6 warning signs you're working out too much, and how to recover from overtraining

powerlifter Chris Duffin, shirtless, muscular and tattooed, in the middle of a pull-up
To build strength and muscle, you need to give your body time to rest. Too much work and too little rest will hurt your progress, says world record powerlifter Chris Duffin.Courtesy of Kabuki Strength
  • Working out too much can prevent you from building strength and muscle, and increase injury risk.

  • Persistent fatigue, moodiness, pain, or limited movement are signs to slow down, says an elite powerlifter.

  • Instead of pushing through injuries or bad form, allow your body to recover, he recommends.

If you want to build muscle and strength, you may need more rest than you think, according to Chris Duffin, a world record-holding powerlifter and co-founder of Kabuki Strength.

Overtraining can hurt your gains and increase risk of injury, especially when you're a fitness beginner, Duffin told Insider.

Warning signs like lack of progress, mood or sleep issues, and persistent aches and pains are all signals to focus on recovery, he said. Here's what to look out for.

You're working out hard, but not making strength or muscle gains

One huge red flag that you're exercising too much is that you've stopped seeing progress, which suggests you aren't giving your muscles adequate rest and support to grow back stronger, Duffin said.

Be wary of spending hours in the gym on "junk volume," or extra reps and sets that tire you out, but don't add additional benefits to your workout.

You can't finish the workout or lift the same weight you used to 

Successful strength training relies on progressive overload, or gradually increasing the amount of work you do or weight you can lift.

But overtraining can cause you to go backward, and cause you to lift less than you used to, according to Duffin.

While training to failure can sometimes help you push for more gains, it's a red flag if every workout ends in exhaustion or forces you to ease up on the intensity to finish.

Your mood, sleep quality, or other areas of your life are deteriorating

Exercise is linked to better mental health but overtraining can backfire, causing exhaustion that can make you moodier than usual.

Quality sleep is also a key factor in overall health, and your ability to improve at exercise, so if you're losing sleep because you're too sore to get comfortable at night, it's time for a break, Duffin said.

Your range of motion or form is getting worse

Another major indicator of burnout is if pain or fatigue limits your mobility. For instance, you may not be able to get low into a squat position, or hold your weights in the correct position.

You might find yourself using the wrong muscle groups and causing undue stress on your body as a result, which can exacerbate joint pain and other aches or injuries.  Examples include leaning to one side as you run or not keeping a stable core while doing an overhead press, causing your lower ribs to flare out.

To make sure your form is correct, regularly check in with a personal trainer. And if something hurts beyond just muscle fatigue while training, stop what you're doing, Duffin said. Working out with bad form won't improve anything, and it increases your risk of getting hurt.

You're relying on foam rolling, stretching, or massage just to get through your workouts

If your first stop at the gym is the foam roller, you might be overtraining, according to Duffin. Stretching and massage help with recovery and injury prevention, but you shouldn't need them for pain-free exercise, he said.

Stopping mid-workout to relieve pain and tension shouldn't be a regular occurrence, either.

"If you have to rely on quick fixes to get through your workout, you have a problem," Duffin said. "If it's one isolated thing, that's not a big deal, but if you're doing it every workout, it's a sign to do something different."

You have pain or injuries that won't seem to heal

Persistent small pains are major red flags for overtraining, and you shouldn't ignore them, Duffin said.

Trying to push through pain or do too many intense workouts can lead to worse injuries that keep you out of the gym for much longer.

If you've overdone it, scale back the intensity until you recover

The best way to recover from overtraining is to reduce your workload by lifting less weight or by resting more. If you have an injury or seriously limited range of motion, it may be best to stop training entirely.

After taking a full break from working out, it's important to ease back in gradually to reduce the risk of reinjuring yourself, Duffin said.

Read the original article on Insider