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Sports Scientist (PhD),
Ex rower and rowing coach,
Rowing Academy Scientist
Probably the strongest parameter that can identify excessive overtraining is athletic
performance, as performance is reflected by overall positive and negative adaptations to
It is a common finding that after high training load periods performance decreases.
Nevertheless, coaches and athletes are looking for significant increases in performance
after the recovery period (Figure1). This means that performance should always be
measured to be correctly analyzed.
Figure 1. Positive adaptation to multiple overload workouts
In most endurance athletes an incremental exercise test until exhaustion is regularly
performed throughout the season as it enables to measure performance at several
intensities (aerobic threshold, anaerobic threshold, VO2max, maximal performance).
Also, multiple submaximal tests are performed to measure steady state levels at various
The typical expectation from this test
would be that the lactate performance
curve will shift to the right that in
general indicates an increased
endurance performance (Figure 2).
Figure 2. 5 min test series at 60, 70 and
80% of 2000m power in US rowing team.
Jeukendrup et al. (1994) have shown that lowered blood lactate profile may also be an
indication of severe overtraining if maximal lactate concentrations at maximal intensity
during the test are significantly decreased.
It is usually noticed that the
overtrained athlete is able to perform
very well at training speeds but will
be quickly exhausted at racing
speeds. Therefore, for athletic
performance analysis, maximal
intensity tests or time trials are
suggested, as they will most likely
show the changes in exercise
capacity (ability to sustain the
specific intensity for certain time
period) as a result of severe
Figure 3. Lactate curves of the cyclist having
significantly decreased performance (Jeukendrup
et al. 1994)
Performance is the key marker of excessive overtraining. It is recommended to use
maximal performance tests to get feedback, as during submaximal tests, performance
might not be altered by overtraining. However, the submaximal intensity test, if performed
until exhaustion, may be used.
• Hagerman FC. The physiology of competitive rowing. In: Exercise and Sport
Science, W. Garrett JR, Kirkendall D, eds. Lippincot Williams & Wilkins, 2000.
• Jeukendrup AE, Hesslink KC. Overtraining – what do lactate curves tell us? British
Journal of Sports Medicine 1994; 28: 239-240.
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