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Thread: Have you ever overtrained? Are you sure?

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    Rory Parker Behemoth's Avatar
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    Have you ever overtrained? Are you sure?

    In a brief discussion in another thread Off Road and I began to discuss some opinions on overtraining. He prompted me to start a discussion about it and I think it's a great idea.

    To get the ball rolling my feelings are that more often than not (and actually almost always) it's a cop out. That people are either failing mentally far before their physical limits conduscive to making their utmost maximal gains.

    My belief is that given spot on nutrition and rest (SLEEP!) the body can be strung out to much, much greater limits than most think or may ever attempt to go to. But many of us fall short by means of never pushing the envelope, or never getting the our other ducks in a row consequently making it feeling like submaximal training efforts are indeed our maximum.

    Lets discuss what you think overtraining is and whether or not you believe you have ever been to the pits of it.
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    THE 800 QUEST NickAus's Avatar
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    Yes I have overtrained, more than a few times!

    You need to test yourself so you find that line but overtraining usually leads to injury for me so it is not good.

    EDIT: I know when Im overtrained the weights move slow..........when Im fresh they move fast, that is the best gauge for me personally.
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    There's a great Wendler interview where he talks about "hardcore" guys managing to go all-out all the time while others reach overtraining. He makes the point that the really intense guys are probably the ones who did some kind of school/college sport and have built up a large base of work capacity over not a few months of lifting but about a decade of various forms of physical training. A weak skinny kid who has never done any competitive sport before and then hits the weights could reach overtraining far, far easier. And let's be brutally honest, the newbie/amateur won't be able to mentally push himself as hard and that's why "overtraining" could seem a joke, but it can still definitely happen for those unused to hard exercise. So I'm going to say it's partly an experience and adaptation thing.

    To answer your question - yes I have reached over-training, but it took a lot to get there. It is usually characterised by things like insomnia, random muscle twitches (a major sign), general fatigue and slower reactions. This is what separates just being tired from being overtrained. Frying your CNS is quite different from straining your joints. It happened back when I used to row and we'd train several times in a day. I don't think I've ever really strayed into overtraining just from weights but I tend to play on the safe side now and keep an eye on anything that doesn't seem right.

    I also think it's worth pushing yourself occasionally though, just to challenge your body and mind a bit, and redifine the boundaries. Glenn Pendlay talks about how his lifters would flirt with whole cycles of overtraining, so they would think of it in terms of a month of brutal training, by the end of which they'd be at their absolute limits, and then a month of recovery. However this is the sort of advanced, elongated programming which is probably irrelevant to people who aren't national level lifters...

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    Rory Parker Behemoth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.C. View Post
    I also think it's worth pushing yourself occasionally though, just to challenge your body and mind a bit, and redifine the boundaries. Glenn Pendlay talks about how his lifters would flirt with whole cycles of overtraining, so they would think of it in terms of a month of brutal training, by the end of which they'd be at their absolute limits, and then a month of recovery. However this is the sort of advanced, elongated programming which is probably irrelevant to people who aren't national level lifters...
    I enjoyed your post and agree that work capacity needs to be built up. Unfortunately I think many lifters cop so early they never really push themselves into that territory to raise their capacity. It's not like you go in and do 2 extra sets and now you're able to handle 2 extra sets from now on. You have to go so far past those 2 sets each and every workout for a long ass time just to be able to drop back and regularly handle a slightly expanded workload.

    I'm intrigued, where did read muscle twitches are associated with CNS fatigue? I recall once reading about eye twitches and general fatigue but really that's a pretty easy correlation. Do you have any studies on this?
    Last edited by Behemoth; 11-25-2010 at 08:05 PM.
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    THE 800 QUEST NickAus's Avatar
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    To say overtraining is a cop out is wrong, I am not being nasty but you need to think about it- of course you can overtrain it only makes sense.

    Even if your work capicity is amazing you can still overtrain no question.

    Again not being nasty
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    Quote Originally Posted by NickAus View Post
    To say overtraining is a cop out is wrong, I am not being nasty but you need to think about it- of course you can overtrain it only makes sense.

    Even if your work capicity is amazing you can still overtrain no question.

    Again not being nasty
    I'm not saying it doesn't... it definetly does. And I too have overtrained. But it was an absurb threshhold to reach. Months of dieting into sub 7%, 10-12 hours lifting a week, 5 am HIIT sessions, 40hrs construction on a roof in the dead of summer 95 degrees.

    Everything was hell. I could sleep for 12 hours and wakeup and standing up out of bed would require more effort than a set of 20 rep squats in my bulking season.

    It's just used too loosely. People think an extra workout or another half hour in the gym will throw them into an unrecoverable abyss known as overtraining. True overtraining is extremely cumulative. We need to push ourselves mentally for more and more because our human instincts are wired to fail mentally far before we get near our physical threshhold. And reaching that threshhold (and pushing through it) at times is what truly makes one excel IMO. To me (outside of factors like genetics) this is what seperates the elite, they keep going. More reps in a set than another would do. More sets in a workout than another would do. More workouts in a week. Do they overtrain? Yeah, not on purpose. Just because they're always pushing their own envelope, and it's going to come with the territory of being that hardcore. When I say cop out I think most people quit when they're tired. Tired is normal. Forget tired and feel wrecked once in a while. You'll soon laugh what you once thought you were tough for doing. [not directed at you nick, just saying "you" in general to whoevers reading]
    Last edited by Behemoth; 11-25-2010 at 08:35 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NickAus View Post
    To say overtraining is a cop out is wrong, I am not being nasty but you need to think about it- of course you can overtrain it only makes sense.

    Even if your work capicity is amazing you can still overtrain no question.

    Again not being nasty
    While I agree with you that ANYONE can overtrain, what I think Be is getting at is that most trainees worry WAAAYYYY too much about overtraining when in reality it is probably a non-issue. There's a thread open right now in this section talking about how someone's friend is "overtraining" yet he's jacked. Well.....if he's jacked and not having issues progressing, then it doesn't sound like he's overtraining!

    ***
    Be, one thing I'd like to hear about from you is the risk of overtraining your joints and overstressing certain vulnerable parts of the body such as the lower back and shoulders. I know that you've had one serious injury to your lower back as well as some pretty debilitating knee joint injuries. Do you think that if you weren't pushing the limits of exertion in terms of volume around the time that you received these injuries that you in fat wouldn't have incurred them?

    ****
    On whether or not I think I've overtrained, I honestly have no idea. I know I've overtrained when I was doing massive amounts of volume and eating like Kate Moss, but that's obviously outside the scope of this discussion.

    This summer I had trouble finding work after coming home from school, so most of my time was spent eating, sleeping, and training. I was on a pretty high volume routine and was hitting bodyparts two or three times weekly, with no full rest days. At the end of the summer, I was still progressing in my deadlifts, bench presses, other pressing movements, and rows. My squats had been up and down, but that was due to a lower back injury I hadn't let fully heal. I would say that I was definitely pushing my limits then, but I was also getting 10+ hours of sleep at night and eating 4,500 calories or more every day. Although I saw strength increases, I had a lot of trouble gaining weight with all that activity.

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    Rory Parker Behemoth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chevelle2291 View Post
    Be, one thing I'd like to hear about from you is the risk of overtraining your joints and overstressing certain vulnerable parts of the body such as the lower back and shoulders. I know that you've had one serious injury to your lower back as well as some pretty debilitating knee joint injuries. Do you think that if you weren't pushing the limits of exertion in terms of volume around the time that you received these injuries that you in fat wouldn't have incurred them?
    I know where you're coming from and obviously the answer is yes, you are more susceptable. But so are you when you play football. If youre afraid of getting hurt and give 50% at your practices and games you may run somewhat less of a risk of getting injured, enjoy that.

    My knee injury wouldn't have been sustained at a higher bodyfat percentage, that I have no doubt. Thats a lesson I learned the very hard way this last year. One needs to be extremely smart and cautious training at low bodyfat levels. I could handle that workload all day and then some on 4000-5000 calories. But after months at 2000 or less and at an unnatural 6.5% I was asking for diasaster. Yes... I injured myself because I overtrained deep into dieting you could say.

    Edit - The back injury you reference was years ago before I ever had this point of view. My workload was low. I moved (very) wrong swinging a 3/4 sheet of osb onto a deck. No I did not sustain that from overtraining. No it is definetly in no way relative to my workload when it goes in and out these days. Whenever I get in the swing of being able to consistently squat and deadlift it usually feels the best for the longest.
    Last edited by Behemoth; 11-25-2010 at 09:06 PM.
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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    How do you want to define overtrained?


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    Great topic Behemoth, glad you got it started...

    I have overtrained, or rather what I like to call under-recovered. I think with enough rest and food we can overcome the under-recovery. That leads to working out very hard when you're in the gym and then giving your body enough rest and nutrition to recover before you hit it hard again. I don't believe that it has anything to do with how hard you work, so it's not a cop-out, as I believe in training intensley. It simply comes down to resting enough between workouts. That's also why I believe in abreviated routines; it allows you to recover faster between workouts. I also learned later than I should have that you can increase your recovery ability by increasing your conditioning and work capacity, something I've worked hard on in the last year. I believe that conditioning, nutrition, and rest are the biggest keys to avoid overtraining.

    That leads me to my next point...

    Why work so hard that you verge on overtraining or under-recovering? Yes, I believe in working intensely, but I also believe in working smartly. If you can make the same progress with three exercises, why would you want to use your recovery powers on 12 exercises? You would ve more fully recovered from workout to workout if you use fewer exercises. Then, you can build up your work capacity over time and start adding in more exercises as you are able to handle them fully. A new lifter can get just as much out of a session of just bench presses for the chest as he can from doing umpteen different movements. An intermediate lifter might add incline presses to the mix, giving him two good compound lifts to hit the chest. Plenty of work if you ask me. An advanced lifter could use three or four exercises. It's all a process.

    And finally...

    My signs of overtraining...

    Lifts going down, not as strong from workout to workout.
    Poor sleep patterns.
    Reduced appetite.
    Twitching muscles, including the eyes.
    Becoming sick often.
    Gneral feeling of fatigue.

    What to do if these syptoms persist; take a week off from lifting, reduce the weights when you return to lifting, work back up to previous poundages keeping a close eye on returning syptoms. If you see the syptoms of overtraining starting, increse the rest days between workouts or reduce the volume of the routine.
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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    The idea you can overcome overtraining with food and sleep is only partially true. More of each will help you to be able to train harder, more often, but it doesn't preclude overtraining.

    Sometimes overtraining is a good thing. It is called overreaching and it is essentially purposeful overtraining followed by a rest or reduced intensity training period to allowed for a delayed transformation which is essentially a form of supercompensation. In other words, your body is trying to avoid THAT from happening again.


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    THE 800 QUEST NickAus's Avatar
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    Well said^.
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    Rory Parker Behemoth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris mason View Post
    How do you want to define overtrained?
    A great question. And probably and even better topic than the one I originally posed. As I stated I believe it to be cumulative. Furthermore I believe it to be necessary at times. Therefore the question you now has to be applied. We all have our indicators of too much. The nitty gritty of my point here is to question where and when those are either mental, physical, or both.

    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    Great topic Behemoth, glad you got it started...

    I have overtrained, or rather what I like to call under-recovered. I think with enough rest and food we can overcome the under-recovery. That leads to working out very hard when you're in the gym and then giving your body enough rest and nutrition to recover before you hit it hard again. I don't believe that it has anything to do with how hard you work, so it's not a cop-out, as I believe in training intensley. It simply comes down to resting enough between workouts. That's also why I believe in abreviated routines; it allows you to recover faster between workouts. I also learned later than I should have that you can increase your recovery ability by increasing your conditioning and work capacity, something I've worked hard on in the last year. I believe that conditioning, nutrition, and rest are the biggest keys to avoid overtraining.

    That leads me to my next point...

    Why work so hard that you verge on overtraining or under-recovering? Yes, I believe in working intensely, but I also believe in working smartly. If you can make the same progress with three exercises, why would you want to use your recovery powers on 12 exercises? You would ve more fully recovered from workout to workout if you use fewer exercises. Then, you can build up your work capacity over time and start adding in more exercises as you are able to handle them fully. A new lifter can get just as much out of a session of just bench presses for the chest as he can from doing umpteen different movements. An intermediate lifter might add incline presses to the mix, giving him two good compound lifts to hit the chest. Plenty of work if you ask me. An advanced lifter could use three or four exercises. It's all a process.

    And finally...

    My signs of overtraining...

    Lifts going down, not as strong from workout to workout.
    Poor sleep patterns.
    Reduced appetite.
    Twitching muscles, including the eyes.
    Becoming sick often.
    Gneral feeling of fatigue.

    What to do if these syptoms persist; take a week off from lifting, reduce the weights when you return to lifting, work back up to previous poundages keeping a close eye on returning syptoms. If you see the syptoms of overtraining starting, increse the rest days between workouts or reduce the volume of the routine.
    I don't believe in many movements. I believe in picking your money makers and sticking to them. 12 exercises is stupid I agree. If I have the energy I will do 5 more sets of incline presses and 5 more sets of cable flyes (my chest money makers). Varying the volume IMO is key. I know for a fact I can handle a lot more volume these days than I could 7 or 8 years ago. Would I progress better and better each year if I dropped it back to where I started? I don't know, I reaaaally doubt it. I have too much fun in the gym to leave so soon and find out. And I really don't think so for the simple reason that as years go by I seem to have more and more succesful gains pushing my envelope. Yet I can't say conclusively on a personal level.


    "Why work so hard that you verge on overtraining or under-recovering?"
    - Why get 4 reps if you're capable of 8?

    Quote Originally Posted by chris mason View Post
    The idea you can overcome overtraining with food and sleep is only partially true. More of each will help you to be able to train harder, more often, but it doesn't preclude overtraining.

    Sometimes overtraining is a good thing. It is called overreaching and it is essentially purposeful overtraining followed by a rest or reduced intensity training period to allowed for a delayed transformation which is essentially a form of supercompensation. In other words, your body is trying to avoid THAT from happening again.
    Well said. Complete agreement. I believe most (myself included) have potential to improve both their nutrition and genuine rest. With those at 100% I believe the training capabilities to be greatly amplified. But there's definetly a cap. You can definetly still overtrain.

    I am in agreement that when pushing the limits of what we're capable of to increase our workload capacity it is then necessary to back off and vary the volume and intensity to allow for additional compensating recovery. Yet I still feel that if in turn you continue to push the box you end up winning. You may need to vary it and back off some afterwards, but in the end it will result in a greater retention of training ability, which IMO is better than simply recovering better from one lone workout.
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    THE 800 QUEST NickAus's Avatar
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    Hmm I like that, good thread mate!!

    Nice!!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Behemoth View Post
    I'm not saying it doesn't... it definetly does. And I too have overtrained. But it was an absurb threshhold to reach. Months of dieting into sub 7%, 10-12 hours lifting a week, 5 am HIIT sessions, 40hrs construction on a roof in the dead of summer 95 degrees.
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    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    I forgot to mention...switching exercises or using a different variation is a good way to avoid overtraining. If you find a lift stalling or regressing, switch it up a little. The couple of sessions that it takes to get in the groove will give you a little break, and the difference in the way it hits your system will be enough to not continue down the path of overtraining.
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    Good discussion so far. I tend to define overtraining as full-blown overtraining syndrome, which is very difficult to do. With being said I believe you can do too much and get sub-optimal results without it being overtraining. For me it's certainly more than a psychological thing. Here are a few things I've observed about myself in regards to work capacity and optimal training volume.
    1) Whether I'm consuming a calorie excess or a calorie deficit makes a huge difference for me. Even on a very modest calorie deficit I'm alot more likely to regress on my lifts, get more aches and pains, and am more likely to get injured. I have to scale back my heavy lifting volume and be very smart about my programming on maintenance or deficit calories.
    2) Even when my work capacity is very good overall, I still have to limit the heavy stuff as it beats up the joints too much if I go crazy with the volume.
    3) The stronger I am, the less volume of heavy lifting I can tolerate and the less often I can truly push my limits (again mainly due to injuries and joints). This can be somewhat offset my being in a caloric excess.
    4) The ability to tolerate high workloads is not simply about muscles and the "CNS" (whatever that means in regards to lifting). My work capacity is very good right now and I could certainly tolerate higher volume and frequency training, but my joints simply won't allow it. Even with proper technique and doing everything "right", my SI joint and my shoulders limit how much heavy lifting volume I can tolerate. So for me doing more heavy training doesn't make any sense because I end up missing too much quality training due to injuries and minor joint problems. I suspect there are others who are the same way, particularly those who aren't natural strength athletes.

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    Rory Parker Behemoth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    I forgot to mention...switching exercises or using a different variation is a good way to avoid overtraining. If you find a lift stalling or regressing, switch it up a little. The couple of sessions that it takes to get in the groove will give you a little break, and the difference in the way it hits your system will be enough to not continue down the path of overtraining.
    That I'm going to disagree with on a personal level. I don't think anything about switching exercises merits one less risk of overtraining (if they are actually in that extreme state). The only way it may is you're not going to be as adept at a new movement, therefore less overload is going to be achievable. In which case how much different is it than just backing off a little on the exercise you feel is inherently responsible for the CNS fatigue?

    Changing exercises for assistance reasons is different. I just don't see the value of changing to avoid CNS stress.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sean S View Post
    Good discussion so far. I tend to define overtraining as full-blown overtraining syndrome, which is very difficult to do. With being said I believe you can do too much and get sub-optimal results without it being overtraining. For me it's certainly more than a psychological thing. Here are a few things I've observed about myself in regards to work capacity and optimal training volume.
    1) Whether I'm consuming a calorie excess or a calorie deficit makes a huge difference for me. Even on a very modest calorie deficit I'm alot more likely to regress on my lifts, get more aches and pains, and am more likely to get injured. I have to scale back my heavy lifting volume and be very smart about my programming on maintenance or deficit calories.
    2) Even when my work capacity is very good overall, I still have to limit the heavy stuff as it beats up the joints too much if I go crazy with the volume.
    3) The stronger I am, the less volume of heavy lifting I can tolerate and the less often I can truly push my limits (again mainly due to injuries and joints). This can be somewhat offset my being in a caloric excess.
    4) The ability to tolerate high workloads is not simply about muscles and the "CNS" (whatever that means in regards to lifting). My work capacity is very good right now and I could certainly tolerate higher volume and frequency training, but my joints simply won't allow it. Even with proper technique and doing everything "right", my SI joint and my shoulders limit how much heavy lifting volume I can tolerate. So for me doing more heavy training doesn't make any sense because I end up missing too much quality training due to injuries and minor joint problems. I suspect there are others who are the same way, particularly those who aren't natural strength athletes.
    Your point about being hypercaloric or hypocaloric is spot on.

    The Joint topic, though somewhat relative to this subject, I don't think necessarily is a marker of overtraining. It's like saying blisters would be a marker of CNS overtraining. There's correlation, but not causation.
    Last edited by Behemoth; 11-26-2010 at 12:01 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Behemoth View Post
    That I'm going to disagree with on a personal level. I don't think anything about switching exercises merits one less risk of overtraining (if they are actually in that extreme state). The only way it may is you're not going to be as adept at a new movement, therefore less overload is going to be achievable. In which case how much different is it than just backing off a little on the exercise you feel is inherently responsible for the CNS fatigue?

    Changing exercises for assistance reasons is different. I just don't see the value of changing to avoid CNS stress.



    Your point about being hypercaloric or hypocaloric is spot on.

    The Joint topic, though somewhat relative to this subject, I don't think necessarily is a marker of overtraining. It's like saying blisters would be a marker of CNS overtraining. There's correlation, but not causation.
    I didn't mean to imply the joint issues are indicative of overtraining, but can be a rate limiting factor. I know my limitations are due to structural issues, but not due to "overtraining" per se. So I wouldn't say I can't tolerate certain training programs due to overtraining, but that my body simply won't tolerate a certain level of loading.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sean S View Post
    I didn't mean to imply the joint issues are indicative of overtraining, but can be a rate limiting factor. I know my limitations are due to structural issues, but not due to "overtraining" per se. So I wouldn't say I can't tolerate certain training programs due to overtraining, but that my body simply won't tolerate a certain level of loading.
    Understand! And a great thing for everyone to be mindful to monitor throughout their training. It's a good point that even if you're muscles and CNS can handle more volume/intensity or what-have-you, it's foolish to due so if your joints can't. A point that I myself need to stay mindful of.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Behemoth View Post
    That I'm going to disagree with ... The only way it may is you're not going to be as adept at a new movement, therefore less overload is going to be achievable.
    That was exactly my point...and by the time you build up the intensity, you've rested a bit and are primed to make greater progress.
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    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    I believe it was Peary Rader that said something along the lines of, "If you could make good progress working out three days a week, but make great progress working out two days a week, why would you choose to do three?"

    Isn't that a form of overtraining?
    Last edited by Off Road; 11-27-2010 at 04:48 PM.
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    Rory Parker Behemoth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    I believe it was Peary Rader that said something along the lines of, "If you could make good progress working out three days a week, but make great progress working out two days a week, why would you choose to do three?"

    Isn't that a form of overtraining?
    Excess that hampers progress would certainly be overtraining.

    Out of context, that quote is quite silly. For instance...

    "I like to train two, sometimes three times a day" - Arnold
    accuflex - LOLZZZZ!!!11one1!! SOEM PPL WORK THRE ARMZ!!!!11!! LETS KILL THEM111

    "You can fake effort with grunts and clanging weights but quiet, consistent hard work coupled with gradual strength increases earns universal respect in gyms" - Steve Colescott



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  24. #24
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Behemoth View Post
    "I like to train two, sometimes three times a day" - Arnold
    Lol - we should all be so lucky
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  25. #25
    Westside Bencher Travis Bell's Avatar
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    I really think it all depends on the person and how their body responds to heavy training. I've seen guys who MUST deload every 5-6 weeks or they start going backwards, others like Chuck Vogelpohl can throw themselves into any type of training and beat themselves relentlessly and seem to keep progressing at a crazy rate.

    Myself, I tend to lean towards responding better to more training. I often train twice a day, not always with high intensity (except on heavy bench days)


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