by Melvin Cherian ~ Are you that guy who trains bad ass in the gym? Someone who absolutely knocks out each training session with amazing intensity? You love being sore because that gives you the mental content of having tortured yourself to grow bigger and stronger? If you said yes for all these questions in your head, you are probably one hell of a passionate lifter.

Well I am and hence the questions.

If you are someone who has been in and around weights consistently you have definitely heard some bros talk about over training. The big guy who eats up your muscle as understood by some people.

Ever bothered of going behind these two words and dig into what is the actual science behind it? Well I am sure most of us haven’t.

So let us understand about over training today. Does it really exist? If yes, then when does over training happen? How not to over train?

Google will give you a lot of definitions for over training. Some technical words smartly put together to make it look and sound legit to make you read, put a full stop to it and end the movie.

Over training has to be understood with an individualistic perspective. What over training is for a natural athlete may not be the same for an enhanced athlete.

It is specific to individuals. It depends on factors like training intensity and volume, recovery rate of muscles, frequency of the micro trauma (damage) to the muscles, nutrition and sleep.

You cannot over train, you are probably under eating” also does not hold true in all the cases. Let us try to understand in layman terms.

I personally understand over training as crossing the threshold beyond which your functionality and performance declines. It can also be understood as training to a point beyond which muscle recovery suffers.

Let me introduce a term here – ‘Rhabdomylosis’. It’s a condition in which the injured muscle fiber releases its contents into the blood stream.

Speaking of impaired recovery, you are likely to induce this condition. The myoglobin, which is an iron-oxygen binding protein, releases into the blood and can potentially damage your kidneys. Symptoms include dark reddish urine, decreased amount of urine, weakness and muscle aches. Have you ever experienced this? I am sure no.

Of course because we are not maniacs to kill ourselves doing something we love, right? So you have not over trained yet.

Now remember, being sore is fine and it is the response to resistance training. Technically it is called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness).

DOMS are bound to recover in a matter of days.

If your training program isn’t making you stronger and isn’t improving your performance, then your training is probably not right. But, but! If your training program is deteriorating your strength, performance and functionality, then you are likely to have over trained.

It is also to be understood that one day of over excessive training cannot be called over training. It has to go through an accumulation phase and the damage has to be done for it to be called over training.

Your training program should have a quantified output just like you expect quantified results while following a quantified nutrition.

If there are disruptions in the output of your training program, yes there are chances you over trained.

What needs to be understood is – acute (short term) decrease in performance or strength or functionality cannot be over training. It has to be chronic (long term) for it to be called over training.

Over train the right way?

Olympic athletes, weight lifters, power lifters and strong men routinely use a short term over training method known as over reaching. Over reaching is very different from over training. It is done within a periodization to get the super compensation benefit of strength and muscle gain.

Now you need to understand how this is done. This can be incorporated within a linear or daily undulating periodization before the taper week. It can be understood in simple words as strategic over training.

This helps in peaking the strength and hypertrophy after you run a taper week. This is known as a rubber band effect where in if you pull the rubber band and let it go, it would not only go back to its starting point but it will go beyond that. This is nothing but the stress adaptation of the body. Recovery during taper week ensures a stronger bounce back.

The cortisol argument

Some broxperts say-“ hey if you train for more than 45-60 minutes you will end up over training”.


In that case all the military recruits should have been over trained and their performance should have gone down big time, right? How long do they train for!

Both glycotic and aerobic training. The argument is based on the misinformation that the elevated cortisol levels due to long durations of training would cause muscle catabolism and hence have negative effects on metabolism, strength and performance.

DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad Runge, U.S. Navy. (Released)

We need to dig deep into numbers here and let the data speak the truth. So science says that you are likely to over train yourself if your cortisol level rises beyond 320ng/ml during your training session. Now that’s a lot.

Let me stop here and tell you, if you are someone who is training for long hours and instead of muscle gain you see muscle loss- your nutrition is not on point. Don’t blame cortisol here. The normal range of cortisol throughout the day in us is anywhere between 0.3ng/ml to 2.2 ng/ml depending on the time of the day.

2008 Journal of Endocrinological Investigation released a study which showed an average of 11% change in cortisol after training sessions set up at different percentages of VO2 max.

So let’s take the cortisol at rest to be 2.2ng/ml (for example). 11% rise in cortisol during the training session would be close to 2.5ng/ml. Not even close to what is required to be established as the value for over training.

Now the study was done on individuals who performed a 30 minute exercise. Do your own math, see how much time will it take for the cortisol to cross the over training value.

To conclude- over training doesn’t exist, over reaching does. Train because you enjoy training and you have a purpose to fulfill with your training program. Eat right, understand training techniques and read more. You won’t over train.


Melvin Cherian is a TEAM WILD Athlete, the Regional Head for GetSetGo Fitness and an online physique/transformation coach.