T Nation

How Hard Is It to Get Overtrained?


A lot of places I go on the internet say that over-training is a bad thing and I shouldn't put too much volume in workouts or I'll fry myself and my muscle will eat itself up and blah blah blah. How true is this, and could it happen with this workout plan if I have it Monday-Wednesday-Friday? I just tried it today and felt fine.

Bench press*: 5x6
Squat*: 5x6
Bent-over row**: 5x6
Deadlift**: 5x6
Power clean: 5x6
*'s and **'s denote exercises that are performed back-to-back with no rest period in between in order to save time.

Also, in the event of getting into an over-trained state, couldn't I just eat more, keep the current activity level, and be fine?



You are not going to over train. It is very very difficult to achieve that state.


You'll know you're over-training if you feel sore and tired and weak even though you're eating and sleeping enough. If in doubt, eat more and sleep more. Listen to your body, it will tell you.

Also, fight through the DOMS and tiredness for the first couple of weeks. Your work capacity will improve over time. It's best to ramp up volume though, instead of jumping up a huge amount - gives your body time to adapt (less soreness, tiredness etc.).


You'll know you've overtrained when you're dead. Until then, keep pushing!


You have more of a chance of under sleeping or under eating then of over-training....provided you have basic knowledge of how to train while sticking to any of the popular routines...


Are you doing that same workout three times a week? If so then yes you can over train bench pressing, squatting, and deadlifting heavy three times a week. Once the weights start to get heavy superseting won't work like that and you're going to have to start resting between sets. And don't superset bent-over rows and deadlifts, that's just stupid.


LIke talldude said, when you are consistently unmotivated to train, coupled with tiredness and soreness. "consistently" is the key word here--it is very hard to get into overtraining. True overtraining takes months of work to get into it, and it can take up to a couple months to get out of.

What most people think is "overtraining" is really not. It is either a) not eating enough b) not sleeping enough c) boozing too much d) eating shitty foods (aka junk food diet) e) having a bad week in the gym, or f) some combination of the above.

There is the possibility of being in short term over-reaching, which is an acute version of overtraining that comes with an abrupt jump in training volume or intensity. This goes away as you adapt, or after you decrease training volume/intensity for a week and then stary increasing it again. Aka a "deload week".

Overtraining is chronic, over-reaching is short term. One is bad, the other not so much.


I agree with pretty much everything said so far.

Out of curiosity, and to get a better picture of the situation, what's your current height and weight, and what kind of weights are you using on all those exercises?

I don't like your training plan at all. Like the underline dude said, supersetting bent rows and deadlifts is just asking for bad mojo, especially with power cleans for dessert.

And just to put the overtraining concept into some kind of perspective for you, Dean Karnazes is an ultramarathon runner who ran 50 full marathons in 50 consecutive days. His average marathon time was under 4 hours for each 26.2 mile course (which is a decent but not awesome pace), and he lost a whopping one pound of bodyweight by the end of it. But to be fair, he's the guy who has pizza delivered to street corners so he can eat on the run.

Moral of the story: It is very difficult to overtrain a well-conditioned* human body.

  • Keywords here being "well-conditioned." Doing too much, too soon is another story altogether and that's when overtraining might be a valid concern, but like Aragorn said, over-reaching is probably a more accurate label for that.


Do that routine 6x/week for 6 weeks and you should start to feel over-trained :slightly_smiling:

On a more serious note though, I'm not so sure about consistently doing squats/deadlifts 3x/week. Once you start moving decent weights it'll get harder to recover from (that's if you were pushing 100% each time you trained). Most (when they get more advanced) reduce them lifts to around 1x/week.

Or if doing a more specialised strength routine with periodization methods they'll concentrate on one aspect for a lift one day (e.g. Mon - heavy weights/maximal strength) and another aspect for the same lift on another day (e.g. Fri - ligher weight/speed work)...ala westside. Basically, you wouldn't use the same set/rep/load scheme for both days (this helps to improve strength/size without over-reaching...or long term over-training).


How bout this. TRY to over train. (except for the undereating part). Literally try to push yourself so hard that you reach an overtrained state. Let us know if you get there.

Lifting 3 days a week and asking about overtraning is a complete joke. Use some common sense. No one is going to chop your head off if you go get some real world experience before posting questions that make you sound like youre in a life and death situation when entering the gym.

Your workout sucks by the way. Well I guess its good if you want to wind up with significant aesthetic and strength imbalances.


It's difficult for most people because most people are pussies when it comes to anything gym related. Take someone very serious about this without much experience and its not that rare for the person to reach an "overtrained" state pretty quickly.


My roommate (a female) played D-1 hockey in college. About November of last year she collapsed in the morning and after some medical tests and about 3 weeks we landed on likely adrenal fatigue due to being in an overtrained state.

This took her about 2.5 years to work into. She in a workout machine, and I can't handle half the volume she normally did. I mean like 2


My roommate (a female) played D-1 hockey in college. About November of last year she collapsed in the morning and after some medical tests and about 3 weeks we landed on likely adrenal fatigue due to being in an over trained state.

This took her about 2.5 years to work into. She is a workout machine, and I can't handle half the volume she normally did. I mean like 2 sessions a day, every day, weights or run/swim/bike (she got into triathlons after college) in addition to walking biking or rollerblading everywhere since she had no car. And she only slept about 5 hours per day. This was after her time with hockey where she had 3 hours of ice time almost every day, and then since she is a bit crazy, her own weight sessions or other conditioning on top of team stuff. And she pushed it to near failure, 95%, whatever metric you want to use, constantly.

I tried to hang with her workouts and lasted about 10 days before I felt I was over reaching and needed a few days off with some good food and sleep. My point is, I have seen no one ever train as hard as her (she was in the US olympic hockey program from ages 10-19 when she blew out her knee) as regularly as her, and it still took her over two years to become "over trained." After this, it took about 3 months before she could do much more than use the elliptical lightly without feeling like she was going to pass out. Bending over made her dizzy, and just going to work took a toll. She is just now getting to a point where she can train with any intensity and regularity. (and much smarter regarding recovery now)

So I agree with Bone, TRY to over train, find your limits, and back off slightly. when you do get run down, don't be stubborn and continue to push through using whatever stimulants you can to get through the day. I saw first hand where that goes, and it isn't pleasant.

Sorry for the Double post. . .


I recognize that the answer is different for an advanced individual


First off, I would recommend that you rethink doing your 3 day workout as structured. Speaking as someone who has spent time doing a superset-based routine like the one you're doing (but with different exercises paired), I'll tell you that you're hindering your progress in both lifts by trying "to save time." If you can only make it to the gym three times a week, maybe look into 5/3/1's 3 day version. That said, you should try to make it 4 days a week.

As far as overtraining, look at it this way: optimal progress will be achieved by as much frequency and volume as your body can take while still recovering. As long as you're hitting heavier weights over time and eating enough, you're not overtraining.

Regarding your question about eating more to compensate for overtraining: in true states of overtraining, it won't matter. True overtraining is usually caused by so much volume and frequency that, for example, I can remember one day looking at my body and saying to myself "How can my body possibly have time to grow when I'm running it into the ground this much?" If you aren't asking yourself a similar question, then don't worry about overtraining.


Alright, thanks for your input everyone. I'll add more volume and see if I can over-train myself with my current frequency (one variable at a time, scientific method :P)

As for the routine itself, well, I thought that as a beginner I should only focus on the big, heavy, compound lifts. If I only have so much time to train in the gym (basement in my case) per workout session, is it more productive that, for example, I do rows one day and deadlifts the next, or that I rest between each set and do the same exercises every session?


No, you're very right about that as a beginner. Dead on, in fact. Although say if you wanted to do a few sets of beach work at the end of your workout it wouldn't be worrisome.

Your head is in the right spot, you just need some adjustments. The way your program is set up currently is a recipe for low back overwork. Incidentally overuse or overwork on one muscle group is not the same as overtraining. Witness tennis elbow, bicep tendonitis, internal shoulder impingment etc. I think not doing rows and deadlift in the same workout might be a valid idea.

Power cleans should go before deadlift or squat though, as befits their loading and explosive nature. It is hard to be explosive at the end of the workout when you are fatigued.


TRy this:

Power clean

Then squat after cleans are all done

Bench and bent row supersetted.

Alternate, one workout deadlift instead of squat, the other vice versa.


Alright, thanks! I split up my routine into workouts A and B now, they're both the same except A has deadlifts and B has the rows. This way I won't have any old man back problems. :s

What I did was:

Power clean, all of them
Deadlifts/Rows, depending if its workout A or B (switch every day)
Squat and bench press supersetted because they're totally different regions of the body

Thanks for the help!