I am wondering i there're any specific benefits to pushing yourself extremely hard vs. just pushing yourself a little hard. Does pushing harder create more muscle? Make you stronger?

To simplify, imagine someone works out hard, and doesn't get injured; and now imagine someone pushes themselves EVEN harder and still doesn't get injured.

Disregarding any potential injuries or halting in the process (let's assume pushing yourself EXTREMELY HARD will still not be considered "overworking" yet).

Does pushing harder have any extra benefits vs. just pushing a little hard?

Like fighting for every next rep vs. just stopping altogether when feeling a bit tired. Is that extra push and "drive" beneficial vs. someone who may not otherwise fight or go as hard/long?

Again, assuming NEITHER one sustains injury nor impedes progress, would pushing yourself to your hardest be anymore beneficial than just going at it until feeling a little tired and then stopping?

Does pushing harder make it more likely that you'll break past plateaus? Stimulate nuclei better? Work the muscle better? Expect results sooner/later? Stimulate the nervous system in a different way?

Imagine someone on a rep curling and they have it half way up, but the force is tough and they're tired and just let it go down without exerting the force -- but another person stays halfway for 20 extra seconds, giving every bit of might and mental power they have to get it up one last time.

Would that person who killed themselves trying to fight and exert every bit of mental fortitude they have benefit from anything vs. the guy who works hard, but doesn't kill himself to get that one last rep after 10-20 tough sets of arms? Basically, does pushing yourself very hard have any upsides, assuming it's not hard enough to impede progress, but hard enough to take a mental/physical toll?

Just picture the guy that worked hard, but sweat a little -- and that other guy that worked harder, and is trembling for hours due to pushing his nervous system beyond his "comfort zone," but still doesn't impede or "overwork." I put quotes around "overwork" because people think doing extra 5 sets is overworking, when overworking means excessively exercising for prolonged periods of time and lacking in diet, sleep, or adequate "downtime." Most people never reach "overworking" because most people do not work hard enough to have a chance at getting there anyways. "Overworking" is not just pushing yourself extremely -- it's a constant, ongoing fatigue and lack of attention to your health.

  • I'm not quite sure where you're going with this question. Yes pushing it harder will result in more results, but the training has to be proper form, there must be ample rest and a good diet.
    – MJB
    Jun 27, 2017 at 6:38
  • I agree with your comments about overworking/overtraining. I don't really believe in such thing. I think you can only 'under-recover'. Jul 26, 2017 at 17:29

2 Answers 2


My answer is no and here is my not very scientific reasoning. Last year I did the year-long Precision Nutrition program. I was in Coach Toni's group. I worked hard to keep up with the prescribed workout routines. All of the routines were a stretch for me fitness-wise, and since they are over the web there was no trainer or spotter.

Not really sure what my limits were, I tried to perform each exercise to a T. By the 7th month I had injured my right arm and left shoulder because I "pushed myself harder."

I just finished 10 weeks of physical therapy on my left shoulder (PT didn't put a dent in the pain level). Now I'm looking at shots, and possibly shoulder surgery. (Arm is much improved) So in the end, I spent the last 5 months of the program not lifting any weights which I absolutely hated.

My pushing myself cost me. You may be looking for a more broad or definitive answer, but that is my personal story and the lesson I learned to stay within what I think my limits are.

  • 1
    I actually like this "non-scientific" reasoning, Laura. I think you can get away with overtraining... for a while, Probably more when you're younger. However, I also think that you become far more injury prone (I'm pretty sure there is science to back that up). As injuries take longer to heal and recover from, it's less time spent in the gym. Whereas the person who took the "steadier" pace probably has better odds at not having injured themselves, and may even surpass the "quicker" gains you made while you were overtraining.
    – Frank
    Oct 27, 2017 at 1:23

Overtraining is a thing. If you wanted to get better at running, 100 miles a day might not be the best place to start.

As with everything in exercise you are looking for a dose response, think about the goal in mind.

Generally, hard training is smart training, there has to be a certain intensity to elicit adaptation. So if you're tired, that was probably a good session, if you can barely walk after you squat session, that might have been a little too much.

Worry about how much of your 1RM of a lift or "relative intensity" rather than your perceptions about the intensity, or your "feels". How you feel is a lie, the weights don't change, your mind does.

The next thing you have to think about is the Stimulus-Recovery-Adaptation, cycle. So if you are training again tomorrow, destroying yourself today doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But if you are going on a week long vacation tomorrow, going a little ham today makes a lot of sense because you will have ample time to recover and adapt. We generally call this "functional overreaching".

Think about your goal, frequency of training, where you are at in your training (beginner, intermediate, or advanced; or how far you are from competition if you're an athlete or if you just want to look good shirtless, how far away is summer?) All of these will help you understand how intense your training should be day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month.

Where most of this came from:



  • 1
    Sounds more like a preach than an answer.
    – user25647
    May 27, 2017 at 20:06

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