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Are You Overtraining?

The single most common mistake made by almost all body sculptors, from beginners to the most advanced, is to overtrain. Anyone who allows himself to become overtrained will make little or no progress at the gym. And in extreme cases of overtraining, it is actually possible to lose muscle mass. I firmly believe a body sculptor has to consciously undertrain to continue making great gains from their workouts.

Overtraining occurs when you do too many long, exhausting workouts and push your system past the point where your body can fully recover between training sessions. As you continue to push your body past its limited ability to recuperate between workouts, it will give you one or more signals that it will soon be overtrained. Unfortunately, many body sculptors fail to correctly read these signals, inexorably pushing their bodies into a full-blown overtrained state in which they are unable to make gains in muscle mass, no matter how hard they continue to train.

Here are ten most common signals that you are becoming overtained:

  1. Lack of enthusiasm for workouts - You are doing too many total sets for each workout, which means you are being overtrained. And when you are overtrained, you will cease to make good progress from your workouts and become discouraged.

  2. Low energy levels (chronic fatigue) - As long as you are energetic during your workouts, and for the remainder of the day, you are eating and sleeping optimally. But if you are tired a lot of the time, you need to improve your diet and/or sleep rest patterns

  3. Irritability - If you are moody too often, it can slow your progress, so you should take steps to reduce stress and situations that can cause depression.

  4. Persistently sore muscles and/or joints - Greater-than-normal muscles soreness can come from overtraining and a change in routines or training techniques can help.

  5. Deterioration of motor coordination - When your joints and muscles are sore you may not be able to lift properly and overtrained individuals are more prone to muscle spasms.

  6. Insomnia - When you are sore, irritable, and placing yourself under stress because you are discouraged, it is easy to understand why you are having difficulty sleeping. However, rest is one of the most important factors in body sculpting. Rest allows your muscles the time to fully recuperate. I recommend to my clients that they get 8 hours of sleep a night, take a short nap each afternoon (20-30 minutes), and include a brief (3-5 minutes) rest break every 2-3 hours, in which they are to completely attempt to relax.

  7. Loss of appetite - many of those who overtrain experience a loss of appetite which without the correct nutritional balance we know that muscles will not grow.

  8. Deterioration of ability to concentrate - When you ovetrain and your body is constantly telling you to rest, it is difficult to focus on your workout form. It is easy to become more distracted when you are not focused on the subject-at-hand.

  9. Elevated morning pulse rate - Your body is having to work harder to repair itself causing your heart to work harder. This is also the cause of elevated morning blood pressure.

  10. Elevated morning blood pressure - See above.

If you notice two or more of these symptoms, chances are good that you are entering an overtrained condition.

The best tool you have for avoiding overtraining is to listen to your body. When your body becomes overtrained, it will tell you that you need to take a layoff and get more rest, allowing it to fully recuperate.

Why Do Some Overtrain?
There are many variables when trying to determine why some overtrain. The most common is that most body sculptors think that in order to gain muscle they must do more sets. This is a myth. Overtraining is primarily caused by excessively long training session, but not by short, high-intensity workouts. And it can be exacerbated by faulty diet, excessive stress, and insufficient sleep and rest. Any combination of these variables can cause you to slip into an overtrained state in which you will cease to gain muscle mass and strength.

Remember that there is a thin line between doing the maximum amount of high-intensity training necessary to induce optimum muscle hypertrophy, and doing too much training, and lapsing into an overtrained state.

Preventing Overtraining
The most obvious solution to overtraining is to prevent it from ever occurring in the first place. And the easiest way to prevent overtraining is to consistently undertrain. By this I mean you should always do a few less total sets for each muscle group than you think you should be doing. But each set that you do perform should be of very high intensity.

The simple factor most responsible for muscle hypertrophy is training intensity. Low-intensity training builds small muscles, very much like running a marathon distance builds skinny little legs. And high-intensity training builds big muscles, the type of muscle development necessary to achieve personal body sculpting goals.

When you train with high intensity it is impossible to do as many sets. So doing 20 sets for a muscle group requires each set to be relatively low in intensity. The only way a body sculptor can do 20 sets per body part is to pace himself during each set, conserving strength and energy to expend on the last few sets.

By systematically training with relatively short, high-intensity workouts you will find it relatively easy to avoid becoming overtrained. And this in turn will allow you to continue making progress on your body sculpting goals.

Remember to take time to stretch and complete 20-30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise before your begin your body sculpting routine. And, as always, when body sculpting think: form, resistance, and to breathe.

Rick Gusler is a certified personal trainer and diet nutritionist who serves his clients through Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center in central Denver. To schedule a free consultation, or to learn more about the Gusler method of body sculpting, spin yoga, or Rick's Boot Camp, please contact him at 303.860.7131 or online at

Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center, LLC
459 Acoma Street · Denver, Colorado 80204 · 303-860-7131
Hours: Monday-Friday: 6am-8pm · Saturday: Closed · Sunday: Closed