View Full Version : Overtraining

September 30th, 2005, 07:02 PM
This is from one of my favorite current swimming exprets, Brent Rushhall of San Diego State University.


Parker, J. (1989). Wiping your swimmers out. Swimming Technique, May-July, 10-16.

The process of the destruction of muscle (rhabdomyolysis) is commonly found in runners, particularly after completing a marathon. There is little evidence that rhabdomyolysis causes performance decrement. Creatine kinase (CK) is an enzyme found in muscle cells which catalyzes the formation of phosphocreatine from creatine and ATP. It is not normally found in the blood in large quantities unless muscle cells have been damaged. Increased CK activity is a marker for excessive strain.

In one day, an elite swimmer burns more calories than a runner in a marathon. Since many swimmers train at least 3-5 hours a day six days per week, a great strain is placed on their bodies. Muscle degeneration could result from consistent exercise at elevated intensities. Muscle problems can exist with degeneration and inflammation occurring while discomfort is tolerable (low pain). Overuse injury syndrome is frequently seen in "swimmer's shoulder" (a pathology of the rotator cuff) and "breaststroker's knee" (injury to the medial colateral ligament and/or medial patellar facet due to the highly unusual action in the breaststroke kick). Possible other causes are protein and iron deficiencies, the oxidative capacity of muscle cells, and glycogen stores. Psychological conditions result in "burn-out."

Implication. The threat of overtraining can be reduced without it affecting the performance of the athlete. Yardage can be reduced and the training stimulus changed to interval work of greater quality and less volume.

". overtrained runners do not lose their conditioning, but they may demonstrate a deterioration in running form. . . .overtraining may cause some local muscular fatigue through selective glycogen depletion, forcing runners to alter their mechanics to achieve the same pace."(p. 198)

Lot more interesting stuff at:

Allen Stark
September 30th, 2005, 08:04 PM
I don't agree with everything Rushall says,but he is more on the mark than most "experts" I read. His "Swimming Science Journal" is great.

September 30th, 2005, 09:09 PM
I've only been trying to read stuff from his website on and off for the past year or two. There's so much material there!

Where is his journal published? I haven't caught on to that yet, but would like to. I like that he is experimenting and seems like cooperating with other sciences.

September 30th, 2005, 09:32 PM
Would a complement in weight training help to minimize the muscle loss?

That is what I read in the books about weight training. It said that people loses muscle with age. Only weight training can slow / prevent this muscle loss.

Allen Stark
September 30th, 2005, 10:14 PM
Connie,you order it from him on line . First you get a CD-ROM and then you get updates online. Go to http://coachsci.sdsu.edu/swimming/index.htm
Zirconium,no weights won"t help rhabdomyolysis.It is a breakdown of muscles from trauma(including the trauma of extreme overuse.I have never heard of it being a problem for swimmers before and I'm not clear from this abstract if indeed it is. Has any one ever heard of it in swimmers?

October 1st, 2005, 01:25 AM
Here's the way I feel about overtraining, simplified. Overtraining is physical overburn, not psychological. Overtraining can occur on any single session from training too hard or too long - either too much for the "condition level" of the person or just too much work at the wrong time (the wrong time for any number of reasons). Overtraining also can occur at any time when the accumulated affects of physical activity become too much for the body to recover normally. When one overtrains, "everything" breaks down. The longer the period that contributed to the overtraining, the far longer the period required to get back to normal. The longer the intense period that lead to the overtraining, the more massive the breakdown can be. The older one becomes, the easier it is to overtrain. It's all about knowing (guessing really) how intense you can be and much time you need to recover. The indication of overtraining is first detectable more by loss of aerobic capacity than it is by muscle strength. Well, that's my highly unscientific view.

Note: I think you misunterstood to suggest that Zirconium said "weights [] help rhabdomyolysis". I agree with what Zirconium said.

Gareth Eckley
October 1st, 2005, 06:10 AM
Here are some links that shed some light on this.

This one is from the british swim coaches site. There are a number of good articles here. The one at the bottom of the list is about "recovery based training", a different philosophy on adaptation. http://www.bscta.com/vsite/vnavsite/page/directory/0,10853,5090-165497-182715-nav-list,00.html

There is also lots of simplified info on the site: www.moregold.com.au

This article is on recognising the effects of overtraining: http://www.moregold.com.au/default.asp?F=articles&P=rest_recovery_and_restoration.txt

If this link does not work you will have to register and then find it in articles/sport science/rest recovery and restoration.

Overtraining describes a general work overload that leads to sustained worsening of performance. A period of rest is needed for recovery.

Over-reaching is wwhere you are exhausted from one or more sessions or days and where an easier set the next session will allow you to recover. Regular over-reaching is neccessary for improvement in the long term.

October 1st, 2005, 07:36 AM
Originally posted by Zirconium
Would a complement in weight training help to minimize the muscle loss?

That is what I read in the books about weight training. It said that people loses muscle with age. Only weight training can slow / prevent this muscle loss. Weight training if done wrong can cause muscle breakdown the same as over training while swimming. I could be wrong but I am a believer in if it hurts don't do it.

October 1st, 2005, 08:56 AM
Found the article. The misc.fitness.weights FAQ, Section IV
weightlifting and health:

Can you please give it a glance and let me know your opinion?

I am a man, 42, self-learn swimming, never had done any competition. I am far from overtraining in swimming. Nevertheless, I started adding some modest weight exercises since a month. The initial purpose was to pursue the strenghtening of my shoulder muscles that I started a few months ago to cure my shoulder tendonitis.

In all documentations I read about weight trainings, the authors advise to work on the whole body to keep harmony and balance. That is how I started to work other muscles than my shoulders.

I swim + doing weights only for fitness. I am not looking into becoming a performance freak nor a monster bodybuiler. If you know of a proper way of mixing swimming and dryland exercises, I would greatly appreciate any recommendation.

October 1st, 2005, 03:45 PM
I'm no expert, but what I'm hearing a lot is that high reps, lower weights are more beneficial to swimming then heavy lifting. Also, you'd probably want to do a weight workout including balancing (balance balls and similar).
The important part for swimming is to strenghten smaller muscles too, which you don't often get out of lifting, especially if you go to the gym and use weught machines that isolate the larger muscles.
At the minimum, use free weights.

my favorite type of dryland is this: http://www.probodx.com/
(of course, I don't do it nearly as much as i should, I tend to do it for a while, then blow it off for a while... which is certainly not the right approach)

As for muscle loss, I think is has a lot of factors. Most of it is related to the fact taht a large number of people at age 50 aren't nearly as active then at 20, and physical activity, especially of a lot of resistance (or weight) can build muscle at almost any age. Lack of it results in muscle loss. Yea, there's some muscle loss related only to age, and not inactivity. I was reading an article put out by university of Florida just yesterday that with same level of activity at age 70 one would be 20% weaker then at age 20. at age of 80, this would go up to 50% weaker.
There are other aging factors that in most cases make it near impossible to maintain the same activity level at 70 as at 20...
Also, muscle loss due to aging is reversible to a degree by increased activity.

Here's an article similar to what I read yesterday:

And here's an anecdotal story or you... A dear friend of mine, at the age of 20, and 6'1" frame weighed 140 pounds soaking wet with a rock in his pocket as he likes to describe it, and not very athletic.
He is 61 now, 220 pounds of solid muscle, I'd say at most 10% body fat and capable of bench pressing over 300 pounds.
If he was 20 and the same regimen, perhaps he'd be lifting 350...

Bottom line is, age related muscle loss is not someting to be alarmed about in your 40's. Just don't stop moderate exercise.
What gets to most of us as we gwt older are little chronic conditions like bad back, arthritis, chronic injuries, and body's need for a longer recovery as we get older, often a different lifestyle too, all of which makes it harder to keep the same exercise regiment when compared to our 20's.

I did notice that the link to the article you posted talks a lot about competetive weight lifting. Their information is probably very good, but it might be a bit too slanted towards the concerns of a competetive lifter, and not be AS useful for someone looking to keep physically healthy without being highly comopetetive.

Anyway, that's the way I look at it, from the common sense point of view. Like I said, I'm no expert.

Allen Stark
October 1st, 2005, 04:54 PM
There have been several theads about weight lifting. Again,it depends on what you want to accomplish athletically how you should do weights. Weight machines can be tricky and it would be best to go over your goals with a trainer and get recommendations. That said,if your goal is to compete at distances 200 and less you need to work on power. Power is most easily increased by high weight/low rep lifting. Without supervision and instruction that is an easy way to get hurt,but it is nearly essential for sprinting to do some high resistance exercises.

October 1st, 2005, 05:06 PM
I still like my potato sack lifts for a true exercise. That an be found here http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?s=&threadid=5134&highlight=potato+sacks

October 1st, 2005, 08:27 PM
Brent Rushhall is my friend and sometime guru. We do not always think alike, but the knowledge from his CD and web site is amoung the best out there. The slow motion videos and strokes disected into every tenth of a second combined with his analysis are great for coaches and swimmers.

San Diego State University is one of the few places in the world where you can get degree and become a great swim coach.

Connie, I disagree some what on your statement of high reps and low weights being best. I will always prefer being able to do 10 reps on the superpullover at 240 pounds rather than 40 reps at 120 pounds.

There are a couple of basic tenants for swimming and weights:

1) Always vary the workout, the body adapts too well, you must vary the workout for the best results.

2) You absolutely need some days of extremely hard workouts, at maximum speed or maximum weights. But always follow with easy recovery days. Maximum efforts can take the muscles as long as 72 hours to recover, unless you use streoids or HGH.

3) Weights and swimming must be done perfectly and with specificity. You will never see in any of my writings a recomendation for the old Bench Press. There is no correlation with swimming, while the superpullover is the breaststroke pulldown.

Connie, thanks for starting a great thread.

October 1st, 2005, 10:07 PM
Originally posted by geochuck
I still like my potato sack lifts for a true exercise. That an be found here http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?s=&threadid=5134&highlight=potato+sacks
You made me sweat with your potato sacks story until I reach the last sentence :-)

October 2nd, 2005, 12:12 AM
Originally posted by breastroker
Connie, I disagree some what on your statement of high reps and low weights being best. I will always prefer being able to do 10 reps on the superpullover at 240 pounds rather than 40 reps at 120 pounds.

I guess that too would depend on what someone is trying to builg up to. I can see reasons for both.
I probably should have mentioned in my last post that I was thinking from a perspective from a relative beginner, which I think Zirconium might be. My guess would be that his smaller swimming muscles and tendons aren't as developed as in someone who has been swimming forever. He probably needs to balance out to start with, before proceeding to build more large muscle.

For someone like you, having swam most of your life, you probably don't have to let your smaller muscles grow into the swimming shape, you're probably after more sprinting power, in which case, you're right, higher weight would be helpful with that.

There are couple of things that I'm considerting while thinking about this:
Having read tons of Rushall's stuff over last few days, I keep remembering his writings state that he doesn't really recommend higher weights. Of course, higher weight might be very subjective to the individuals, their training goals and their physiology. I have to go digging to find a link to that text.

The other is purely anecdotal. In my case, having done some other sports, and some gym working out over the years, my larger muscles are sligthly disproportionately stronger then my smaller muscles. What happens to me in sprints is that I have enough power to strain the rotator cuff's smaller parts, and get hurt. What happens then instead of continuing to train, I have to lay off for few weeks, and on the long run actually lose out.

I went to see a friend of mine, who specializes in athletic strength training for various sports, and that was exactly his assesment. That I have plenty of power in the bigger muscles for now, but the little ones (muscles and tendons) need a lot of work just to be able to support the bigger ones without the injury. It shows in some free weight and balance ball exercises. I can move a lot more weight then I can move without wobbling. He wants me to not use any higher weight then what I can move without a wobble, or with a slight wobble and still maintaining proper form, and higher reps.

Part of his commentary was that he sees that pretty often with people new to various sports. They often have the bigger muscles, but not the 'infrastructure' to support them.

So with someone relatively new to swimming I'd be really hesitant recommending higher weight, untill after the the core strenghth and stability is assesed.

Another thought on the whole thing, which I'm not sure how it relates to the weights, look at the accomplished swimmers physiques, they more closely resemble gymnasts then body builders.

Zirconium, if I were you, I'd invest in a few appointments with a knowledgeable personal trainer to see if and where you might have weak links, and work on those first. What you want is balanced development for the sport you want to participate in. Swimming is very technique intensive, in a medium which doesn't allow you to fix or isolate any movements, so overall balanced body development and core strength is pretty important.

October 2nd, 2005, 12:34 AM
Here's some of Rushall thoughts on weight training:



Training specificity
Talks a lot about benefits or lack thereof for certain types of training.

Anda lot on weight and strength training:

Strength training in swimmers:

Pretty interesting!

October 2nd, 2005, 06:22 PM
I have read so many theories on weight training and everyone has a different idea. There is nothing that replaces good swimming technique, good swimming workouts, and guts. All of the weight stuff is just if you have time to do it. A swimmer needs long supple muscles and heavy weights do not help here. The wrong kind of reps are not needed. Nothing replaces swimming technique to be a good swimmer. You can lift to your heart out it won't make any difference.

October 2nd, 2005, 10:59 PM
I sometimes think from reading these posts on weight lifting that it is more important to women than men. Without weight lifting, I don't think I would be able to swim. Keeping all the big and little muscles strong in my shoulders have enabled me to handle the swimming work load. Something Connie said hit home about those little muscles. Since I have some rotator cuff issues from playing ball, and have had them for a long, long time, long before I swam, I have always done the little exercises the PT gave me all those years ago, and it helps.

Lifting also keeps my weight under control. Swimming is great exercise, great calorie burner, and yes, if I want to be a better swimmer, I have to swim, but weight training is important. I would bet most college programs have their swimmers on some form of weight training and dryland training.

October 2nd, 2005, 11:01 PM
Most articles I have read say women need weight training more than men.

October 3rd, 2005, 01:37 AM
Originally posted by dorothyrde
I sometimes think from reading these posts on weight lifting that it is more important to women than men. .....

Don't us 'wimminz' genetically have weaker upper bodies? Lot of swimming is upper body.
It would only make sense we need to work a tad harder to make them stronger then average?

October 3rd, 2005, 06:53 AM
Snicker, I guess so, but tell the men I outlift at band competitions when we are moving the pit instruments. Course they are very sedentary folks, just out to help.

October 4th, 2005, 12:47 PM
Another benefit of weightlifting (that women especially need) is building bone mass. Reasonable stress on bones from exercise or resistance training causes bones to grow and stay strong. That's also why some form of weight-bearing exercise (aerobics, jogging, etc) is recommended for women because of these benefits.

I'm sure there are more resources, but there's a short description here. (http://www.nof.org/prevention/exercise.htm)