This goes along with a prior question, what over-training signs to look for. Is there such a thing as over-training? or is it that you injure yourself from lack of proper training and don't perform at peak because of bad planning? So, the question is, Is there such a thing as over training?

Related Article: Max Out on Squats Every Day

7 Answers 7


The article you site refers to the Bulgarian method, which produces world class lifters who can handle the high intensity, constant training, and become very strong because of it. But propenents tend to not mention all of the people who are spit out the back of the Bulgarian system because their bodies can not handle the strain.

It is the people that can not handle constant training that can over train, and that is the majority of the population. Over training is exacerbated by two things especially:

Bad form: You see this in baseball pitchers. They throw hard for months, but bad form combined with too many pitches leads to injury. These are not necessarily instantaneous injuries, but often injuries related to tearing and inflammation, which could have been avoided with fewer pitches, more rest, or especially, better form.

Overloading the eccentric movements: Eccentric movements occur when a muscle is extended as it is trying to contract. For example, when lowering a weight to the floor, fighting gravity, your bicep is contracting, but the weight is extending the muscle at the same time. This movement can cause substantial gains in strength, but excessive weight, or excessive numbers of movements can cause long term injuries such as tennis elbow.

My guess is that the person profiled in the article above is used to the average person leaving his gym, while the genetic anomalies stay and successfully work within his program.

Added comments: It is my opinion that non-injury symptoms of over training are really caused by under recovery. In other words, you could potentially deal with the problem by sleeping more, or eating better, rather than necessarily reducing the workout.

  • So, are you attributing the people that are injured to over training? or to incorrect training for them? I think the interesting point is the 'garbage man' theory - where people are working out heavy every day as part of their jobs and not injured due to it... Jun 29, 2011 at 19:56
  • 2
    Soreness is not over training, so I agree with the article that you can work through discomfort and be OK. I would also say that the garbage man isn't lifting what the dude in the article lifts. Maybe a better question is "how do you know before you get injured that you aren't about to overtrain?" I don't know the answer to that.
    – michael
    Jun 29, 2011 at 20:05
  • It's the "Bulgarian" method, not "Hungarian". Coined after the Bulgarian oly lifters who were infamous for taking steroids into the olympic sport.
    – Daniel
    Jan 25, 2013 at 2:51
  • +1 for this, if for no other reason than the comment about recovery. The VAST majority of athletes (especially if you start considering endurance) are not overtrained, but they are under recovered. They don't get the rest and nutrition that they need, and they train again on already fatigued muscles, which leads to unwanted damage and/or injury.
    – JohnP
    Jan 25, 2013 at 14:37

My favorite quote by John Broz is:

If you can't go into the gym and squat heavy twice a day, every day, you aren't overtrained, you're undertrained.

Greg Glassman defined overtraining as:

Overtraining is not sleep deprivation, soreness, or systemic or musculo-skeletal fatigue due to excessive training volume. Overtraining is a neuroendocrine beat down associated with excessively intensive work – more rest won’t necessarily help, reduced intensity will.

He then goes on to say:

Why is it that those most inclined to worry and ask about “overtraining” are about as likely to set a new record in the Olympic Decathlon as they are to ever overtrain?

I've personally done months solid of very high intensity 14-20 per week training sessions with outstanding results. It's difficult, and takes twice as much time outside of the gym to "pamper" just to stay healthy.

In my opinion, don't worry about overtraining. You'll know when it's time to scale it back.

This is a really good sciency article on the Bulgarian method written by a phd in neurobiology. I think our friend Bee may have been in the "Dark Times". It seems those who can power through are the most successful, while those who can't fail.

P.S.: I trained under Broz' philosophy for a few months. Squats every day. It's horrible. I don't recommend it unless you're competing. I did make some serious progress though.

  • +1 for the links. I didn't know that overtraining was a controversial topic. The next time I hit a "dark time", I will try powering through instead of backing off.
    – masonk
    Jan 25, 2013 at 17:14

Overtraining truly does exist - I am proof of that. I have been a competitive swimmer my whole life (currently 22years old) and I must say overtraining is horrible and should try and be avoided at all costs.

I would recommend getting help as soon as you start to see issues arising, rather than continually deny you have a problem (like I did) until it's too late.

I was forced to take months off from training, since my body was physically, mentally and socially wrecked from the daily hammerings by body received from training.

I experienced the following:

  • Hatred of the thought of exercising/competiting
  • Dreading the thought of having to work out
  • Complete loss of interest/enjoyment
  • A sense of 'heaviness' or sluggishness during training (regardless of how much you stretch, you can't get rid of this feeling - overtraining forces your muscles to 'recruit' extra fluid to your muscles to aid recovery)
  • Consistent muscle soreness
  • Worsening/plateauing performance
  • Failing to complete your normal/average workout
  • Insomnia despite fatigue/extreme tiredness
  • Restlessness/unable to relax/irritability
  • Poor immune system
  • Lack of concentration
  • Reduced motivation and 'drive'
  • Feeling like your normal workout is more of an 'effort' - your movements feeling like they require more energy

So, the question is, Is there such a thing as over-training?

Short answer: yes. You can push yourself further and further into fatigue that you start getting weaker the more work you put in. Over training will have signs of depression, negative affects on health markers like blood pressure, total body inflammation, increase in body fat, and more. In the worst cases you may experience rhabdomyolysis.

How difficult is it to over-train?

This is actually something that people should be concerned about. Many novices are quick to worry about over training when they really can't train hard enough to get there. Some people confuse fatigue with true over training.

The folks over at Juggernaut Training Systems are fond of using the analogy that your work capacity is like a cup. The work that you put in fills the cup with fatigue. The things you do for recovery empties that cup. Over training happens when you over-fill the cup.

An article entitled "Fatigue Explained" discusses a number of the physiological issues surrounding fatigue and what you can do about it:

  • Substrate depletion--the depleting of energy available for your muscles to function.
    • Muscles use ATP directly, and that can be replenished within several seconds as the body uses creatine phosphate (CP) to convert ADP to ATP.
    • When your CP levels are depleted, it takes several minutes for your body to generate more from glycogen.
    • Finally, when the glycogen is depleted, you may need several days of eating carbs to replenish them.
  • Neuroendocrine alterations--As fatigue goes unabated for weeks:
    • Testosterone production goes down
    • Cortisol levels rise
    • Sympathetic activity becomes more prominent (fight or flight hormones), which catabolize muscle to create fuel.
  • Microtrauma--High intensity (heavy weight) and high volume training create microtears or rips in the muscle and connective tissue. In the short term this is not a problem, but long term:
    • Rips can be re-ripped and made larger
    • Large rips can become pulls and strains
    • Most tears recover within a week, but continued high volume or high intensity training without a break will increase the number of tears that carry over into the next week.

Unless you are an elite athlete, it takes most trainees a long time of pushing very hard to truly get into a place where you could say they are over-trained. There are several ways of managing fatigue, and well written training programs will build some of these features in for you.

  • Eat well. Enjoy your carbs after training, as this helps your body get ready for the next training session.
  • Rest well. This includes sleep and rest between reps, sets, training days. You should have enough rest to get the next bit of work done you need to do.
  • Vary your volume. Training volume is the number one contributor to cumulative fatigue.
  • Use deloads to allow your body a more full recovery.

Many successful programs vary both volume and intensity. You start out with lower intensities and higher volume, and each week increase the intensity while doing fewer reps overall. After the heaviest week is usually a deload of sorts to allow your body time to more fully recover and essentially create a bigger cup. When the next cycle starts, you are using slightly heavier weights.


Yes, you can overtrain. The main theory of the training is a overcompensation/supercompensation theory: http://healthcorrelator.blogspot.com/2010/08/theory-of-supercompensation-strength.html

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Overtraining is a training when you body can't compensate and overcompensate damage made by workout.

There is an example of the thee different workouts, where the first is a result of overtraining.

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  • Interesting theory here. I would be curious to know what length of interval is considered too long. I exercise a given muscle group once a week, so the interval is 7 days. But then again, I'm not exactly Mr. Universe. Jan 29, 2014 at 17:20
  • @MrBoJangles 'Too long' considered to be longer than 48 hours. to short is shorter than 36 hours. coachr.org/training_theory.htm
    – alex
    Jan 29, 2014 at 20:22
  • I think it's an issue of me understanding the word "training". I'm talking weight lifting, which I have to assume is different. Jan 29, 2014 at 23:15

Over training is a common problem in some athletic circles where raw power is desired, but excessive training builds up endurance instead. Boxing comes to mind and can be spotted when a boxer doesn't break a sweat in the early rounds.


Of course over-training exists--the body takes time to heal and recover from exertion.

Lack of recovery can also lead to acute injuries beyond the normal wear-and-tear.

  • This would be better posted as a comment and not an answer.
    – BryceH
    Jan 25, 2013 at 4:14

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