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For the statistical estimation phenomenon, see Overfitting.

Overtraining is the result of giving your body more work or stress than it can handle. Overtraining occurs when a person experiences stress and physical trauma from exercise faster than their body can repair the damage.[1] Overtraining can be described as a point where a person may have a decrease in performance and plateauing as a result from failure to consistently perform at a certain level or training load exceeds their recovery capacity.[2] They cease making progress, and can even begin to lose strength and fitness. Overtraining is also known as chronic fatigue, burnout and overstress in athletes.[3][4] It is suggested that there are different variations of overtraining, firstly monotonous program over training suggest that repetition of the same movement such as certain weight lifting and baseball batting can cause performance plateau due to an adaption of the central nervous system which results from a lack of stimulation.[2] A second example of overtraining is described as chronic overwork type training where the subject may be training with too high intensity or high volume and not allowing sufficient recovery time for the body.[2] It is important to note the difference between overtraining and over-reaching; over-reaching is when an athlete is undergoing hard training but with adequate recovery, overtraining however, is when an athlete is undergoing hard training without the adequate recovery. Up to 10% of elite endurance athletes and 10% of American college swimmers are affected by overtraining syndrome (unexplained underperformance for approximately 2 weeks even after having adequate resting time).[5]

Signs and symptoms[edit]

Listed below are some of the common effects and cited signs of overtraining.[6][7][8][9]

Overtraining may be accompanied by one or more concomitant symptoms:[6][7]


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

It is also important to remember that the effect of overtraining is not isolated only to affecting the athlete's athletic ability but it can have implications on other areas of life such as performance in studies or the work force. An overtrained athlete who is suffering from physical and or psychological symptoms could also have trouble socialising with friends and family, studying for an exam or prepping for work.[14]


Like pharmacological drugs, physical exercise may be chemically addictive. Addiction can be defined as, the frequent engaging in the behavior to a greater extent or for a longer time period than intended.[15][16] It is theorized that this addiction is due to natural endorphins and dopamine generated and regulated by the exercise.[17] 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.[18] This may lead to overexercise, resulting in the "overtraining" syndrome.[19]

Sporting example[edit]

Paralympic rowers London 2012

Rowing is a sport that requires three main aspects of physical fitness to be at their peak form. These being “Flexibility, strength and endurance” [20] the importance of these three aspects are that they enable an athlete to perform at a high level of intensity and avoid injury. Flexibility allows the athlete to gain a large range of motion and hold proper posture whilst in the rowing motion. Endurance is key as it will determine how well posture is held during the 5-6 minute 2 km course that is commonly rowed on, muscular endurance is key as it also enable the athletes to row at peak performance over the full course and remain competitive. Strength ties in well with flexibility as it is key that rowers have a strong core, legs, and upper body to maintain their posture, if proper posture is not maintained throughout a stroke or racing event it can largely increase the chance of injuries occurring. To be able to develop all three of these physical aspects large amounts of training will take place, “Elite rowers train between 10-14 times per week (approximately 20-28 hrs) [20]


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


Allowing more time for the body to recover:

  • Taking a break from training to allow time for recovery.[24]
  • Reducing the volume and/or the intensity of the training.
  • Suitable periodization of training.[25]
  • Splitting the training program so that different sets of muscles are worked on different days.[24]
  • Increase sleep time.
  • Deep-tissue or sports massage of the affected muscles.[26]
  • Self-massage or rub down of the affected muscles.[27]
  • Short sprints with long resting time once the athlete is able to continue with light training[5]



Seeing as there are many non beneficial results of overtraining and the main treatment is taking time out to rest, so to avoid taking time off training prevention is very important for many athletes.[2] An additional method preferred by many collegiate and professional level athletes is the incorporation of active recovery into training. The gradual varying of intensity and volume of training is an effective way to prevent overtraining.[29] The athlete should be closely monitored by keeping records of weight, diet and heart rate and the training program should be adjusted in accordance to different physical and emotional stresses.[2]

Along with the recording of rest, diet, weight and heart rates, there are multiple training types that can assist with ensuring that over training is not occurring.

Interval training ensures that, even though they are short, rest periods during training are taken. The “periods of high intensity and low intensity” [20] mixed characteristics of interval training enable athletes to ensure they are including rest and allowing the body to rest or repair in between intervals and in between each stage of a training session.

Australian rowers “require a mix of technique, power and endurance of both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems” [30] follow a strict training schedule to enable them to ensure that rest is taken into count to ensure that overtraining is not present. “Train upwards of 11 months of the year” [30] this large volume of training is well spaced and thought out to avoid over training symptoms.


  1. ^ Walker, Brad. "Overtraining - Learn how to identify Overtraining Syndrome". stretchcoach.com. Retrieved 2016-05-17. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Stone, M (1991). "Overtraining: A Review of the Signs, Symptoms and Possible Causes". Journal of strength and conditioning research. 5: 35–50. doi:10.1519/00124278-199102000-00006. 
  3. ^ Peluso, M., & Andrade, L. (2005). Physical activity and mental health: the association between exercise and mood. Clinics, 60(1), 61-70. doi:10.1590/s1807-59322005000100012
  4. ^ Carfagno D.; Hendrix J. (2014). "Overtraining Syndrome in the Athlete". Current Sports Medicine Reports. 13 (1): 45–51. doi:10.1249/jsr.0000000000000027. 
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  7. ^ a b "Top 10 Signs You're Overtraining". The American Council on Exercise. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  8. ^ "Overtraining with Resistance Exercise" (PDF). American College of Sports Medicine. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  9. ^ "Overtraining and Osteoporosis". WebMD, LLC. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  10. ^ MacKinnon, Laurel (30 May 2000). "Overtraining effects on immunity and performance in athletes". Immunology and Cell Biology. 78: 502–509. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1711.2000.t01-7-.x. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  11. ^ Budgett, Richard (10 March 1998). "Fatigue and underperformance in athletes: the overtraining syndrome" (PDF). British Journal of Sports Medicine. 32: 107–110. doi:10.1136/bjsm.32.2.107. Retrieved April 15, 2015. 
  12. ^ Brenner, Joel S (June 1, 2007). "Overuse Injuries, Overtraining, and Burnout in Child and Adolescent Athletes". Pediatrics. 119: 1242–1245. doi:10.1542/peds.2007-0887. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  13. ^ Steinacker, Lehmann, Lormes, Opitz-Gress, Jürgen (17 March 1997). "Training and overtraining: an overview and experimental results in endurance sports.". Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  14. ^ Overtraining in sport. Human Kinetics. 1998. 
  15. ^ Goodman A (1990). "Addiction: definition and implications". Addiction. 85 (11): 1403–1408. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.1990.tb01620.x. 
  16. ^ Mitchell A (2007). "Confronting Addiction Across Disciplines". Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology. 13 (3): 233–236. doi:10.1353/ppp.2007.0016. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ Baldwin, Dave R. (2002-03-27). Exercise Motivational Triggers. iUniverse. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-595-21603-1. 
  20. ^ a b c "Preventing overtraining in athletes in high-intensity sports and stress/recovery monitoring Preventing overtraining". Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports. 20. 
  21. ^ MacKinnon, Laurel (30 May 2000). "Overtraining effects on immunity and performance in athletes". Immunology & Cell Biology. 78: 502–509. doi:10.1111/j.1440-1711.2000.t01-7-.x. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  22. ^ Lowery, & Forsythe, Lonnie, & Cassandra (April 19, 2006). "Protein and Overtraining: Potential Applications for Free-Living Athletes" (PDF). International Society of Sports Nutrition. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  23. ^ Smith, Lucille (November 1999). "Cytokine hypothesis of overtraining: a physiological adaptation to excessive stress?". Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
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  26. ^ Hemmings, Smith, Graydon, & Dyson, Brian, Marcus, Jan,& Rosemary (28 October 1999). "Effects of massage on physiological restoration, perceived recovery, and repeated sports performance". British Journal of Sports Medicine. 34: 109–114. doi:10.1136/bjsm.34.2.109. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  27. ^ Hemmings, Smith, Graydon, & Dyson, Brian, Marcus, Jan, and Rosemary (28 October 1999). "Effects of massage on physiological restoration, perceived recovery, and repeated sports performance". British Journal of Sports Medicine. 34: 109–114. doi:10.1136/bjsm.34.2.109. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
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  29. ^ Kuipers; Keizer (1988). "Overtraining in elite athletes". Sports Medicine. 6 (2): 79–92. doi:10.2165/00007256-198806020-00003. 
  30. ^ a b "Australian rowers". http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/nutrition/factsheets/sports/rowing.  External link in |website= (help)