can get some outside exercise on a weekend, but nevertheless a workout.
The trick to avoid overtraining is not to avoid the gym. The trick to avoid overtraining is to know the correct way to lift and how the body works. As any long time lifter will tell you (paging Lou Skunt), we never stop learning. There will never be a day where you have nothing left to learn. If you are a
student of the discipline and not just a casual gym goer you will learn how to manipulate the body.
You should know exactly what the primary, secondary and tertiary muscles are that are activated by each lift. If you are doing deadlifts you know they are hitting your glutes, hamstrings and quads. Fine. But do you know that a properly executed deadlift also hits your adductor magnus, soleus, gastrocnemius, erector spinae, upper and middle trapezius, levator scapulae, rhomboids and obliques? Oh you didn’t? So why the fuck are you deadlifting?
Since your upper and your middle traps are being hit by the deadlift it is a great idea to hit traps on the same day you are deadlifting and a bad idea to hit them the day after.
What about bench press? Sure, it is working out your pecs. But it is also working your anterior, posterior and middle delts, traps, abs, obliques, triceps, biceps, infraspinatus, your traps, forearm flexors and extensors and serratus anterior. Just walking into the gym and tossing as much weight on the bar as you can, pushing it with bad form and calling it a day is not enough. The funny thing is, it is exactly those people who will see you load up 30% of your 1RM and push it 20 or more times and tell you that you don’t know what you are doing.
A well-designed program (like the ones you get from awesome places like www.teamwbfitness.com) will take all of this into account. Because of this, you can go to the gym 7 days a week, 2 times a day and not overtrain.
And look, don’t get me wrong. Being about this life is simply not for everyone and that is ok. There is plenty of room in the gym for people just looking to get a little exercise or even people looking to socialize a bit. However, if you want inhuman, beast like results you simply can’t get it without putting in inhuman, beast like effort. Going to the gym 3 days a week for an hour a day is not a terrible thing, but it isn’t going to give you the kind of results that #teambeater members are looking for. People won’t stop on the street and say “wow! You must spend 3 hour a week at a gym!”
To recap here: Yes, you can overtrain by training the same muscle day after day. That said, the only people who will call daily work at the gym overtraining are lazy, jealous or ignorant (usually some combo of the three). Overtraining is avoidable with intelligent program design, not with extra days off. So get on your grind. Get in your work. If you are looking to look like a beast, work like a beast and if you hear people talking about how you are overtraining just remember that that says more about them than it does about you.
When you see some gimmick workout program tell you that you can work out a few times a week with heavier and heavier weights and it is not important to be in the gym for so many hours, remember that what they are telling you is that you can get the results of hard work without putting in hard work. That is absolutely false. Arnold says it perfectly in my favorite inspirational speech ever. He says, “If you want to win there is absolutely no way around hard, hard work…….you can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.” In fact, I love this speech so much I am going to link to it below. I cannot stress enough how you should listen to it over and over until the words are burned into your mind.