The Under-Training Trap

What is under-training?

Under training occurs when the body becomes used to a training regime. It takes your body around eight weeks, to achieve maximum results from a training programme. Under-training doesn’t really have the same negative health impacts like we discussed in last weeks post Are You Overtraining? Finding the Balance. The negative impact of under-training is that your body isn’t being worked hard enough to develop it’s strength or fitness. Unless the body meets a new stress load (volume or intensity) after a 1-2 month cycle, your physical shape will start to decline. Both beginners and experienced athletes or exercisers are at risk for under-training.


The fitter you are, the quicker you lose fitness after time off, but the quicker you gain it back.

Beginner exercisers lose fitness at a slower rate but it takes longer to regain their initial fitness.



Symptoms of Under-training

* Leaving the gym without breaking a sweat!

*Always talking and hanging around at the gym/ always getting distracted in an exercise setting

*You are failing to make training progress, not performing as well as before, or have a lack of motivation

*Weight gain and lack of energy

*Loss of muscle mass


How to Avoid Under-training

We follow a 4 week training cycle: three weeks of increasing training load followed by a recovery week (30-40% drop in training volume). Having a longer overload period (3 weeks) ensures that we aren’t under-training, and having the following one week recovery ensures that we aren’t over-training.

Training 2-3 days per week just won’t cut it! Training 4+ days is enough stimulus.

Creating a training plan that has variety from week to week and month to month will avoid under-training.

Here are some ideas to avoid under-training:

  • Switch treadmill running for the elliptical (Your Guide to the Elliptical) 
  • Increase your training volume (number of sets/reps/duration) by 10% per week.
  • Track your training, making sure there is a new stimulus each week or each month.
  • Start a fitness class or training group, to keep you motivated.

Set training goals, like squatting 50kg or running 5km in under 25 minutes etc. Holding yourself accountable will increase your chances of success and avoid under-training.


Structured training to avoid under-training

There is no right or wrong training plan, everyone’s goals and needs are different. Here are some examples of good training protocols to ensure that your fitness/strength continues to develop rather than remaining stagnant or declining. There are many different variations but here are some examples we like to use:

3 steps up 1 step down

3 weeks of increasing either intensity or volume by 10% each week, followed by a recovery week. In recovery week the volume drops by 25-40% depending on your fatigue levels.

4 high 1 low

4 weeks of harder training, with similar volume and intensity. It’s objective is to work the body hard over a 4 week period and then recover for a week, similar to 3 up 1 down protocol. 4 high 1 low works best for experienced athletes.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article, feel free to comment below with any questions you might have.

Until next time,

Happy training

Steve and Catherine

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