How to Know if I'm Overworking Muscles

Working your muscles, either through strength training or cardiovascular exercises, can boost your strength and stamina and even improve your mental health. If you do too much, you may find yourself contending with overworked muscles that prevent you from getting the most out of your workouts.

It is important to recognize overwork symptoms. (Image: skynesher/E+/GettyImages)


Working out too much has side effects that may include decreased performance, fatigue, anxiety and depression and overuse injuries, advises MedlinePlus.

Recognizing Overtraining Syndrome

The initial state of overworked muscles is called overreaching. You may experience this after a couple of consecutive hard workouts without giving your body time to recover from the soreness. If you continue to push yourself, your body will continue to break down and you may experience overtraining syndrome.

Symptoms include heaviness and fatigue in the muscles, increased soreness, longer recovery times and an inability to train at a level that was previously easy for you. Overtraining affects more than just your muscles. You may also experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Moodiness
  • Poor sleep
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea or constipation

Women may also start to have irregular menstrual periods or stop having a period altogether. Overtraining is more likely to occur if you have other stress in your life wearing you down such as work stress or family conflict. In some cases, exercise may become a compulsion that leads to overtraining.

Prevent Overworked Muscles

Prevent overtraining by ensuring you get adequate rest between workouts and increasing your workout intensity slowly over time. You should get at least one full day of rest each week, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery. If you find that getting your workout in is becoming an obsession, be sure to discuss these feelings with your health care professional.

Be sure that your eating habits support your body and training program. This includes making sure you are getting enough calories, and that the foods you consume have enough carbohydrates and protein to support energy levels and muscle repair. Stay hydrated throughout the day, not just during your workout. Consider consulting a nutritionist if you have questions about your body's specific needs.

If you start to experience symptoms of overreaching, consult your doctor and trainer and takes steps to prevent further overworking your muscles. This may include stopping training completely for a period of time and adjusting your diet and nutrition plan.

Extreme Muscle Breakdown

In extreme cases, working out too much has side effects that may include the dangerous breakdown of muscle fibers that then enter the bloodstream. This is a condition called rhabdomyolysis, advises Harvard Health Publishing. Symptoms include brown or dark colored urine and muscle soreness and weakness.


Consult your doctor immediately if you experience symptoms of rhabdomyolysis. Although rare, this is a serious condition that can lead to kidney failure.

Avoid rhabdomyolysis by increasing your workout intensity slowly over time. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during and after your workout. The fluids help to flush your kidneys and keep them functioning. Avoid alcohol and medications that interfere with kidney function including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications.

In many cases, patients may be treated at home by consuming fluids, but IV fluids and additional treatment may be required if kidney function shows signs of being impaired. Rhabdomyolysis may also be caused by trauma, infection, alcohol or drug use or a side effect of medication.

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