Arnold Schwarzenegger: Do You Train Too Hard?

Overtraining happens; here's how to avoid it.
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QUESTION

What are your thoughts on overtraining? Is it a myth?

ANSWER

Most of the “training” I see in gyms today is anything but. There’s a lot of goofing off and taking long rest breaks and little focus on the muscles that are being trained. When your workouts are that casual, the last thing you need to do is dial them back or take time off. But for you hard-training guys with ambitions  for serious muscle growth and strength gains, the potential to overtrain does exist and you need to be able to recognize it before it stops your progress dead.

In my early days of training and competing, little was known about the concept of overtraining, and my training partners and I didn’t really speak of it. When we felt run-down or had a few lousy workouts, we took a day or so off, made sure we got enough sleep and food, and usually came back stronger than ever. Nowadays, many young bodybuilders seem to be terrified of overtraining, but I suggest you err on the side of training harder, because overtraining isn’t that easy to do.

If you work out three, four, or five days a week, sleep eight hours per night, eat enough calories and protein to support your goals, and follow the workouts in FLEX, your risk of overtraining is nil. Now, if you’re north of 40 years old, lifting heavy, dieting for a contest, or training six to seven days a week, you could begin to slip into an overtrained state.

Here’s how to identify it: You’ll find you can’t make improvements in your workouts, and you’ll begin to lose interest in training and experience prolonged soreness and fatigue. At this point, do what I would do; take a break, then change up your program.

If you’ve been lifting very heavy for a while, you might back your weights down by around 40% for a week. Powerlifters call it a “deload” week, and it lets them come back rejuvenated. Every six weeks or so, I think it’s wise to take a week completely off or train much lighter than usual, but the timing for this is individual. 

Overtraining is more often than not simply a matter of “underrecovering.” Eat right, sleep well, and be smart about how you spend your time outside the gym, and you’ll make steady progress. - FLEX

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