While the importance of regular strength training for maintaining a healthy body and mind is widely recognised, it is not uncommon to hear fitness enthusiasts ponder the question: "How much strength training is too much?" To ensure a balanced, effective, and healthy approach to your fitness journey, it is essential to understand the implications of both overtraining and under training.
When it comes to strength training, quality outshines quantity. In other words, the key is not necessarily training more, but training smarter.
Striking a Balance
It's crucial to strike a balance between pushing your boundaries and giving your body time to recover. Training too little can leave you with insufficient progress, while excessive training can lead to physical injuries and mental burnout. While the exact training frequency may differ depending on individual fitness levels, goals, and recovery ability, a good rule of thumb for most people is to engage in strength training 2-3 times a week, focusing on different muscle groups each session.
Overtraining, in the context of strength training, is a physical, behavioural, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual's exercise exceed their recovery capacity. They stop making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness.
Symptoms of overtraining can range from constant fatigue and decreased performance to mood swings, disrupted sleep patterns, decreased immunity, and increased injury rates. Recognising these signs early on is vital in preventing the potential negative impacts of overtraining.
The Role of Rest and Recovery
Rest and recovery play as much of a critical role in your fitness journey as your workouts do. When you strength train, you're effectively creating microscopic tears in your muscle fibres. During rest, your body repairs these tears, building stronger and larger muscles in the process.
Insufficient recovery can impede this process and could lead to a state of chronic fatigue decreased performance, and increased risk of injuries. Typically, you should aim to rest each muscle group for 48 hours between strength training sessions.
Variety and Progression in Strength Training
Appropriate variation and progression in your training routine are also vital in preventing overtraining and promoting optimal strength gains. Variation involves changing aspects of your training, like exercises, sets, reps, and weights, to target different muscle groups and prevent monotony.
Progressive overload, on the other hand, is the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise. As you get stronger, you should aim to either increase the weight, repetitions, or number of sets you perform to continue challenging your body. However, the key is to progress at a rate that aligns with your recovery ability and does not lead to overtraining.
Listen to Your Body
One of the most important, yet often overlooked, aspects of strength training is learning to listen to your body. The 'no pain, no gain' mantra has been vastly misinterpreted to mean that you should push yourself to the brink of collapse every workout. Instead, what it should promote is a healthy challenge.
Pain, extreme fatigue, or any other form of physical discomfort during or after workouts often indicate that something is wrong. Understanding the difference between muscle fatigue and actual pain can save you from long-term damage.
Nutrition: Fuel for Training
Finally, let's not forget nutrition. Food is the fuel that supports your workouts and recovery. Consuming a balanced diet rich in protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates will ensure that your body has the energy for workouts and the nutrients necessary for recovery. Depriving your body of necessary nutrition can lead to symptoms similar to overtraining and compromise your overall progress.
Crossfit Athletes vs Runners; The Difference in Strength Training
CrossFit athletes and runners typically approach weight training differently, primarily due to the unique demands of their respective sports.
CrossFit is a high-intensity fitness training method that combines elements of cardio, weight lifting, and bodyweight exercises. Weight training forms a significant part of a CrossFit athlete's routine because strength is a key component of their performance.
CrossFit workouts often incorporate Olympic weightlifting movements like snatches, clean and jerks, and deadlifts, as well as powerlifting movements like squats and presses. They also use bodyweight exercises like pull-ups and push-ups, and plyometric movements like box jumps.
The frequency and intensity of weight training can vary greatly among CrossFit athletes, but most CrossFit training plans involve some form of strength work multiple times a week, often daily. In general, a CrossFit athlete might spend about 50-60% of their training time doing weightlifting or strength-based activities.
Runners, on the other hand, primarily focus on improving their endurance, speed, and running economy. Strength training for runners is typically supplemental to their primary training but is nonetheless crucial for improving performance and reducing the risk of injuries.
Strength training for runners often focuses on developing a strong core and lower body to provide stability, improve running form, and increase efficiency. Common exercises include lunges, squats, calf raises, planks, and other bodyweight or light-weight exercises. Some runners also incorporate upper body training to improve overall strength and balance.
Typically, runners might incorporate 1-3 strength training sessions per week into their training regimen, which accounts for about 20-30% of their total training time, depending on their training cycle and the distances they're training for.
It's important to remember that these percentages are estimates and can vary greatly among individual athletes. Factors such as the athlete's level of experience, specific goals, the time of the season, and personal recovery ability all play a role in determining the amount of weight training done.
Whether you're a CrossFit athlete, a runner, or simply someone looking to improve their fitness, incorporating an appropriate amount of strength training into your routine can be highly beneficial. However, as with any type of training, it's essential to listen to your body and ensure you're getting adequate rest and recovery to prevent overtraining and injuries.