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Old 08-09-2005, 02:59 PM
Darkhorse Darkhorse is offline
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Default Another Article To Boot

How To Benefit From Planned Overtraining
By: Kelly Baggett

One of the biggest debates among coaches and trainers that always arises every few years is the topic of recovery. Some say you need to be beating yourself up week in and week out and always increasing your work capacity by simply doing more, more, and more work over time. Others in the HIT (high intensity) (TT ;) ) camp emphasize recovery with a mantra that says, "less is always more". So who's right? Are you gonna get better results by constantly training yourself into the ground or will that approach leave you chronically overtrained? Is that overtraining maybe a good thing? Or will you get better results by sitting on your butt 5 days out of every 7 and attacking your workouts with ferocity when you do?? Or will that approach leave you undertrained and so inactive that you pile on enough fat to make Warren Sapp look like a GQ model??
Well first lets define some terminology. What most of us call overtraining is really over-reaching. Overtraining is more like a disease then a temporary state. For 95% of us, "over-reaching" is what we're really referring to when we say overtraining.

Over-reaching-is pushing yourself into a mild state of fatigue with your training. Regression in performance sometimes does occur during an over-reaching period, yet performance rebounds back very quickly, usually above and beyond it's previous level, with a short period of rest or lowered volume (within days). It can be good or bad depending on how you use it.

Overtraining- occurs when you chronically over-reach for months or years on end. This leads to performance regression that can take months to recover from and is associated with multiple and sometimes permanent endocrine disruptions. Although there are some athletes who are chronically overtrained and don't realize it (distance runners, bodybuilders, and some basketball players come to mind), most athletes don't ever reach a true overtrained state.

Another important term is Under reaching.

Under-reaching- occurs when you intentionally "take it easy". This is like taking your foot off the gas in your training intentionally. It also can be good or bad depending on how you do it.

Now let's start with a few key claims I'm going to make. First, let me state that from my observations, the reason many people train hard and consistently and don't make the gains they feel they should, is because they spend too much time over-reaching and not enough time under-reaching. Notice I said "consistent hard trainees" there. That statement doesn't apply unless you train both hard and consistent.

Next, let me state that if you have to choose, you're almost always better off under-reaching then over-reaching unless you really know what you're doing. With those comments you would probably think that over-reaching is a bad, bad, BAD thing. Well, in truth it's quite the opposite. Over-reaching by design can be a very good thing. Notice that I said "unless you know what you're doing". That's what I intend to help you do in this article.

Recovery and Supercompensation

Recovery can be defined as - regaining what was lost - however, for the athlete this is not enough as it returns them only to where they started. Adaptation can be defined as the process of long-term adjustment to a specific stimulus. This process of adaptation can include adjustment in a number of factors such as the athlete's physiology, psychology and mechanics. These alterations can ultimately lead to improved performance - which is a more satisfying goal. We train to get fitness. We want to jump higher, run faster, get stronger, run longer etc. In order to get fit we must stimulate some fatigue so that our body adapts. We must push ourselves beyond our limits some of the time - which is fatigue. Let's call a training cycle a 30-60 day "period" of training. All good periodized training answers this question: What is the optimal amount of fatigue to induce over the course of the next training cycle in order to optimize the fitness that results from it?


In other words, if I want to run faster and jump higher 30 days from now, how tired should I make myself this week and next week so that when I test myself in 30 days, I'll run faster and jump higher? All things being equal, if I do no training (assuming I'm not in an over-reached state) then I likely will not improve at all, and in fact may slip back. On the other hand, if I work out daily and intensely and continue adding volume, I'm also likely to slip back.

So there must be an optimal blend of both fatiguing myself or over reaching (in order to improve) and resting myself or under reaching, so that I can see the gains from the over reaching I've done. Under reach too much and you won't get the results you want because you haven't forced your body to adapt; over reach too much and you won't get results because your body is shot.

The rest of this article is about how to solve this puzzle and determine how to intelligently over reach at the beginning of a training cycle, under reach at the end of a cycle, in order to boost the overall results of each training cycle.

Walk or Run But Don't Do Both

The basic point I want to make in this article is that you should either be training a little harder then what feels comfortable or a little less then you think you should. This is an implementation of the 2-factor theory model of stress and adaptation. Let's talk a little bit about the 2-factor theory.

The 2 factors represent the relationship between fatigue and fitness. One factor is fitness the other factor is fatigue.

2-factor theory-A stress adaptation model that bases a training plan around the long term relationships between stress and fatigue.

When you train you accumulate both fatigue and fitness. That observation itself should be worthy of a nobel prize. However, what many people don't realize is that the fatigue that accumulates over the course of a training cyle itself "masks" the fitness gains that you make. However, fitness persists about 3 x longer then fatigue. This means that when all traces of fatigue are gone from a bout of exercise or a cycle of training, the fitness gained will persist for 3 x as long as the fatigue. That's why most people make gains when they take a few days off from time to time. What I want to do is show you how to make this process predictable.

Before we get into how to implement the 2-factor theory you first need to understand the one factor theory.

The one factor theory- Is the basic stress adaptation model that is usually taught in high school, bodybuilding, and is the grand de jour model used to explain high intensity training. With this theory you look at physical ability as one short term factor. You load, recover, load, recover - always recovering fully before loading again.

The problem with this approach is you are left with the problem of timing workouts to correspond to the supercompensation wave. Anything sooner or later will lead to a bad workout. Another problem is there is only so much systemic stress that can be thrown on the body in one workout. If you prolong the length of the stress (loading and fatigue) period in the above chart by days or weeks, instead of a single workout, you increase the overall stress. Therefore, providing you do allow recovery to take place after prolonged loading, you increase the height of the supercompensation curve as well.

More on the 2-Factor Theory

You will often here training according to the 2 factor theory called many different things. You'll hear it called concentrated loading, load/unload, step-type loading or any number of other things. It's nothing fancy and most of you are probably already using it to an extent.

Comparing the One-Factor Approach to the 2-Factor Approach

Let's start off by comparing a "one-factor" training approach to a "2-factor" approach. We have 2 four week training schemes. One we'll call "A" and will be the one factor approach. The other we'll call "B" and is the 2-factor approach. Here's what they look like.

A: Here we train according to the traditional supercompensation curve. We train then fully recover, train then fully recover etc. Let's say we train once every 4-5 days and recover completely between workouts for 4-weeks.

B: Here we train hard for the first 3 weeks three times per week so that we never ever are completely recovered from any workouts. Then, on the 4th week we train only once or twice the entire week at a low intensity and low volume. During the 4th week we're allowing fatigue to dissipate so that we can display the fitness we've gained from the previous 3 week's of training. During this low intensity/low frequency week, the physiological indicators we've stimulate the previous 3 weeks "rebound" back up and above where they were before.

Ok. Now if you were to compare those 2 schemes we would find that version B will actually bring about greater gains particularly for intermediate and advanced athletes - That is providing the athletes are in a well rested state prior to initiating the 4 week block of training. Homeostasis is disrupted and prolonged during the 3 week loading period. Although we won't see a whole lot of progress during this 3 week phase itself, when we pull back on the volume during the reduced loading period the functional indicators will then rebound back above baseline. The ultimate "rebound", or performance increase, in scheme B will be greater then the summation of smaller rebounds from scheme A.

So what we're doing is building up fatigue and fitness by over-reaching slightly and then pulling back on the fatigue by under-reaching. Nothing really complicated about it.

Last edited by Darkhorse; 08-10-2005 at 08:55 AM.
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