Am I overtraining?

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    Defex's Avatar
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    Am I overtraining?


    So I've been training hard since about march. Been gaining strength at what I'd call a quick rate. But then I joined these forums a week or two ago and I've been reading some people's workout logs and scratching my head...

    I haven't seen anyone do as many sets as I typically do, so I'm wondering what key piece of information I may be missing.

    I have a 4 day split, usually resting 1 day after legs and back.
    Split: Chest/shoulders, Back, Biceps/Triceps, Legs

    So, here's an example of my Back day:

    My usual strategy is to do 3-5 sets. Start with a weight I can do for 8-12 reps, and keep adding weight so that by set 3-4 I am only able to do at most 5 reps. Anything with a * means it's optional and depends on how tired I am. Since dead lifts come last I have to leave out a few exercises if I feel like I won't be able to max out on them. Might have to consider moving them up to first, but I'm worried that my back will just be trashed after doing them first.

    Rest for all but dead lifts is about 20-45 seconds.

    1. warmup on Machine lat pulldowns
    2. Single arm pulley lat pull down
    3. seated machine pullovers
    4. Close grip row
    5. Lat pulldowns (because I did single arm pulldowns, I'll do at most 3 more sets at high weight/low rep to completely fatigue muscles)
    6. close grip pulldowns
    7. Wide grip row*
    8. Push downs*
    9. Face pulls*
    10. Deadlifts
    11. deadlift lockouts

    Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.


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    kyoryoko's Avatar
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    Usually I try to stick to no more than 5 exercises for a big bodypart then no more than 4 for smaller ones (biceps, triceps). Now this NO MORE deal is pretty big, as I will most likely do 3 for big parts, and 1-2 for smaller.
    I am in no means super ripped, but unless you are on gear, eating like 4000 cals doing 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps for 11 different exercises is quite a task.

    If you look/feel/perform well then don't stop. if you feel "overtrained" and you like training, then you probably are doing too much.

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    I don't know if overtraining is the right word, but your lifting is not likely going to be as effective as possible with that many sets...

    There are a number of principles you should think about when structuring your exercises: which muscles you need to prioritize, what you're trying to accomplish from each exercise, whether you are doing an isolated vs. a compound movement, whether a machine or free weights will be more effective, etc etc.

    I would say that (with a few exceptions) you likely only need about 3 or 4 exercises per muscle group. Generally these days I do fewer sets per exercise than I used to (usually only 3 or 4 sets per exercise), and I have found this to be just as effective if not moreso than the long large-set-number workouts I used to do. The entire key to making this effective though is to make sure to (1) work from large, multi-muscle movements to smaller more isolated movements (2) always use free weights before machines and (3) put the most intense exercises at the start of the workout. If you want to fit in different exercises, rotate out your routine every week or two. Even though I do the same muscle groups on the same day each week, I usually modify each work out slightly so that no two workouts are ever exactly the same.

    To illustrate, here is my chest and back day (which is all supersetted):

    1 warm up set incline bench with 25 reps
    3 sets of dumbbell incline bench with the bench nearly flat with reps ranging from 10 down to 5; 3 sets of dumbbell incline bench with the bench midway up with reps ranging from 10 down to 5; 3 sets of dumbbell incline bench with the bench up two more notches with reps ranging from 10 down to 5
    5 sets of 10 Wide-Grip Pullups

    3 sets of dumbbell Flat Bench Flys with reps ranging from 10 down to 5
    3 sets of heavy Bent Over Barbell Rows with reps ranging from 10 down to 5

    3 sets of dumbbell Pull Overs with reps ranging from 12 down to 8
    3 sets of heavy Close Grip Sitting Rows with reps ranging from 10 down to 5

    That's it for my combined chest and back workout. I also do Good Mornings for the lower back, but those are thrown in on a cardio day. Notice a few things about the back workout in particular: (1) Starts with the most compound movement, wide grip pullups; (2) then moves to free weights and ends with a machine; (3) the exercises are in order where the exercise that requires the greatest amount of energy and endurance for me is first and the exercise that I can do even if my muscles are taxed is last.

    I think that you will find that your results are better if you shrink down the work out and really just concentrate on getting the highest intensity lifts possible out of your more limited workout.

    One caveat: there are a few exercises that I believe warrant more sets to be most effective, namely squats, barbell bench, and deadlifts. On squats it is not unusual for me to do 8 sets; and likely 5 or 6 sets when I do flat barbell bench.

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    kanakafarian's Avatar
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    Overtraining is overrated. If you're gaining, you're not overtraining. You might want to skip on the 978359 pull-down movements you do and incorporate pull-ups instead. Stick to compound movements like deadlifts, bb and db rows. And of course, the pull-up. In my opinion, one of the most underutilized excercise for the back.

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    Trust me you'll know when you overtrain!
    Im recovering from overreaching.
    I know when overtraining is near now thats why i backed off.
    In my opinion overtraining only happens when you undereat.
    So you have some opp. when you think you are 1rest which is best,2eat more train the same,3eat the same train less.

    I went for rest eating at/above maint.while doing cross training in morning.
    Overtraining don't do anything damage has been done.

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    Really appreciate the feedback.

    I think I have to sit down and count how many calories/protein/ etc I'm getting daily. I have completely restructured my diet from what it has been in previous years. Eating has always been for pleasure rather than optimum gains. Now that I'm really serious about lifting to get strong/ripped I'm more focused on diet. I'm eating good foods, but I don't know that I'm getting the right amount of everything.

    I've been lifting this way since March, and now I'm feeling more tired than usual. But the last 2 days I've been up late scouring the forums and only getting 5-6 hours of sleep. But before that my last 2 workouts just didn't feel that great. Was lacking motivation/energy despite being jack3d. So I'm taking a few days to rest and re-evaluate my workouts.

    Really like the idea of going from compound -> isolated exercises.

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    A lot of pull-downs and machine work. Id focus on using pull-ups, chins, barbell and db rows for back work. You need some trap work too, shrugs and facepulls are good. Focus on quality and not quantity

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    Quote Originally Posted by SweetLou321 View Post
    A lot of pull-downs and machine work. Id focus on using pull-ups, chins, barbell and db rows for back work. You need some trap work too, shrugs and facepulls are good. Focus on quality and not quantity
    This.

    You're not so much overtraining as you're just wasting your time and training inefficiently. If you need that much volume, then it's obvious that your routine is garbage and lacks the necessary intensity.
    M.Ed. Ex Phys

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    It's not that my routine needs that much intensity, it's that I've been wanting to do as much weights as possible to burn the extra calories. I go as heavy as I can on each exercise, and to failure. If I'm at rep 4, and I know I can squeeze out 2-3 more reps I do it.
    Then for the next set I up the weight to what I think I can do 2 reps for, and if I hit 2 and know I can do more, I keep going. Then the next time I do the same exercise, I'll start at a higher weight, til I get it dialed in. Make sense?

    My goals are to lose fat while gaining muscle. I find cardio boring, so I try to do more weights to burn those extra calories. It may no be the most efficient way to do it, but I find that it's been working well for me. But I really should just suck it up and do cardio a few times a week.

    Here's my last back workout:

    Single Arm pulley pulldowns: (L/R)
    100x12 / 100x12
    140x8 / 140x9
    160x6 / 160x6
    170x5 / 170x5

    pullovers
    150x8
    160x6
    160x6

    single arm pulley row (L/R)
    85x14, 85x14
    120x12, 120x12
    140x8, 140x8

    lat pulldown
    160x6
    150x6 (went down because I thought I'd be more fatigued)
    180x3

    close grip pulldown
    130x10
    140x5 (getting tired)

    deadlift
    135x10 (warmup)
    135x7 9 (warmup)
    300x4
    300x4
    300x2

    deadlift lockouts
    230x3
    180x3
    180x4

    And back is trashed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kanakafarian View Post
    *snip* If you're gaining, you're not overtraining. Stick to compound movements like deadlifts, bb and db rows. And of course, the pull-up. In my opinion, one of the most underutilized excercise for the back.
    Agreed.

    FYI:

    I do 3-4 exercises, 3-4sets each, per muscle group, per week

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    Again, as I said in my first post, you need to drop the 983579 pull-down movements and focus on doing pull-ups. It's a whole new ballgame in back development once you do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kanakafarian View Post
    Again, as I said in my first post, you need to drop the 983579 pull-down movements and focus on doing pull-ups. It's a whole new ballgame in back development once you do.
    Point taken. I'll work those into my next back workout. Def appreciate the feedback.

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    just do cardio, and train optimally

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    Alright so today I altered my routine, I didn't include pull ups because I got exhausted sooner than I usually do.

    Not sure what it is, but this last week I've been really exhausted and I haven't had as much motivation during my workouts. Maybe my diet needs some altering, or I just need to rest more. Maybe because each time I workout I do my max weight and it's just taxing my CNS too much?

    Definitely will be scaling down the amount of exercises per muscle group to 4-6.

    So today I did back/shoulders, but I don't think I like the combo.

    Deadlifts - max today was 335x2, first time I attempted to lift 335 I couldn't do it, took another 30 seconds to rest and got myself mentally prepped and pulled of 2. Really stoked!
    Deadlift lockouts
    Single arm Lat pulldowns
    Facepulls
    T-bar row

    Shrugs
    Lateral raises
    Rear Delt fly
    Tried overhead presses but I couldn't do any more.

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    Volume volume volume

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    Definitely. Since I reduced the amount of exercises in my routine, I'm upping the sets/weight.

    Taking some time off now though. Body really seems to need it. For the last 3 months each workout was til failure. So I'm going to do back on saturday and then spend all of next week doing cardio.

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    No such thing as overtraining with the right diet and supplementation. Overtraining was started by babies who needed an excuse to not train balls to the wall.

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    You must not understand the CNS very well. If you have ever trained for strength you understand that "overtraining" is burning out the CNS not the lack of recovering of the muscles from workout to workout. One should train to get the best results without burning out the CNS. Such as deloads for example. Cant go 100%, 100% of the time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SweetLou321 View Post
    You must not understand the CNS very well. If you have ever trained for strength you understand that "overtraining" is burning out the CNS not the lack of recovering of the muscles from workout to workout. One should train to get the best results without burning out the CNS. Such as deloads for example. Cant go 100%, 100% of the time.
    Well I mean if ya put it that way..haha. I guess what I'm getting at is the constant worrying of how many sets and reps for a certain body part. Take the arms for example. People constantly preech low numbers of sets due to the size of the muscle, yet they dont realize that the smaller muscle can actually consume more volume and actually recuperates faster than take the chest (heavy, brutal training. I know what you mean about deloads, hell I incorporate them when I feel that my strength has gone flat. Personally I think there is a difference between "overtraining" and just knowing how to manage your work loads. But pertaining to overtraining and sets and reps, I just say screw it and train as hard as you can until you KNOW that you have done enough.. Know what I mean Lou? Oh and of course, I did state with the proper diet and supplementation
    "Every bodypart must be beaten into senseless submission by set after relentless set, until the last synapse sputters and dies. Overtraining was invented by wimps to camouflage their inability to train hard."

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    Lol i understand man, I just dont see how some ppl say go balls to the wall all the time. You will burn out eventually. Its all about keeping the mind in the workouts. The body can handle itself lol

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    Quote Originally Posted by SweetLou321 View Post
    Lol i understand man, I just dont see how some ppl say go balls to the wall all the time. You will burn out eventually. Its all about keeping the mind in the workouts. The body can handle itself lol
    Spoken like a true veteran haha
    "Every bodypart must be beaten into senseless submission by set after relentless set, until the last synapse sputters and dies. Overtraining was invented by wimps to camouflage their inability to train hard."

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    A 20 year old veteran right? lol

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    Informative forum post....
    Thanks fro this nice sharing.....
    //maxglim.com

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    Did some research on CNS fatigue and, you're right; it's definitely not. I'm pretty sure I just need to try not to kill myself each time I train.

    Did deadlifts today and I was struggling after my 135# warm up which has never happened before... And 315# felt impossible :-(

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    time for a deload man

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    Quote Originally Posted by SweetLou321 View Post
    time for a deload man
    It definitely was... I took a week and a half off and I got through back no problem today. Now I need to keep track of how long I can go before needing to deload again. hopefully I can do 6-8 weeks, I can't imagine doing 3 weeks on 1 week off.

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    I love 3 weeks, 1 week of 50-70% personally

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