How do you know if you're training too hard? Your body can answer that. "If you have nagging injuries, aren't seeing results, or are actually losing weight when you're trying to bulk up, you're probably overtraining," says Craig Ballantyne, C.S.C.S., a Toronto-based strength and conditioning coach.
Search: Exercises to build muscle
Conventional wisdom says that the best way to build muscle is to work to failure—that is, until you can't do another rep. "That just increases your risk of injury," Ballantyne says.
Try this: Stop 1 rep short of failure. "You achieve full muscular activation by that point," Ballantyne says, "so there's no need to go beyond it." Click here to learn how to avoid a leg injury at the gym.
Discover: 9 Foods That Fight Fatigue
TAKE IT EASIER
When it comes to cardio, what doesn't kill you can make you weaker. If you notice a decrease in performance, constant soreness, elevated resting heart rate, irritability, headaches, and/or pervasive fatigue, you're probably training beyond your capacity to recover.
Try this: Cut your mileage by half, and lay off the hard workouts for 2 weeks. Then shift more focus to recovery: Go really easy on easy days, and include at least one dedicated rest day a week. On the other hand, if your workout has become too easy (or you’re looking for a challenge), try incorporating one of these fastest cardio workouts ever into your routine.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
A "no pain, no gain" mentality is ultimately self-defeating. "A sharp pain means something is wrong," Ballantyne says. "It seems like a no-brainer, but many guys try to work through it." In the process, the would-be warriors could suffer muscle tears, pulled or impinged tendons, or stress fractures.
Try this: Lift more slowly, focusing on controlled movements. If you feel pain, move to a different exercise. If it persists, see a doctor.
Get MSN OnPoint for Fitness Tips on the Go
DO FEWER SETS
Occasional muscle soreness isn't a problem; it's typically the result of microscopic muscle tears caused by a new or tough workout. But if it's chronic, you're lifting more than you can handle, Ballantyne says. Remember, "you don't need to rip a muscle apart in order to make it stronger."
Try this: Cut back on your number of sets by 25 percent to 50 percent, or—even if it pains your ego to do so—lift less weight. And fuel your recovery: "Each day, aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, plus 2 grams of vitamin C, and at least 3 liters of water," Ballantyne says. "Protein repairs muscle, vitamin C repairs connective tissue, and water supports both." To discover more factors that will sabotage your workout, check out these 7 Muscle Mistakes to Avoid.