T Nation

5/3/1 and Overtraining


#1

Jim,

Let me start out that I am a huge fan of the 5/3/1 program. It helped me break through my squat plateau within six weeks of the program. For that, I am extremely grateful.

A few musings popped into my mind while I was reading Beyond 5/3/1.

It seems that overtraining, or the avoidance of it, is a major point throughout the book. However, the wording in the book makes it sound like it is very easy to overtrain, on this I may be wrong. I have read several articles, including here at TNation, that imply that one would have to seriously make an effort to overtrain, and even then, some will not reach it (I think if you type in "TNation overtraining myth" into Google, it is the very first result).

My questions are: do you utilize a different definition of overtraining than others? If so, what is it? If one does reach overtraining, how would they recover from it it terms of rest, diet, and returning to the weight room utilizing the 5/3/1 principles?

Thank you for your and anyone else's answer.


#2

I can't speak for Jim but his programs are designed to make you better, (i.e. stronger). Everyone has different recovery capabilities due to stress, sleep, eating, ect. so doing the max amount of volume that your CNS can recover from will lead to results. Doing 6 assistance exercises isn't a big deal when your lifts are only a few hundred pounds but once you start reaching some respectable numbers all that extra volume catches up with you quickly. I think Jim accounts for this in his recommendations and starts you out with good habits. However, I don't think you should use that as an excuse to avoid conditioning or jumps/throws/sprints that will make you better. I personally only do 5/3/1 in a decent calorie surplus and aim for 8-10 hours of sleep every night, it works well. Just my $.02.


#3

Yes, I very much agree with you.

Really the main question I'm looking to get answered is: if overtraining is a real possibility, then what would be the recovery protocol using the 5/3/1 principles?

Obviously training smart is the way to avoid this, but if it should happen, what then? I understand why this is not outlined in the book, the purpose is to teach us how to train. What should we do if there is a long string of those horrendous workouts we all hate? Is that the definition of overtraining in this program? Or, is overtraining an imbalance of hormones, poor sleep, and zero appetite/sex drive? It feel that it is a broad topic.

It is pure curiosity.

There are many resources out there that all have different answers because they all have different definitions of what overtraining is.


#4

If you include CNS burnout to your definition of overtraining, yes it is very difficult to overtrain with 3-4 good workouts a week. On the other hand, if we define overtraining as exceeding your recovery capacity, it is very likely to happen if you don't eat and rest enough, regardless of the program you do. 5/3/1 doesn't have a special recovery protocol, not one I know of at least. You eat, sleep, may do easy conditioning to support recovery, drink lots of water.

The principles themselves are what protect you from overtraining and help you beat those bad days. Start too light, progress slowly. One of the functions of TM is giving you the chance to still train on those horrendous days. By training with submax weights, you leave room for the times you feel weak. Also, you can do the required reps and leave without going for a PR.


#5

Maybe I need to be more clear with what I'm looking for.

I am familiar with the 5/3/1 principles, what they are meant for, and the purpose of the program as a whole. I know how to implement periodization and the like in order to make consistent progress. I am not asking because I am overtrained, or abuse the program, or want to alter it in any way to allow more work to be done.

This would be an example of this question in the real-world:
You have a client come in twice a week that you have been familiar with for some time. Outside of his training sessions with you, in which you do either squats or deadlifts, he works out three more times a week with weights. He claims that the extra work is not impacting his training. However, for a few weeks now he has not been able to move the same weights and he tires easily. For this scenario, we are keeping in mind that he has NOT been using any variation of 5/3/1.

So, are we calling this overtraining, and what would be the regimen to get him back on track specifically using 5/3/1?

Thoughts.


#6

There is no way to know if he is "over training" and the debate about if it exists seems to go round and round with no real answer. Perhaps the client stays out late, hitting the bars at night, and survives on bar peanuts and AM/PM burritos. But obviously there are either stress factors sapping his performance (workout or lifestyle) or he is not utilizing his off time to his advantage. That is the real answer.

I think Mr. Wendler ((or Jim) not sure what he likes to be called) does a nice job of escaping the "over training" debate and relates everything back to performance. If performance suffers you need to utilize your off time more appropriately, either by reducing stressors or compensating with better recovery methods. Or if there is some stressors that can't be removed from the off time, then you have to pull something from your workout. Balance. But it all comes back to performance.


#7

Overtraining is a thing. Fatigue is a thing.

Overtraining and fatigue are not the same thing though. You can manage fatigue with a bunch of different recovery techniques.

You're unlikely to be overtraining or overfatigued on 6 hours per week if you're following a template and being at least half arsed with recovery.

Be a champ at both and you wont see performance issues


#8

Your question is what to do when you feel overtrained?

Do less work and rest more. Learn to listen to your body. You'll know....you just have to be willing to admit it to yourself and back off trusting it's a good thing and will allow you to continue lifting for a long time and making progress.


#9

I always figured the scheduled deload was the protocol for overtraining simply by ensuring it doesn't happen.

I get the impression 531 is designed with even the busiest person in mind: the various templates and days per week options alone mean pretty much anyone can do it and progress well for a long time.

If you do dumb stuff while doing 531 (extra main lift training, ridiculous assistance volume, trying it in a caloric deficit, etc), sure you could have problems but if you do that you're not doing 531 as written. Unfortunately you can't completely idiot proof a program.


#10

Most of my answers have been listed here: except there is a specific recovery protocol for the 5/3/1 program. If you do it right, you will be on track.

Overtraining is a catch all term; like "tearing a muscle". Few people who have a "torn hamstring" really tear it off the bone. The "overtraining myth" sells shit and makes people think they are hardcore or whatever. it's Internet Points.

99.9% of people who lift don't compete, are regular guys and have a real job, family, etc. Lots of potential for stress so you have to put things into place to manaage this. Thus the TM, PR sets, teaching people about bar speed, 7th Week Protocol, Joker sets and how we program all of our 5 cycle training - it's almost impossible to fuck up the program if you follow the rules.

"You have a client come in twice a week that you have been familiar with
for some time. Outside of his training sessions with you, in which you
do either squats or deadlifts, he works out three more times a week with
weights. He claims that the extra work is not impacting his training.
However, for a few weeks now he has not been able to move the same
weights and he tires easily. For this scenario, we are keeping in mind
that he has NOT been using any variation of 5/3/1."

I, nor anyone who is a professional, would touch this person. What's the point of training someone if they don't do a thing I ask? I had someone that tried to train with me and also work out at school - I told him he can come into the weight room but I refused to coach him. It's a complete waste of time and effort and honestly, disrespectful.

So to answer your question:

We have indicators and we plan - just like every professional in this business.


#12

Thank you, Jim. Your answer is much appreciated.