One of the most common reasons people fail in their quest to gain muscle mass is because they fail to appreciate the importance of rest to the muscle building process. This may be most frustrating way to fail because these people do possess the hard work ethic that so many others lack.
Many if not most beginners (as well as more experienced trainers) spend way too much time in the gym.
When these efforts fail to give them results, they increase their workout time. And when that doesn’t work, they increase it more and eventually burn out, deciding that they just can’t build muscle no matter what they do.
It isn’t hard to identify the source of the “beginner’s logic” that produces this approach – an outsider looking in assumes that building muscle is all about how much time you put in at the gym.
When the average person encounters an impressive physique he will say, “Boy, I bet that guy works out a lot.”
The truth is that diet, training and rest are all critically important to the muscle building process.
What you should say when you encounter an impressive physique is, “Boy, that guy works out, eats well AND provides his body with sufficient rest.”
It is hard to convince people that you can train too much. Give the enthusiastic beginner a workout schedule that has him training for only 3 or 4 hours a week and he has the tendency to assume that you are being conservative, that you simply don’t realize how determined he is and how hard he is willing to work. He thinks that if he doubles or triples the schedule he will double or triple his results.
Bodybuilding does not work that way. You must understand the importance of rest to the muscle building process.
The Dangers of Overtraining
Often referred to as “burn out” in athletic circles, overtraining is when the body becomes overwhelmed by the demands being placed on it.
Overtraining Syndrome (OTS) is a clinically recognized condition characterized by feelings of fatigue and depression, increased cortisol levels (stress hormone that breaks down muscle tissue) and decreased blood-glutamine, testosterone and DHEA levels among other indicators.
Overtraining occurs when the body incurs more damage than it has the opportunity to repair and rebuild. When you train with weights, your goal is to initiate small tears in muscle tissue with the hope that the body will then repair and rebuild that tissue to be stronger. These tears are necessary to stimulate muscle growth but they are, at least temporarily, muscle damage.
If you do not allow the body the opportunity to adequately repair this damage, you will begin overtraining. OTS is a progressive condition. If you continue to train beyond the body’s repair capabilities you will progress into an increased state of OTS.
Early warning signs for overtraining include persistent feelings of fatigue and decreases in performance. If you start feeling more lethargic than normal, it is wise to consider backing off your training until these feelings disappear. Likewise, if you did 8 bench press reps at 100 lbs. fairly easily on Monday but have to strain to do the same set on Wednesday and then can only do 7 reps on Friday, this is not telling you that you need to increase your training frequency but rather that you may need to decrease it.
The cure for OTS is rest. A minor case can be managed by a few days away from the gym coupled with a decreased training regimen. A more advanced case will require longer periods of complete rest for the body to exit the OTS state. Supplementing with glutamine has been shown to speed up recovery.
To avoid OTS, you have to give the body the opportunity to repair the damage you create – You have to give it adequate rest.