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Overload Principle in Training

      The Overload Principle is a basic sports fitness training concept. It means that in order to improve, athletes must continually work harder as they their bodies adjust to existing workouts. Overloading also plays a role in skill learning.

Overload in Fitness Training
      The overloading concept is designed to affect the body's mechanisms that cause the desired changes to occur. Improving cardiovascular fitness involves being able to sustain sub maximal activities for extended periods of time. Increasing strength requires lifting progressively heavier weight loads. The principle applies to both duration and volume of training.

      For example, if an athlete's goal is to improve his/her upper body strength, it would be necessary to continue increasing the weight loads until the goal is achieved.

      There would be little improvement if the training load is not increased to push the athlete to higher strength levels. The increase in upper body strength must be incorporated into the fitness training program.

Overload plays a role in Skill Learning
      Motor skills are learned through a variety of different techniques and concepts. It is the quality of practice that in more important than the quantity and intensity.

      It is extremely important to learn motor skills correctly the first time. However, too many learners acquire their skills with substantial technical problems. When this happens, over learning helps in the retraining.

      Over learning is the repeated practicing of a skill beyond what is required to just acquire and master the skill. The method of overloading learning is where quality and quantity are used to overcome errors. Normally, skills are best learned or retrained when fatigue does not affect the athlete's ability to correctly perform the tasks.

Tips on Applying the Overload Principle
      The following suggestions are commonly accepted and widely used by coaches involved in team and individual sports training:
  • Increase exercise loads gradually. Training loads should gradually become progressively more intense over a period of time. Never  increase levels abruptly or up the intensity suddenly.
  • Avoid muscular failure. Training should never reach a stage where the muscles fail or the athlete collapses.
  • Recovery time must be sufficient. Limiting recovery sessions, if allowed to occur over an extend period of time, can cause an over training effect. Conversely, allowing too much recovery time can result in a detraining effect.
  • Plan and monitor training loads. Design long-range, periodized training with scheduled performance tests to evaluate the athlete's progress to prevent a training overload.
  • Alternate training activities. A training schedule can allow recovery on some types of training while increasing intensity on others. Use periodized planning to schedule  daily activities of a weekly cycle.
  • Coordinate training activities and competition schedules. Factor into your Fitness training schedule  activities such as travel, competitions, and other factors that influence how exercise loads should be adjusted to prevent an athlete from overloading.
  • Focus on skill work first. Practice skills that require greater concentration and coordination before starting an intense fitness training session when both exercises are performed in the same workout session. 

      To be effective, the Overload Principle must not conflict with established Training Principles.

Recommended Reading:

The Overload Principle for Sports Training The Overload Principle guides how to increase training loads for best results in fitness training. Over learning sport skills has a parallel meaning.

Overload (Principles of Weight Training) | Fitness & Exercise March 30, 2008  One of the four principles of weight training, overload states that a greater than normal amount of stress or load on the body is required for training adaptation to occur.

Progressive overload - Wikipedia Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during ... as a fundamental principle for success in various forms of strength training.

Principles of Training Theory A. Principles. 1. Progressive Loading (“Overload”). Biological systems can adapt to loads that are higher than the demands of normal daily activity.


BBC - GCSE Bitesize: Principles of training Getting the best out of your training requires a little planning. The best training programs are built on principles of specificity, overload, progression and reversibility.

Exercise Science Principles of Conditioning The exercise science principle of overload states that a greater than normal stress or load on the body is required for training adaptation to take place.

The All-Important Overload Principle - Men's Health
The most basic of all strength training principles is the overload principle. Simply stated, this principle tells us that our bodies will adapt to whatever rigors we place on them.

Principles of Sports Training:

Principles of Athletic Training:

Mental Training for Athletes:

Training Principles:


The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Principles of Sports Training:
Principles of Training Athletes
Developing Skills for Figure Skating
Acquiring Sports Skills
Amount of Time to Acquire Sports Skills
Biomechanics of Sports
Balanced Principles For Training
Sports Skills & Mechanical Techniques
Physical Fitness & Preparedness
Individual Differences
The Overload Principle in Training
Recovering From Training
Principle of Reversibility
Principle of Specificity
Transference of Knowledge & Skills
Training Variation
Psychomotor Domain
Objectives of Psychomotor Goals

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