If overtraining occurs, there is no sufficient recovery time
between workouts; progress is hampered. An acute increase of
catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine) occurs during
exercise. During overtraining, prolonged epinephrine and norepinephrine
levels can decrease testosterone
and increase cortisol
thereby stunting or inhibiting adequate adaptation.
Overtraining is often thought of as absolute, or a black and
white phenomenon. Overtraining should be viewed as a continuum,
or in shades of gray. An exerciser or athlete may be slightly
overtrained and make progress, just not as much as if they were
- muscle worked to exhaustion
- traumatic orthopedic injury
- body exhausted after bout
- glycogen depleted
- sympathetic response elevated
- cortisol levels
- muscle becomes weaker over time
- orthopedic overuse injury
- body becomes weaker over time
- glycogen depleted
- Parasympathetic response
- Increased cortisol
Signs of Overtraining
- Increased resting heart rate
- Increased resting blood pressure
- Decreased maximal power output
- Decreased sports performance
- Decreased maximal blood lactate concentrations
- Slower recovery after exercise
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Decreased desire to exercise
- Increased irritability and depression
- Increased incidence of injury
- Increased incidence of infection
- Decreased resting heart rate
- Faster return of heart rate to resting value after exercise
- Decreased sports performance
- Decreased blood lactate concentrations during submaximal
and maximal exercise
- Unemotional behavior
Stone, M.H., Keith, R.E., Kearney, J.T., Fleck, S.J., Wilson,
G.D. and Triplett, N.T. Overtraining: A Review of the Signs,
Symptoms and Possible Causes. The Journal of Applied Sports Science
Research 5:35-50, 1991.
your pulse upon awakening before getting out of bed for several
days to establish a baseline. Have an easy or short workout if
your morning heart rate is greater than 5% of your baseline.
Take the day off of training if your morning heart rate is greater
than 10% above baseline.
Prevalence in Athletes
10-20% of athletes who train intensely experience overtraining
which results in chronic decreases in performance and impaired
ability to train.
Raglin J, Barzdukas (1999). Overtraining in athletes: The
challenge of prevention. ACSM. Health Fitness J. 3:27-31.
Overreaching & Tapering
Overreaching is characterized by a sharp increase in training
volume. Overreaching is thought to be an early stage of overtraining
which can result in increased fatigue and performance decrements.
However, an increase in performance above baseline can occur,
if an overreaching phase of approximately 1 week is followed
by an immediate return to normal training. A taper following
normal training can result in additional performance increases.
Stone MH, Pierce KC, Sands WA, Stone ME (2006). Weightlifting:
Program Design. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 28 (2), 10-17.
Hormonal Fluctuation Model
higher testosterone to cortisol ratio correlates with increases
of maximal strength performance
Hakkinen KA, Pskarinen A, Alen M, Kau hanen H, Komi PV
(1987). Relationships between training volume, physical performance
capacity, and serum hormone concentrations during prolonged training
in elite weight lifters. International Journal of Sports Medicine,
8 (suppli): 61-65.
- 30% drop in Testosterone/Cortisol Ratio is proposed
to be too extreme for effective recovery of performance after
- Changes of less that 10% in Testosterone/Cortisol Ratio is
proposed to be too small and lead to lesser performance improvements
- Performance should be optimal if period of training can be
adjusted to lower T/C ratio between 10-30% that is followed by
a period of recovery.
Glutamine/Glutamate Ratio and Overtraining
- GN/GT ratio >5.88 = Normal
- GN/GT ratio >3.58 <5.88 = Adaptation
- GN/GT ratio <3.58 for <2 weeks = Over Reaching
- GN/GT ratio <3.58 for >2 weeks = Over Training
Lon Kilgore, Ph.D., Midwestern State University, Exercise
Science Laboratories and USA Weightlifting Regional Development
Center, Wichita Falls, Texas.
- Period of recovery
- Training Modifications
- Determine cause of overtraining
- too much, too fast, too soon
- Weight training example
- Cardio example
- Also examine contributors of overtraining occurring outside
- Change program accordingly
- Vary training intensities and volumes
- Consider lowering training volume significantly
- Reassess and readjust program indefinitely
- Post Workout
Some authorities mistakenly misattribute injury to a specific
movement when, if fact, other factors such as overtraining are
to blame. See:
Extreme muscular exertion may cause Rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown
of muscle fibers resulting in a release of their content into
the circulation. Some of these contents, such as myoglobin may
cause kidney damage. Symptoms include abnormal urine color (dark,
red, or cola color), muscle pain, general weakness, vomiting,
and confusion, depending on the severity.
Some people are more susceptible to rhabdomyolysis due to
a hereditary muscle condition. Inexperienced exercisers are particularly
susceptible such as military recruits in basic training, marathon
or triathlon participants, or dehydrated or heat-stressed exercisers.
However, several experienced athletes have also been known to
develop Rhabdomyolysis. In one case, personal trainers encouraged
athletes to overexert themselves to the point where they required
assistance in walking from one exercise machine to another.
Medical attention should be sought if Rhabdomyolysis is suspected.
Diagnosis is made with blood tests and urinalysis. Treatment
includes intravenous fluids but may include dialysis in more
Huerta-Alardín AL, Varon J, Marik PE (2005). Bench-to-bedside
review: rhabdomyolysis an overview for clinicians. Critical
Care, 9(2): 15869.
Zatsiorsky VM, Kraemer WJ (1995). Science and Practice
of Strength Training. 2nd Ed, 85. Book