So a reader recently pointed me to a video claiming that overtraining was a myth. The point being made is that more work = better results. Basically, the old ‘more is better‘ mantra.
Watch his short 1 minute video here…
The video is by CT Fletcher, many of you will have heard of him. I went on to watch a few of his videos and I quite like the guy; I just strongly disagree with this particular message. Let me explain why…
In a nutshell, CT’s argument arises from experience i.e. “It worked for me and some others I know, so it will work for you”.
But giving examples of people DOES NOT WORK. Anecdotes DON’T WORK. It’s not science.
Just because you know someone means nothing to the majority of guys and girls with average or less-than-average genetics for building muscle.
Pay attention to this example…
Let’s look at swimmers. It’s a good illustration for what could be called accelerated “natural selection”. Dr. Doug McGuff does an awesome job of explaining this in his book ‘Body By Science‘ by the way – a fantastic read!
Now, have you ever heard of the term “swimmer’s body”? They all kinda look the same.
- Tall/Long Torso
- Broad(ish) shoulders
- Long arms
- V-shaped torso
- Flat abdomen
- Muscle definition (but not much size)
People therefore think that if they train like a swimmer, they will look like a swimmer.
Sounds logical, right? But it’s nonsense. Time for the natural selection part…
Thousands upon thousands of kids take up swimming at a young age. After some time, the kids with bodies and genetics that are not suited to the sport perform poorly and drop out.
Advance a decade or 2 and now look at the guys and girls that make it to professional level. They all look the same. Why? The demands of the sport plays natural selection and selects only those who are capable of reaching that level.
Again, only those with the correct genetic deck of cards will ever reach that kind of status. And only these people can perform at the very top level.
So if 100 people train like a swimmer will they get a swimmer’s body? Nope.
- If 100 people take CT Fletcher’s advice and train like him, will they get his results? Nope.
- If 100 people train like pro bodybuilders, will they look like pro bodybuilders? Nope.
- Heck, even pro bodybuilders themselves wouldn’t make the progress they make without the obscene amount of drugs they take to counteract overtraining.
So now let me explain what overtraining actually is…
Muscle growth is BI-PHASIC. This means that 2 separate phases are required and are equally important.
The workout itself does not ‘PRODUCE’ growth. If it did, then you couldn’t overtrain and you could simply train all day and keep growing ad infinitum.
But a workout merely ‘STIMULATES’ growth. The production occurs in the rest period after the workout has ended. The body does this all by itself; you just need to rest and eat.
So our 2 phases are:
- Stimulation (a catabolic or break-down activity)
- Production (an anabolic or build-up activity)
Anabolism is triggered by catabolism. The production takes time, just like building anything takes time.
What do you think would happen if you trained the same muscle again before the production (recovery and growth) phase was completed? You’d short-circuit your gains. A muscle stops recovering when it’s worked.
And if you trained again way too soon, you’d gain absolutely nothing and get nowhere – even if you were in the gym every day for a year! So this is a serious topic.
Here’s a diagram I created to explain this process…
If you train at point (1), you’ll then dip into recovery for a while i.e. the catabolic activity of training has created a deficit and muscle fibers need to be repaired and hopefully thickened. This takes a little time!
After some time, you will get 100% of the gains stimulated by the workout i.e. you come up above baseline and have overcompensated (grown). I coined the phrase “Peak Overcompensation Point” (POP) to describe this point in time. This is the ideal point at which to hit the same muscle again.
Hit it before then, while the body is still in recovery, and you will actually get nowhere. Seriously.
Hit it too long after the POP and the muscle will have already started to atrophy (get smaller again). Your gains will be less than optimal.
How much time?…
Studies (like the frequency project, which I will talk about in later articles) and experience show that you can work the whole body about 3 times per week, doing ~2 sets to failure per workout.
If you want to do a split routine, you can do 8, maybe 10 sets to failure, for each body part, train 5 days a week leaving 5-7 days between same-body-part workouts.
Some people with crazy genetics can do a lot more volume, and train more frequently. The rest of us…can’t.
Simply put, the more volume you do, the longer the recovery necessity to fully produce those gains. This is training smart.
THT training is free and incorporates all this knowledge and puts it into one easy to understand and execute program. You can get the same results as these guys and girls. Just pop your email below and you will be taken to the download page (no need to go to your email and confirm anything – just instant access to the program).
Before I go, I’d like to share another of CT’s videos If you watch from 3:50, he seems to admit that overtraining is real and not to attempt to do what he does.
NOTE: I tweeted to CT. It would be nice to get his (respectful) response.
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Great article Mark and as always very informative. I’ve been on TSPA for about 10 days now & I am enjoying the experience.. My bodyweight dropped 6lb in the first 7 days which was a bit of a shock…, but…, I have found my strength has improved on some of my exercises. Looking forward to the end results.
All the best,
@Karl. Thanks, buddy. Your experience on Total Six Pack Abs is quite typical. The fat is falling off but your strength is continuing to increase. It’s awesome 😀
It’s a good argument you make Mark. Difficult to refute. Cheers.
Another excellent article Mark with some key points and mythbusting info.
I love CT also, but training myself for 15 years, I have not only overtrained but caused injuries by going balls out everyday with reckless abandon.
THT and MANS for me! Works amazing man!
@Jay. Thanks for your comment. So happy you are making gains with THT training and the MANS carb-cycling diet. Keep training intelligently 😀
Speaking as an ectomorph I can happily say that you are correct. I used to train for years to failure with random rep counts, training too much and I never put on any muscle. It was only when I followed your program, stopped extra exercises and left the gym within an hour that I made any gains. If the exercises are done well then you should be knackered. And you don’t need to hang about for an hour and a half to do it. Looking back I wasn’t training very intensively, and your programs not only work in the biological sense but also help you focus mentally. As in, lift hard, wait 2 minutes, do it again, get ready to drop weights, do it again, then get out!
@Ted. That’s exactly right. Use the best rep ranges, hit it HARD, then go home, rest, and grow. Well done on your success.
I have been viewing your posts/article on and off for a couple of years now and have benefited significantly. You mention training each muscle 3 times a week by employing a 2-sets to failure for each training session. My intention is to leave split-routine training and begin a full-body regimen (T-Th-Sat). Should I do a warm up or two for each of the muscle groups?….lifting again for about 4+ years after a 25 year layoff; now 61 years of age.
I disagree that it’s impossible to overtrain and what CT appears to be saying in the first video seems to be completely wrong, but after watching the second video, I do kind of see the point he’s making about the average gym goer, who doesn’t push themselves to their limits but expects the results of a pro athlete. Yes genes and drugs have a lot to do with pro bodybuilders results, but… Like CT is saying, it’s undeniable that God damn hard work has a lot to do with it aswell… Just my thoughts 🙂
Easier to not worry about overtraining when you load your body with all the steroids this guy apparently uses. And I know it’s a gym and he is is a tough guy, but what a mouth on him.
Basically makes bodybuilding and fitness look like it belongs in the gutter
so overtraining is nOt important at alL. only 45 or 50 minuTes of workout wilL gIve satisfying gains
Please read on the guy before passing judgement about how he talks and drugs, I’m serious, I have been watching his videos for a while and although I agree with Mark on the overtraining part, CT is a great inspiration, the guy basically died of a severe heart distinction (yeah at that point I’ll admit might have been brought on by steroids I don’t know) he lost a ton of weight went under a hundred pounds (trying to recall, just got done on a graveyard shift so feel free to correct me) and was told he would never lift again …and that’s just part of his story and with that bad a heart…steroids would kill him…
And as for a bad mouth yes he has, it’s his style and some ppl like it, myself when I’m struggling to go to failure on a heavy set I just remember one of his mentra, no matter what, it is still my motherf*****g set.
While I understand what the article is supposed to be saying, I believe you are taking CT out of context. He has plenty of other videos, in which he basically says overtraining is a myth you make up when you don’t want to keep going. It’s not about the physical strain but more the mentality to finish your set, if you can get one more then do one more and don’t say that your overtraining. If you can only work each area 2 or 3 times a week make it count and don’t hold back for this fear of “overtraining”. Now he’s not telling you to hit arms everyday like he claims that he used to, by the way he recently stated that he has reduced arms to 3 days a week, he’s simply telling you to leave it all in the gym. It’s like the take your last set to failure because you’re not going to be doing that excercise again for a couple day. Now I understand as well that this site is a business and you’re trying to sell us a work out routine that you designed as calling out a fitness celebrity that disagrees with your views is a good source of click bait, but let’s be honest you know CT’s on top of his shit and you’re just taking a mentality and making it into a literal statement of a training method.
That was a great article. Thanks. I am 46 and have been doing full body workouts 3 times a week I was doing mon, wed, Friday. I have recently changed to Monday, Thursday, sunday. Do you think this is better for me or is that too much time in between workouts? I agree with you that you can overtrain for sure. Thanks a million, Trampas
I agree with you Mark.
If a person is a “weight lifters” with steroids. Perhaps it is correct what CT Fletcher says.
But knowing what to do on proper, contracting muscles/ and time under tension “body builders”. For the larger muscle group fibers need about 4 to 5 days rest. But the small muscles like abs, can be trained every second day. Biceps can also be trained every second day, if not exercising more than 2 sets.
For optimal construction of the lagest muscle fibers. Then the fibers need about 7 days rest, for optimal growth.
True, if you swear and cuss and drop the f-bomb and c-bomb and mf bomb pre and post workout (particularly during nanosecond rests between sets) it neutralizes overtraining symptoms at a cellular level ;p
source: YouTube broscience
Great article, Mark. I can’t stand the obnoxious tough guy acts you see on a lot of bodybuilding YouTube channels. I like your approach. You back up what you say with sound reasoning and science. Keep it up!
@Gerry. No buddy, this isn’t necessary. You warm up at the beginning of the THT full body workout with squats (or deadlifts on Wednesday). Your whole body will be ready after you finish those initial sets. Just hit your working sets thereafter.
@Yohann. I agree that he can be motivational, no doubt about it. I disagree with him on overtraining. I respect the guy, but I can disagree.
From what I can understand, both Mark and CT are saying the same thing in defferent forms.
Mark has told us through his articles that it is important to train to failure, which means to push your body beyond the point of comfort, to strain your muscle to a point above your current strength. Also, Mark tells us about following through with the schedule with discipline.
CT also talks about the same thing in his video. In the second video (past 2:40), he talks of surpassing previously expected limitations, viz training to failure!!
At the end of it all, like he says, workouts are individualized. Even if everyone follows the same regimen, everyone may not be able to pick the same amount of weight, for the same number of reps. All that matters is that U use the time at the gym to the max and then get out and rest. It’s not like athletes and pro-builders never leave the gym, anyways!!!
@Cade. What you are referring to as ‘overtraining’ is really ‘intensity of effort’. If you read my post, you’ll see you can’t define overtraining in the context of a single workout. Since muscle growth is biphasic, it depends on the rest period that comes afterwards.
Pushing yourself to 100% intensity of effort is something I’ve recommended for years. When CT says, “Your set isn’t over ’til you can’t do no more!” – I agree. But that’s a statement of intensity and taking a set to failure. Simply has nothing to do with the concept of overtraining.
Overtraining as properly defined is real since the human body does not have an infinite capacity to recover and grow. Only if it did could overtraining be a myth. CT is wrong on overtraining, but is correct on intensity of effort.
By the way, I also recommend training arms 3 times a week with full intensity. And my workout is free.
@Trampas. It’s fine, but I would suggest not Sunday and Monday. You need 48 hours between those workouts, buddy. Saturday would be better.
@Roshan. You are exactly right. Look at my comment to @Cade above. I’ve been a pusher of HIGH INTENSITY for years – it’s always been my position. Overtraining is just an entirely different concept.
Can you overtrain? Of course. Look at the POP diagram above and the explanation. No one on this earth can say overtraining is a myth.