Article last updated: September 2018 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer
Recently a reader emailed me about his success with frequent workouts:
Oskar, I don’t know how to thank you ! My progress are slow but continuous. Your two exercises (close-grip chin-ups and the diamond push-ups) are doing the job greatly. In my case the way to follow is HIGH FREQUENCY (EVERYDAY, SOMETIMES MORNING AND AFTERNOON). The more I workout, the more my muscles get bigger. As far as I’m concerned, the whole concept of overtraining seems a nonsense.
He came to the conclusion that overtraining is nonsense. This made me reflect upon my last year of training and I agree with his statement. Most people are undertrained rather than overtrained.
Overtraining Made me Grow More Than Ever
During the whole year of 2013 I didn’t think of overtraining as a negative thing. I stayed at pretty much the same bodyweight throughout the year, but my body changed a lot. I gained a few inches around my shoulders, an inch to my arms and I didn’t get fat in the process.
The only downside is that I tried to avoid growing my back by doing close grip chin ups instead of regular chin ups, but it seems like it grew anyways.
Just take a look at my progress from January 2013 to October 2013 where I overtrained:
The usual advice is to avoid training the same exercises everyday, but I went against this advice. I overtrained.
For example, I trained close grip chin ups monday-tuesday-wednesday-thursday and yesterday (friday) I tried to max out. The result was that I performed a personal best of 22 chin ups, which motivated me to write this article. When I trained 3 times a week I was unable to perform well everyday, because my body was used to training only 3 times a week – I was UNDERTRAINED.
Focusing less on protein shakes, and more on training hard and eating a balanced diet would have given me faster results in the past.
The Benefits of Overtraining
Instead of looking at the POTENTIAL downsides of overtraining, take a look at the benefits of pushing yourself as much as possible:
- You can eat more without getting fat – the food will be used towards building muscle.
- Your body will adapt to performing well everyday instead of a few times a week.
- Training will become a habit, just like eating and sleeping. If you want to get good at something, 3 times a week for 45 minutes is not enough.
Nowadays I eat way more than I did back then, BUT I gain less fat and more muscle. Some of you may think: how is that even possible? Aren’t you supposed to gain tons of muscle when you start training because of beginner gains?
The answer is that, yes you CAN gain a lot of strength and muscle, but 3 times a week isn’t going to cut it for most people.
You can start with 3 times a week, but I recommend you to build up to training as often as possible. If you have been skinny-fat your whole life, you need to SIGNAL to your body that it MUST change. This is best done by doing bodyweight training (especially chin ups) and training frequently.
How About the Symptoms of Overtraining?
Some of you may have read about the symptoms of overtraining just like I did when I began training, but let me tell you this: it’s a waste of time to read symptoms. Just take a look at the main symptoms of overtraining and my explanations:
- Persistent muscle soreness: this is normal when you train hard.
- Persistent fatigue: are you sleeping and eating enough?
- Elevated resting heart rate: my heart rate is in range, and I train everyday.
- Increased incidence of injuries: if you have joint pain, stop immediately and figure out why it happens.
- Irritability, Depression, Mental Breakdown: can be caused by many other things than training a lot.
Conclusion: Don’t Be Afraid of Overtraining
I never experienced the so-called beginner gains, and the main culprit was that I was afraid of overtraining. Every known beginner program focuses on heavy compound lifts performed 3 days a week.
3 days a week sounds good in theory, but thinking about it now, it’s nonsense. Unfortunately I believed this nonsense. It’s easier to make someone perform a program that calls for 3 sessions a week since it’s EASY, but for me this approach never got me acceptable results.
Stop seeing overtraining as a negative thing. Instead, embrace overtraining. The body needs to be pushed to its maximum to grow and get strong.
My best workouts usually end with a high intensity routine looking like this:
- Close Grip Chin Ups to failure followed by 3-5 negatives
- Right after Close Grip Chin Ups Negatives I do: Diamond Push Ups to failure followed by Regular Push Ups to failure
Usually I feel like crap after this kind of workout. I have a headache and all I wanna do is sleep. I used to interpret those things as overtraining, but that’s wrong. Those things are normal when you train hard.
My girlfriend recently started training everyday, and she’s seeing results quite fast. Her body is getting firmer, stronger and she’s training most days of the week for over an hour. If a small asian girl can train that much, why wouldn’t a grown man be able to do that?
Don’t concern yourself with overtraining, most people are undertrained.
Be proud but stay hungry,
– Oskar Faarkrog