Own Worst Enemy! Is Overtraining Ruining Your Gains?
“Training like a Navy Seal is really important if you are a Navy Seal, not so sure if you are a Football or Basketball player. Best not to forget you are what you train to be. Getting tired is not training. Think about what you are doing. Are you making your athletes better or are you making them tired?” -Vern Gambeta
This is what was quoted when I asked Coach William “Master” Zardetto, a fellow EXOS trainer from Paradigm Performance in Elgin, IL, what he would reference when you see trainers running their clients into the ground.
It’s easy to see this in everyday life. Go to any big-box gym like LA Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, and even the more hardcore gyms like Gold’s Gym and Metroflex, and you will see trainers running their clients until they puke. You will see them doing superset after compound set after jumping jacks… You get it.
But for what? Would you believe me if I told you this is actually done for marketing?
Killing Your Clients – An Effective Form of Marketing
Unless the trainer is an idiot, sadistic or undertrained, he does this to keep the client coming back. In my experience, people like to feel like death, they like to feel like they truly did something. Or else, why would they even train?
This is a common misconception that needs to stop, and will drive people to the point of not training at all since they cannot recover or function in their daily lives due to their lack of recovery. They end up feeling run-down, sick, sore and just plain tired.
I have gone on the record as saying that “overtraining” doesn’t exist. As a condition, I still stand by that assertion for most athletes. Overtraining is a chronic overuse issue of the Central Nervous System (CNS).
Bodybuilding training and most training will not lead to this.
Olympic athletes, MMA Fighters, Boxers and gymnasts train upwards of eight hours per day. But there is a point where you can be overreaching, or simply training to a point where you have diminishing returns. Surely if one hour of exercise is great, four hours is even better, right?
Not so fast…
For this I like to use the “hand-on-asphalt” analogy. If you were to rub your hand on the street for two minutes straight, what would happen? Torn skin, bone showing, blood… Just nasty stuff!
Now let’s say you were to rub your hand on that same asphalt for 2 total minutes but did it for 10 seconds per day for 12 days… What would happen? Yup, a dirty hand.
It is the accrual of workload, done over time with progression and not necessarily done all at once negatively effecting your recovery and ability to get back “on the field” that equals progress and gains.
Progressive Overload – Not Puking in the Parking Lot
The key is progression, or as we say in weight training, “progressive overload.” Aim to improve every workout, add new challenges or as we call it at EXOS, “progressions.”
For example, if you do a dumbbell shoulder press, progress to a “bell up” kettlebell press. If you did 10 reps with 20lbs, do 12 reps with 20lbs. Challenge yourself but know that you do not want to just jump into it.
Elite athletes have been progressing for years and that is why they can handle the hard and long-duration training. To literally murder a beginner with advanced training is irresponsible, and despite it making them feel like they did something and might lead to short-term transient business, it will never last long-term. This is a disservice to the client and should be frowned upon as a profession.
As for the Insta-experts on social media, realize that the stuff they post is usually sensationalized and edited beyond belief. Sure, they might do a killer workout for the “YouTubes” when the camera is on, but I assure you, most of them never even go near that level of intensity when not on film. It is an illusion, and even if it wasn’t, these are advanced athletes and we cannot all train at the same level.
The Take Home
So what is the take home from this?
- More isn’t always better.
- It is improvement over time, not one workout until vomit is induced, that produces gains.
- Elite athletes work up to that level.
- Some people on social media are very fake.
As I always state, look for accomplished trainers and coaches. I am partial to my affiliation, EXOS, but there are plenty of trainers out there with no certification that are awesome, and they learned from experience and perhaps from being trained by another expert.
Regardless, ask around, give the trainer the litmus-test of just using common sense, and realize you don’t need to feel like death to get results. Because getting results… That’s not a game!