Fatigue: How Much Is Too Much?

Bodybuilding culture has ingrained in us that in order to build muscle & strength, we have to attack every training session, kill every workout, and leave the gym feeling completely and utterly wrecked.

 

But, there comes a point where you can do much of a good thing (even when it comes to lifting weights).

 

The question that many individuals struggle with is “how much is too much?”

 

In other words, where exactly is the line between not doing enough and doing too much?

 

Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all answer for everyone.

 

How much training volume and intensity a person needs really boils down to the individual.

 

For instance, a young 20-something fresh out of college will be able to handle considerably more training stress than a 40-something with a full-time job, a family, and all the other minutiae that typically accompanies older age.

 

Quite simply, the younger you are the more training intensity and volume you can handle (typically).

 

Again, this isn’t universally true, but it tends to hold true more often than not.

 

With that being said, there are some things to keep in mind that can help you gauge whether you’re doing too much or too little in the gym.

 

  • Are you sore for days on end?
  • Are you having trouble sleeping at night?
  • Are you constantly feeling irritated or on edge?
  • Are you struggling with motivation to train?
  • Are you experiencing pain in your joints or excessive soreness in your muscles?

 

If so, you may be overdoing it with your training (either performing too much volume in a given training session or across the week).

 

Current best practices are to perform between 10-20 “hard sets” for a muscle group in a week. This can be divided across 2-4 training sessions per week, depending on recovery, injury history, and personal preference.

 

In general, after a workout, you should feel like you’ve worked hard and exhausted the muscle, but you shouldn’t be to the point where you can’t pick yourself off of the floor and walk out of the gym. At that point, you’ve gone too far and your body will end up spending more time/resources repairing the damage done than actually getting bigger & stronger.

 

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