There is a lot of discussion in the world of lifting regarding how long one should train for, to include how much training would be overtraining and at what point catabolism kicks in. There is also a LOT of science out there to back up various claims regarding optimal training duration, and people from all camps are all too excited to come racing back to these studies whenever they need to validate their beliefs. However, there is a factor that people must consider before they start quoting these various optimal numbers; time spent in the training facility is not necessarily time spent training. In fact, in most cases, it’s not even close. I’d even go so far as to wager that those spending the most time in the gym are doing some of the least amount of training.
Another reason I like to train at home
We hear people brag about their epic training sessions all the time. 2 hour training sessions, 3 hour training sessions, all day, etc etc, but all of this is bravado. Consider how much time is ACTUALLY spent training in these sessions compared to simply being physically present in the gym. In most instances, these people are resting, 3, 5, 8, sometimes even 10+ minutes between sets. In many instances, longer training sessions correlate to longer rest periods, as, of course, that’s logical. You spend more time resting between sets, so you spend more time in the gym. But does this equate to more time TRAINING? Absolutely not.
Let’s say that a set of 10 takes 20 seconds to complete. You take 2 trainees; 1 who rests 1 minute between sets, and 1 that takes 5 minutes between sets. Both do 3x10. Trainee #1 is done with his training session in 12 minutes. Trainee #2 is done with their training session in 20 minutes. Who trained more? Neither; they both TRAINED for the same amount of time; 10 minutes. One simply recovered faster than the other. However, let’s say both trainees spend an hour in the gym on that day, training at the rates previously established. NOW who trained more? Clearly trainee #1.
If I screwed up the math, keep in mind, I'm more familiar with this guy than numbers...but that means I can still tell who is the superior lifter
THIS is the factor one must take into consideration when evaluating the potential for overtraining and fatigue in a trainee. So many times, someone observes a trainee say they train 3 hours a day and immediately jump to cautionary tales of overtraining and exertion, but I go to the opposite conclusion; this person isn’t working NEARLY hard enough. This person is leisurely resting 10 minutes between sets, talking to their friends, sipping water, scrolling through facebook and in general not breathing hard or exerting themselves. This person isn’t taxing themselves to any significant degree to force adaptation. This person is at serious risk of UNDERTRAINING.
I’m sure there is an amount of training that one must engage in that will trigger catabolism, but most trainees engage in practices that are inherently designed for self-preservation specifically for this. Most trainees rest until the point that their heart rate has returned to a state of normalcy. They rest until their breathing has returned to a normal rhythm. They rest until they are ready for maximal exertion. These aren’t inherently negative practices, but they ARE moments of NOT training, and it’s what must be factored in when it comes to deciding the impact of the length of one’s training sessions.
If you are pushing yourself to the point that you AREN’T actually recovering between sets, you most likely ARE at risk of actually going catabolic in your training sessions, but thankfully your body has a built in self governor on this one; your conditioning level. Most trainees simply aren’t going to sustain the necessary amount of output for a long enough period of time to need to worry about this. It’s because, once you push the body that hard for a long period of time, your body eventually quits as a means of self-preservation. The people that CAN overcome this barrier do so as a result of intentionally exposing themselves to this sort of stimulus, and even THEY engage in this practice in limited quantities. Marathon runners, super endurance athletes, elite crossfitters (yeah, I pissed off a lot of people with that one), etc etc, they put themselves through a LOT to get to this point; it’s not going to be some average gym rat that is lifting weights 3 days a week.
Apparently one of these is the "after" photo. Coulda stood to engage in some overtraining
But why not go view that as a challenge? Why not get yourself to the point that an hour training session is actually damn near an hour of training? Think of the benefits of such training density; the sheer amount of volume that can be accumulated in a short time, which can mean more volume if one REALLY wants to actually train for 2-3 hours. Imagine how strong your conditioning base would have to be in order to actually push yourself for that long; to be almost fully recovered after 1 minute of rest between heavy lifts, to be able to giant set without affecting your latter lifts, to be able to deadlift AND squat heavy in one workout. My longtime readers will recognize the facetiousness of those comments, but to many on the net, what I just mentioned are deemed IMPOSSIBLE feats by those who have not got themselves in good enough shape to actually TRAIN for as long as they are present.
This isn’t school; you aren’t being graded on attendance. Simply being in the gym is NOT time spent training, and affording yourself the luxury of a 3 hour session is most likely promoting habits you should avoid. Try putting yourself on a time limit and doing whatever it takes to get the workout knocked out in that time. See if you can train hard enough to go catabolic; you might find that, in the process, you get some of the greatest growth in your life.