Optimal Training Volume

There are always questions in Crossfit about how much should I workout and how often. The long answer is…. it depends! It does depend on first, your goals, and secondly your recovery efforts. With this simple graph we are trying to show that the key to training is to find the “sweet spot” where you get enough recovery to realize the improved fitness but don’t slip into overtraining, fatigue, and possibly injury.

Andy-Training Volume

This graph is not based on any actual data, that is why there is no scale on either axis. The value is in understanding the concept and finding you own graph and the right amount of training for your situation and goals. How you train is a completely different topic, but does bleed over to this graph. It is assumed that you give a solid effort each time in the box and have a solid program that focuses on basic training principles such as good technique over big numbers (reps or weight).

A. With any recovery level, undertaining will not yield optimal results. This may be a calculated decision based on time you have to dedicate to training. Undertraining is still insanely better than no training at all. To increase reuslts simply get your butt to the gym more often and be consistent. This graph represents your average training volume over the year…. not one week.

B. Optimal results for a person with average recovery. Many times this equates to 3-4 days per week of great Crossfit programming. Consistently more could lead you to the point of diminishing returns (D or E).

C. Optimal results for a person with excellent recovery. Their additional recovery efforts in the form of sleep, clean nutrition, supplements, stress levels, and age mean they can train more often and ride the results curve a little higher. Typically this is 4-5 days of training per week on average. Some weeks may see 6 or even 7 days of training and deload or rest weeks then follow to make up the difference. Recovery via mobility is key at this level to avoid overtraining.

D and E. This is overtraining, and its counter productive. Overtraining can happen in the amount of days per week or the amount of hours per day. … or the amount of reps. It all adds up to more muscle and adrenal fatigue than the body can repair with the amount of recovery provided. You will feel this, back off the volume and/or increase the recovery efforts to optomize your results and avoid injury.

The dangers of overtraining are serious and most importantly will not help you reach your goals. Injuries can derail you fitness efforts and are never worth the risk. Not all injuries are related to overtraining, it is important to analyze how your body feels and your general state of fatigue to determine if you are at an added risk for injury and burn out. If I had to suggest a side to err on I would pick undertraining just based on the nature of the possible risks vs. reward. So start slow and build up your training volume, if you feel significantly fatigued and unable to perform at normal levels then it could be a sign that you have crested the curve and are doing too many reps, too much weight, or just too many consecutive days for the level of recovery. Tweak your recovery and continue honing in on an optimal training volume to MAXIMIZE RESULTS!

– Andy

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