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For the statistical estimation phenomenon, see Overfitting.

Overtraining is a physical, behavioral, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual's exercise exceeds their recovery capacity. They cease making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness. Overtraining is a common problem in weight training, but it can also be experienced by runners and other athletes. Split training can help with overtraining.


Laboratory rats and mice have been used as animal models for studies of overtraining.[1] In addition, studies of horses,[2] fishes and lizards[3] have sometimes reported overtraining effects.


Like pharmacological drugs, physical exercise may be chemically addictive. One theory is that this addiction is due to natural endorphins and dopamine generated and regulated by the exercise.[4] Whether strictly due to this chemical by-product or not, some people can be said to become addicted to or fixated on psychological/physical effects of physical exercise and fitness.[5] This may lead to overexercise, resulting in the "overtraining" syndrome.[6]


A number of possible mechanisms for overtraining have been proposed:[citation needed]

  • Microtrauma to the muscles are created faster than the body can heal them.
  • Amino acids are used up faster than they are supplied in the diet. This is sometimes called "protein deficiency".
  • The body becomes calorie-deficient and the rate of break down of muscle tissue increases.
  • Levels of cortisol (the "stress" hormone) are elevated for long periods of time.
  • The body spends more time in a catabolic state than an anabolic state (perhaps as a result of elevated cortisol levels).
  • Excessive strain to the nervous system during training.

Other symptoms[edit]

Overtraining may be accompanied by one or more concomitant symptoms:[7][8][9]


Listed below are some of the common effects and cited signs of overtraining. Not all of the following effects will occur. The presence of any of these symptoms does not imply that an individual is overtrained.[7][8][9][10][11]


  • Lymphocytopenia[12]
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Excessive loss of body fat
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Decreased muscular strength
  • Increased submaximal heart rate
  • Inability to complete workouts
  • Chronic muscle soreness
  • Fatigue
  • Increased incidence of injury
  • Depressed immune system
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Absence of menstruation
  • Frequent minor infections/colds
  • Insomnia
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Lower Testosterone Levels
  • Higher Cortisol Levels


  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood Disturbance[13]
  • Irritability
  • Loss of motivation
  • Loss of enthusiasm
  • Loss of competitive drive


  • Early onset of fatigue
  • Decreased aerobic capacity
  • Poor physical performance
  • Inability to complete workouts
  • Delayed recovery


Allowing more time for the body to recover:

Changing diet:

Planned overtraining[edit]

Overtraining can be used advantageously, as when a bodybuilder is purposely overtrained for a brief period of time to supercompensate during a regeneration phase. These are known as "shock micro-cycles" and were a key training technique used by Soviet athletes.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ho, T.-J., C.-C. Huang, C.-Y. Huang, and W.-T. Lin. 2012. Fasudil, a Rho-kinase inhibitor, protects against excessive endurance exercise training-induced cardiac hypertrophy, apoptosis and fibrosis in rats. European Journal of Applied Physiology 112:2943–2955.
  2. ^ Bruin, G., H. Kuipers, H. A. Keizer, and G. J. Vander Vusse. 1994. Adaptation and overtraining in horses subjected to increasing training loads. Journal of Applied Physiology 76:1908–1913.
  3. ^ Garland, T., Jr., P. L. Else, A. J. Hulbert, and P. Tap. 1987. Effects of endurance training and captivity on activity metabolism of lizards. American Journal of Physiology (Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology) 252(21):R450–R456.
  4. ^ Adams, Jeremy; Kirkby, Robert (1998). "Exercise dependence: A review of its manifestation, theory and measurement". Research in Sports Medicine 8 (3): 265–76. doi:10.1080/15438629809512532. 
  5. ^ Draeger, John; Yates, Alayne; Crowell, Douglas (2005). "The Obligatory Exerciser: Assessing an Overcommitment to Exercise". The Physician and Sportsmedicine 33 (6): 13–23. doi:10.3810/psm.2005.06.101. PMID 20086364. 
  6. ^ Baldwin, Dave R. (2002-03-27). Exercise Motivational Triggers. iUniverse. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-595-21603-1. 
  7. ^ a b Johnson, MB; Thiese, SM (1992). "A review of overtraining syndrome-recognizing the signs and symptoms.". Journal of athletic training 27 (4): 352–4. PMID 16558192. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  8. ^ a b "Top 10 Signs You're Overtraining". The American Council on Exercise. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "Negative effects of overtraining". The Times of India (The Times of India). May 31, 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  10. ^ "Overtraining with Resistance Exercise". American College of Sports Medicine. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  11. ^ "Overtraining and Osteoporosis". WebMD, LLC. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  12. ^ Sharp, NC; Koutedakis, Y (1992). "Sport and the overtraining syndrome: Immunological aspects". British medical bulletin 48 (3): 518–33. PMID 1450881. 
  13. ^ Bresciani, G.; Cuevas, M. J.; Molinero, O.; Almar, M.; Suay, F.; Salvador, A.; De Paz, J. A.; Marquez, S.; González-Gallego, J. (2011). "Signs of Overload After an Intensified Training". International Journal of Sports Medicine 32 (5): 338–43. doi:10.1055/s-0031-1271764. PMID 21380974. 
  14. ^ a b c d "Overtraining". Hospital for Special Surgery. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  15. ^ "Overtraining Syndrome". Rice University. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  16. ^ a b "Overtraining Recovery Tips". Health Guidance. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  17. ^ Smith, David J (2003). "A Framework for Understanding the Training Process Leading to Elite Performance". Sports Medicine 33 (15): 1103–26. doi:10.2165/00007256-200333150-00003. PMID 14719980.