T Nation

Are You Overtraining?


I will tell you something about overtraining. It is used as many as a crutch and an over used excuse.

Now the other day at work we had an incident in which the drawbar assembly of a railroad car, the coupler assembly, was pulled out of a car. The field official parked his truck and walked to the car with a chain, the chain is 30 feet long and weighs around 130 lbs. He had to walk a quarter of a mile with this chain and a hammer and hardware. They use the chain to secure it so they can haul it to a place to set the car out for repairs.

It got me thinking. I started out with the railroad as a carman, repairing box cars. I worked harder 5 and 6 days per week for 8 hours harder than anybody trains. I got stronger, fitter, and felt great. Doing train inspections I had to wear a belt that with the tools weighed in the neighborhood of 40 lbs plus carry a 5 gal oil can and a 12 lb wrecking bar.
So what does that have to do with lifting? A lot you muscle heads.

Back in the pre computer days of our sport lots of lifters worked construction jobs, manufacturing jobs, and even the railroad. Hard physical work, then they went to their gyms and hit it damn hard.
Too many lifters now a days who are clean say, "I can't train that hard since I don't do roids." Not to mention, "that is overtraining."
Then the juice folks say, "I would rather be under trained than over trained."
What wimps. My doctor who has a love of Olympic lifting showed me routines done by the old guys like Dube, Schemanksi,Bednarski, and others. Damn by today's standards they were overtraining, yet they won.
He helped me set up a new program, and I had 3 lifters tell me I was overtraining. Yet I hit new records for myself, in the 3 powerlifts as far as reps with some damn good weights. Then I take of week of what the Westsiders call active recovery. I feel great, have had experienced lifters admire what is happening, and been told my physique is looking great.
Tell you folks something, I really feel overtraining is not that, but it is under eating and under resting. Hell I sleep great at night, eat like a horse, and am more alert at work, and making gains.
The only supplements I take are multivitamins, Vitamin E, a lot of Vitamin C, salmon oil, Creatine, and protein drinks.
So think of this. You can train damn hard, eat right, not junk foods, and make some gains. Main thing is if you want to be strong as a horse you must train like one, eat like one, and be one.




I've found I make my best gains when I hit the target muscle groups on a daily basis. I don't slam them, but I hit them daily. Hitting them hard with several days of rest between doesn't give me the same gains. Not nearly.


Good point!I train intense and my team partners do as well.We all listen to the feedback our bodies give us.Diet,rest and attitude are major players in our training.If you want to win championships and hit PRs you need to TRAIN HARD!Thanks for sharing the topic bro.Jimmy T
P.S. See you in may!


I just started a Bill Starr 5x5 against the advice of a bunch of people I respect. You know what, I feel great. Maybe in the future backing off will be what I need, but I crave squats and deads in the heavy variety almost daily. I agree, it takes good rest and diet. And you what else, my body tells me when I need to back off. I get grumpy and just simply feel like NOT working out. That is usually a sign that the old bod needs some down time. I'd be interested in seeing what your workout looks like if you'd care to post or PM me.


A great version of 5X5 is what Doug Daniels had in PLUSA a few years ago. Take a weight in a lift you are now doing 5X% with, reduce it by about 15%, do a set of 5 then increase that by 10% then another 10% then go down 5% then another 5%. This has been a great one for myself and others.
Also scoffed at by several in the gym, but it works for most.


Great post and I agree.

About 4, 5 years ago I wasn't eating enough carbs in the morning and at lunch. This makes you feel like shit after training heavy. I felt very lethargic, moody and didn't feel well at all. Also, I wasn't taking in near enough protien, not like today. I thought I was overtraining then, but after reading more and changing my diet with vitamins and shakes, workouts are a lot better and endurance is longer. I actually feel like doing things after woking out now. Recovery seems easier also.

My 2 cents and Good post Senseial.



Echoes of Waterbury's most recent programs here . .
Re: 5x5 . .we adapt quickly . .cycling through the 10x3, etc. protocols as in Art of Waterbury, etc. may keep things fresh and the joints a bit happier . .
Cheers to an excellent post


It is interesting. I've known lots of guys working at heavy blue collar jobs that are strong as shit from all that lifting.

However, you have to remember that by 50 or so, these guys are broken down from all that labor. Its a double edged sword. I think that lifting properly would counteract alot of the problems that they have later in life.

I work at a job that has some pretty intense, heavy lifting. I figure its all the GPP I need, and a four day split is as much as I like to use for lifting.


Thats a good point. These guys can't really control a lot of their factors in their situation. I imagine the repetition, done improperly with no idea of diet and rest would make for some very haggard folks. I have run into guys in their 50's who powerlift(ed) and they all tell different tales. You know, this guy only deads in meets, this guy only squats once every 2 weeks, never box squat....etc. The list is endless.

I'm no guru by any means, but I think I have the best workouts when I listen to my body. I've learned to overcome the guilt of not lifting by taking a nice long walk. As time passes I firmly believe in rest and diet also and I've come to appreciate Flameout and ZMA quite a bit.

I like Alpha Male too, but for other reasons. (smirk)


I do like this post and think what a lot of people consider overtraining really is more lack of calories and sleep. Buttttt, my uncles and their old geezer friends all worked labor jobs like that their whole lives. And I remember how strong and big they were growing up. Now they are all hunched over, atrophied wrecks. Getting out of a chair for them is a major production, lol.


That's what I'm saying. ALthough I have also heard stories about how, once the guys start lifting, stretching, and becoming more active (aside from work) they feel better.

It also has something to do with the lifestyle outside of work. A big strong blue collar guy that gets hammered every night for ten years, smokes, and eats McDonald's during lunch is not going to be as well off as someone who takes care of themselves, eats better, and lifts outside of work.


A lot of these sort of guys were big dudes, and usually very strong until they retired. After they retired, however, they had nothing to do except sit around or go to the pub. All physical activity stopped, and then, they usually got weak, fat and died 5 years later.

I know a teacher who was a member of the Scottish Commonwelth games team for weightlifting before he moved out to Australia. He is about 60 years old, 185 lbs (he's a short bastard) ripped, and trains 6 days a week doing squats, power cleans and all the good stuff.

He has always said that his life expectancy is 5 years after he stops training. He says this because of the above situation with people retiring, doing nothing and then dying 5 years later.

Something to think about.


Get busy living or get busy dieing. Thats all there is to it.


I know a lot like that that did basically go to pot after retirement. However I know a lot now who did not, and stayed active into their 80's.

The main thing is to keep active keep training keep your mind working. I watched the man on Jay Leno one night, who still goes into the sporting goods business he started, he is 101.
So keep working and keep busy.


I think a lot of overtraining comes from training when there is a fast loading of the tendons especially with a heavy weight ie tendon shock. It is critical for strength, but carrying, dragging etc are basically low in the fast heavy loading category.


I agree totally. Once you stop moving, it's all over.


I agree totally. Once you stop moving, it's all over.


Okay, I?ll be the maverick here. I know that probably most of us over 40ers can?t get enough rest normally. I mean unless I drugged my kid with Benadryl, told the wife I?d see her on Saturday and skipped dinner, there?s no way I could get to bed in time to get 9 hours of sleep for example. 7.5-8 is the best I can do and that?s if I work my butt off stressfully with just the basics of life.

Anyway, that?s not a complaint: I?m just saying that most middle aged guys are at the peak of their careers and family life and that doesn?t leave a lot of time for R&R. I?m not saying you can?t get any R&R ? I?m just saying that you it?s tough to get the kind you need if you?re going to have brutal workouts.

What I found is that I was definitely overtraining. I read some of the journal articles on overtraining and realized how drastically they whacked T on young males. I remember one study showed elite power lifters who had their T whacked for two days after lifting several days in a row. And marathoners had their T whacked for four days after an event.

All that got me to thinking: if I?m a guy with lowish T and am trying to train as hard as any guy in the gym, what?s gonna happen? Well, I backed off significantly. I now lift pretty hard but don?t go crazy like I was.

Any difference? I feel it made a big difference. Of course, you can?t know for sure, but I feel so much better. Libido and other subjective signs of T are up. I?m going to get my T measure hopefully in a few weeks, so I?ll see if I really did boost it.

So that?s just my dissenting voice. Well, actually, I?m not dissenting. I?m just pointing out that if your life is stressful, you?re not on HRT and you can?t get all the sleep you need for a brutal workout, you might want to rethink the Triple German Volume Training with a Romanian Twist?.


Sorry guys, but it's a bad post. Overtraining is a real problem. This guy acts like it doesn't even exist. He may not be overtraining (maybe he is) but it's a problem that does exist.

Those "old" guys who "won" back in the day. Of course, someone had to win. Those guys lifted a lot less weight than the current lifters of today who have more refined regimes. I'm not saying those guys overtrained, I don't know. I am saying you don't look to the old guys to figure out how you're going to train. You look to the best training minds of today.

Overtraining is a relative term. It's relative to the athlete. Some can take more volume than others. There are also two types of overtraining. One is training so hard or so often it is to your detriment. The other is training so hard or often that you're not making the gains you should be making. In other words, you can be making gains but still be overtraining.