An all too common problem for novice and seasoned weight lifters is overtraining syndrome. Overtraining syndrome occurs if sufficient rest is not provided during training and it can manifest in a kaleidoscope of symptoms including emotional, behavioral, and physical problems. For many, the confusion comes with the balance of hard work and recovery and fear of losing gains made with training. People often assume it is the “hard” training where the gains are made — when actually the recovery period is the time in which the critical changes happen that improve strength and mass, and ultimately fitness.
Doing less can help with strength and mass
A 2017 study published online in the European Journal of Sport Science looked at the effects of reducing strength training volume after a period of regular training on maximal strength and mass.
The researchers collected data on strength in the half squat exercise and quadricep mass for 30 untrained men over 16 weeks, eight weeks regular training and eight weeks reduced or ceased training. During the regular training, the participants performed 3–4 sets of 6–12 RM, three sessions/week. Following the regular training period, the group was randomly assigned to a 1 or 2 day training period, and a no training group. Both training groups had their training volume reduced by about 50% (RST1 = 50.3% and RST2 = 57.1%).
After the regular strength period, all participants experienced significant strength gains in the half-squat and increased quadricep circumference. At the completion of 8 weeks of reduced strength training the exercise groups had no significant changes in strength or quadricep circumference whereas the no training group lost 22% of max strength and 5.4% of quadricep circumference.
The author’s concluded:
“different RST frequencies applied were able to maintain muscle mass and strength performance obtained over the regular ST period.”
For the individual this means the after a period of higher intensity training one may reduce work volume without compromising gains made. As part of a regular training and periodization program, this has important implications in regards to the prevention of overtraining syndrome. If you are not already doing this, in the future feel good about building in periods of lower volume training without the worry of losing your hard earned fitness!
Tavares, Lucas Duarte, et al. “Effects of different strength training frequencies during reduced training period on strength and muscle cross-sectional area.” European Journal of Sport Science (2017): 1-8.