Overtraining occurs when the training stimulus exceeds the individual’s ability to adapt and recover from it. The volume and intensity thresholds for overtraining will vary for each individual. Factors such as training age, work capacity, strength level, nutrition, sleep quality and so forth, will all affect how much training one can tolerate. Traditional training wisdom suggests that one should allow 48-72 hours of rest between workouts for large muscle groups and 24 hours or more for smaller muscle groups. This conservative approach to training has certainly stood the test of time with plenty of trainee’s getting bigger and stronger following these guidelines. However, what happens when these guidelines are completely ignored? For example, what effect on strength and body composition would there be if someone were to squat heavy every day?
A new case series study by Zourdos et al (2016) investigated the effects of squatting to a daily 1RM for 35 consecutive days in three highly trained competitive lifters. The 1RM squats for each individual at baseline ranged between 275 to 485 lbs while body weight ranged from 141 to 240 lbs. The program involved working up to a daily 1RM followed by 5 sets of 3 at 85% or of 2 at 90% of the daily 1RM. As part of the daily squat build up, RPE was recorded at 85% of the baseline 1RM. Changes in strength and body composition variables were assessed. Post 1RM testing was performed on day 37. Day 36 consisted of a single set at 85% of 1RM.
The results showed that each lifter improved their 1RM squat (increases of 16.5, 13.5 and 46.2 lbs). In addition, significant negative relationships were observed between daily RPE at 85% and daily 1RM. Essentially, when RPE was higher at 85%, their 1RM achieved that day was lower. This suggests that the perceived exertion of a submaximal set of 1 rep may be useful for predicting strength performance readiness on a daily basis. Body composition changes were small and varied among participants. This suggests that the adaptations were likely neurological. The authors caution that this type of intensive training program should not be carried out year round, but rather as a cycle of training fitting into an overall periodized training structure. They also caution that novice to moderately trained lifters do not need to perform such an intense routine since lower frequency and intensities will still improve performance.
Zourdos, MC. et al. (2016) Efficacy of Daily 1RM Training in Well-Trained Powerlifters and Weightlifters: A Case Series. Nutricion Hospitalaria. 33: 437-443.