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"Try to overtrain"

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  • "Try to overtrain"

    Hey Jordan,

    Was listening to one of the barbell medicine podcasts (I think it was a Q&A from one of your seminars), and at one point you guys were talking about how many intermediate trainees aren't getting ENOUGH stress. You guys said, somewhat jokingly perhaps, to "try to overtrain," and it got me thinking a little bit. To what extent is this true? I am gathering that the core concept for us (trainees) is that we would really like to find the optimum amount of stress to apply via training.

    Let me express what I'm trying to get at with a general scenario here. Intermediate strength trainee who just wants to get stronger and improve body composition, that describes a bunch of us I think. Lets say this trainee is running some Texas Method variant. Lets say that the trainee says "well, I'm going to see how much stress I can impart and it still be effective." So the trainee legit doubles the sets for the entire program. Basically Texas Method x 2. Is this a recipe for disaster? When I ran Texas Method, the 5x5 (setsxreps) squats were hard and miserable but, could I have gotten significantly more from making it 10x5? Doubling all accessory work, etc?

    I haven't done a good job of asking anything specific here, I'm just wondering to what extent "trying to overtrain" is useful, and what experiments are worthwhile to the trainee to hone in on a more-effective amount of stress? If I need to retype this whole thing with something more direct, I will try.


  • #2

    A recipe for disaster? Well, maybe given the base program here.

    Two of the biggest risks for acute pain are high ratings of RPE for each session and an acute , rapid increase in training fatigue. So, if someone just went from TM x 1 to TM x 2, that would likely check both of those boxes.

    Now on the other hand, if someone took vanilla TM and added sets to it over some time interval along with more exercises, exercise variations, and kept average intensity in an appropriate range - they'd likely do better than trying to hammer vanilla TM.

    I think most people think about overtraining as doing heavy, near-limit sets that are providing a bunch of "stress" that should produce a commensurate improvement in performance once recovered from. Doing too many of those sets would be too much stress that overwhelms the recoverability of the lifter and the improvement isn't seen. The fix therefore, is doing less, right?

    Now let's think about an alternative interpretation..

    Those heavy, limit sets aren't producing nearly as much physiological stress to develop the musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems outside of skill development with handling heavy weights and psychological stress from the arousal needed to complete such a set. However, the total volume for hypertrophy and strength development stressors (outside of technique) are low and thus, duh, you don't get much better (if at all). With persistent exposure to this kind of training- you might even get worse because there's not enough stress to drive the adaptation.

    In this interpretation, one would need more stress...not less. However, more stress cannot be accumulated unless the intensity is dropped a bit to allow for more volume, right? Our view is that more rather than less training is the preferred management for strength development and health improvement.
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