Overreaching and overtraining may sound similar, but the two are actually quite different. You might hear fellow bodybuilders at the gym attributing their lack of progress to overtraining. Meanwhile, the professional bodybuilder wearing bodybuilder clothing may tell you that they never have to worry about overtraining. How do you know who’s right? If you train and recover hard enough, plateaus don’t have to be a problem. Here’s everything you need to know about overreaching and overtraining.
What is Overtraining?
Overtraining is definitely not a myth but a condition to be taken seriously. It involves a complex variety of symptoms that can last anywhere from weeks to months, years, or potentially end athletic careers. Overtraining can increase your resting heart rate and blood pressure, alter your sleep patterns, contribute to psychological obstacles, and even cause weight loss, dehydration, and a lack of sweat.
What is Overreaching?
Meanwhile, most people who wear lifting clothes have encountered overreaching in the gym. It’s a common occurrence. Overreaching is simply a temporary response to heavy lifting or intense training. Many training programs are designed to incorporate overreaching. This is typically referred to as functional overreaching and causes a short-term dip in your ability due to fatigue. However, it then has a brief taper and increased strength, which is helpful when preparing for competitions or meet days. Overreaching is a necessary part of optimizing your lifting routine. Nonfunctional overreaching can hurt your progress and eventually result in similar symptoms to overtraining, but strategic rest can lead to full recovery.
Using Overreaching to Your Advantage
Functional overreaching results in what is called supercompensation. It requires proper recovery after overreaching and can lead to a more effective training regimen. A peak or taper is usually achieved by reducing your training load to remove both acute and chronic fatigue. This increases the potential for physiological and psychological confidence. Creating a peak through overreaching is not meant for long-term goals but can help you do exceptionally well in the short term, like when you’re preparing for a competition.
Creating a peak or taper can result in reduced stress and increased recovery. This can help ease feelings of anxiety while increasing your lifting ability. In bodybuilding, it can also help reduce your muscular fatigue. Decreasing volume can also progressively decreases markers of muscle damage. This, in turn, results in decreased muscle soreness.
How to Know When to Take a Step Back
If you are experiencing a decrease in your overall training, sleep quality, eating habits, or have additional physical and psychological stressors, it’s time to take a step back. A deload period can help you get back to training and push through a plateau. Proper rest and recovery can help with persistent problems, while continuing to push through could cause long-term damage. Nonfunctional overreaching can result in months of a slump, but catching it early and addressing problems through rest and recovery can help you get back to training and see progress.
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