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How Much Is Too Much?

I constantly get asked questions like:

“How many times a week can I train?”

“Can I train twice a day?”

“How long should my training session be?”

The answer to these questions is a pretty simple one, “I don’t know.”

The amount of training that one can handle is dependant on several factors, some of which are training related (IE, the individuals training age, what their training program looks like now and what their training program has looked like over the past few months) and some of which are lifestyle related (how much stress does the individual have in their family/social life, work stress, financial stress, etc.).

I am definitely a “less is more guy.” Some trainers or strength coaches will just throw the book at their athletes. Everything AND the kitchen sink. It is sort of a “sink or swim approach.” I guess they figure that if they bury the client with work, they will just be forced to adapt. This is true to an extent, but there is only one problem. What happens when progress slows? Where do you go from there? Do you throw more fuel on the fire? How do you progress?

If you are sitting at home thinking about your next training program, or if you are a trainer or coach about to write a new program for a client, I think you need to first take stock in what is going on with that individual.

I’ll give you an example:

I can usually handle a pretty good volume of training, and I cycle through periods of higher volume and lower volume. But, now that I am in school all night (6:30-10:30) and at work all day (7-5:30), I have to adjust things in order to allow my body to recover. Stress-resistance is our bodies’ ability to resist a stressor. However, our stress-resistance is dependant on the factors I spoke about above (training and lifestyle) and we can only resist so much stress before something breaks down. If we think about Selye’s model, we have a stressor introduced in our life, we adapt and go through resistance to that stressor and, if that stressor continues long enough, we reach a period of exhaustion or over-training.

So, in my situation, if I continued to try and train like I did prior to school starting, eventually my body would begin to breakdown, as I over-trained. What I am saying is that I had built up my training to a certain level, and adapted to handle that amount of stress. Then, my life changed (school started) and I got less sleep (less recovery) and that increased my overall stress, ultimately lowering my stress-resistance. If I continued on the same program, there would be no way that I could balance all that stress. So, in order to accommodate to this situation, I had to turn down my training a little bit (less volume, more recovery).

Now, if I were looking at a client, I may consider things like how many hours a week they are practicing their sport, upcoming competitions, school, recreational activities, etc. When assessing your clients, this subjective information is critical to get before writing the program, as it will dictate just how much the person should be doing.

I know we have to make money and if a client is eager to train a bunch, it would be easy to just say “lets do it!” and take the money and run; but, I have never been the guy to do that. I have no problem telling people “you are training to much” or “we need to back off your training in order to allow you to handle this other stuff you have got going on.”

Hopefully this gives you all some food for thought and makes you think about what your current exercise routine is like and the routine of your clients. For those that are just starting to get back into exercise after a break, hopefully this gives you something to think about with regard to SLOWLY working your way back into an exercise program.

Train, Rest, Progress!