Can You Do Too Much Weight Training?

Can You Overtrain with Weights

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Weight training is one of the most popular forms of exercise for losing weight and getting fit. This is great news because the benefits of building muscle mass and improving overall strength are many, for women especially, and include:

  • Increased muscle size, strength, power, and endurance
  • Decreased body fat
  • Increased bone density
  • Increased HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol)
  • Better glucose management
  • Better blood pressure control
  • Improved self-esteem and confidence

The popularity of programs such as CrossFit, fitness boot camps, and strength and conditioning classes has opened the door for many people to add weight lifting to their typical workout routine. The key is to not go overboard.

Incorporating strength training into your workout has many benefits but the overutilization of resistance exercise could potentially lead to injuries, burnout, or decreased performance.

Strength Training Basics

The key exercise principles for building strength with weight training are fairly simple. Choose an exercise and decide how much weight you will lift, how many times you'll lift it, and how often you'll do that exercise. 

The basic formula for building strength looks like this: (amount of weight) x (reps/sets) x (workout frequency) = strength gainsHowever, it gets a bit more complicated when you consider the endless number of ways you can modify this formula.

If you want to get stronger, you need to challenge yourself and work to overload the muscles. But with that overload you also need to build in some rest time so the muscles can rebuild and adapt to the stress. If you frequently overload your muscles but don't allow sufficient rest, you're putting yourself at risk for injury.

When it comes to weight training workouts, the key to improvement is in finding the ideal combination of training volume and intensity. Too much or not enough of either can hinder your improvement.

Overtraining Causes

Overtraining with weights generally shows up if either workout frequency or training intensity is at a high level for too long. So, preventing overtraining requires remembering that you can increase either of these, but not both or you will burn out quickly.

If you are working out frequently, you need to keep your intensity a bit lower. If you train less frequently, you can up your intensity with less concern. You run into trouble when you start thinking that more is always better. It's not.

Warning Signs of Overtraining

The chief warning signs of overtraining are that your performance is declining and your workouts are becoming less fun. Other common signs of overtraining include:

  • Decreases in strength, power, and endurance
  • Decreased coordination
  • Increased resting heart rate (RHR) or blood pressure
  • Increase malaise and fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Irritability, depression, and apathy
  • Increased muscle soreness, joint aches, and pains 
  • Poor self-esteem 
  • Frequent colds and flus
  • Slow healing

When you overdo strength training workouts with excessive volume, the first warning signs are symptoms very similar to those of the overtraining syndrome endurance athletes experience. This generally includes a washed-out feeling and general fatigue.

The other type of overtraining with weights occurs when you train at too high of an intensity with too much weight too often. Basically, this means you're lifting your maximum weight all the time. This type of overtraining generally results in decreased performance and can set an athlete up for joint injuries.

Overtraining Prevention and Treatment

If recognized early, it's fairly easy to correct overtraining symptoms. Rest is the first action to take, but it's often the most challenging for a committed athlete. If you recognize any of the above indicators that you are overdoing your workouts, take a few days off and do something less intense.

Here are a few additional tips for preventing overtraining:

  • Add extra recovery days to each week
  • Vary your workouts to avoid overloading the same muscle in the same way each week 
  • Go for a walk or do a day of stretching
  • Avoid having both high training volume (frequency) and high intensity 
  • Don't always work a muscle to failure

Ultimately, to prevent overtraining, you should work out with a coach or trainer who can oversee your program and keep you following a progressive, periodized program. This is a program that builds in variation and includes phases of high-intensity training followed by phases of reduced workloads and increased recovery time.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.