The Learning Process
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Principle of Overloading

Ideally ever athlete recieves the highest quality training available to maximize their potential!
      Coaches use a variety of techniques and concepts to teach sports skills. It is the Quality of practice that counts, not the Quantity and/or Intensity of the training the athlete recieves.

      It is extremely important to learn the gross and fine motor movements correctly the first time! If it is necessary to accomplish substantial corrections to an athlete's technique, it will take time, energy, and considerable perseverance to delete the incorrect muscle memory prior to starting over from the basics to acquire the correct technique. Going back to zero to recondition the muscle nerve responses is as much a mental as it physical problem.

     The concept of "Overlearning" is to imprint the muscles with a new technique is like over writing a computer file only the physical memory requires repeatedly practicing the desire skill beyond what would have been necessary to initially learn to correctly perform it. The problem is that attempt the movement under stress is much more difficult and skaters will frequently relapse for many months after not experiencing the problem under normal practicing conditions.

     The key here is that both the mental and physical stress of a competition must be simulated during  practice sessions in order to desensitize the athlete from negatively reacting to the stress.

Note: There can be very strong emotional reaction by a skater to a supportive
audience. This can encourage a performer to positively react. There are some
individuals of whom "Performance Anxiety" is a very real physical experience
with discomfort including muscle weakness, a churning gastrointestinal system,
and/or powerful waves of nausea.

       The method of overloading learning is used where quality and quantity are used to erase persistent errors that have been reinforced over multiple years of practicing the errors. New skills are best learned when fatigue does not affect the athlete's ability to correctly perform pattern movements.

       The scientific principle of overload states that a greater than normal stress or load on the body is required for training adaptation to take place. What this means is that in order to improve our fitness, strength or endurance, we need to increase the workload accordingly.

In order for a muscle (including the heart) to increase strength, it must be gradually stressed by working against a load greater than it is used to. To increase endurance, muscles must work for a longer period of time than they are used to or at a higher intensity.

Understanding and Properly Applying the Principle of Overloading
     The Overload Principle is an important concept of sports fitness training. However athletes frequently misunderstand how this principle of physical training should be applied.

     Our bodies are in a constant process of adapting to physical stresses we place on our gross and fine muscles. When there is an extreme overload, we can seriously damage the muscles and ligaments. The goal is to stress the body without pushing it the point of causing it to fail. There is a natural response of the body to physiologically adapt in response to that stress the next time it occurs.

     There are different types of stress -
  • Acute Stress is the most common form of stress. It comes from demands and pressures of the recent past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future. Short term, acute stress doesn't have enough time to do the extensive damage associated with long-term stress. The most common symptoms are:
    • emotional distress - some combination of anger or irritability, anxiety, and depression, the three stress emotions;

    • muscular problems - includes tension headache, back pain, jaw pain, and the muscular tensions that lead to pulled muscles and tendon and ligament problems;

    • stomach, gut and bowel problems - such as heartburn, acid stomach, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome;

    • transient over arousal - causes an elevation in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, heart palpitations, dizziness, migraine headaches, cold hands or feet, shortness of breath, and chest pain.

  • Episodic - Those individuals who frequently suffer from acute stress experience lives that are always in disorder. They take on too much, have too many projects that are in a crisis, and can't organize the existing demands and pressures that need immediate attention.
    It is common for individuals suffering from acute stress reactions to be over aroused, short tempered, irritable, anxious, and tense. They are always in a hurry, tend to be abrupt, and their irritability frequently is viewed by others as hostility. They commonly are refereed to as "type A personalities".
  • Chronic is a type of stress that grinds people down day after day, year after year. Chronic stress destroys bodies, minds and lives. It's the stress of poverty, dysfunctional families, being trapped in an unhappy marriage or in an unfulfilling job or career. It's the stress that has "troubles" that are never seem to have an end in sight.

This form of stress can be rooted in traumatic, early childhood experiences that become internalized and remain forever painful and present. Often these experiences profoundly affect the person's personality. Often the solution requires reformulating their personality or changing deep seated convictions and beliefs. Treatment requires active self-examination, under the guidance of professional help.

The worst aspect of chronic stress is that the indivual becomes numb to it and accept it as being normal. They ignore their chronic stress because they can't recall being without it. It is familiar and almost comfortable. However, chronic stress is a killer - suicide, violence, heart attack, stroke, and gnerally lowers the body's ability to resist disease.

Physical and mental resources become depleted through long-term attrition. This causes the symptoms of chronic stress to be difficult to diagnose, treat, and can require extended medical and behavioral treatment in addition to management of stress situations/environments.

      The term "stress" is also applied to physical training exercises. This is positive application associated with expanding a body's existing upper threshold of strength, flexibility, and controlled boy movements.

Overloading is widely used to enhance muscle control and strength

To increase strength of your muscles, it is necessary to target specific muscles to get stronger without the muscle definition that body builders desire.

     To improve, athletes must develop of training plan to gradually increase their upper limits followed by a recovery period to allow their bodies adjust to the workouts. Attempt to push your limits can be overdone and result in injuries requiring a long period to rehab the affected muscles.

Note: Over learning occurs by repeatedly practicing a skill beyond what is required to perform it. The idea is to repeatedly practice to obtain consistent quality without errors. Learning a new skill should occur when the athlete is not experiencing fatigue. Overloading requires pushing the body while experiencing fatigue and still have the ability to correctly perform the movements without any errors.

Applying the Overload Principle in Practical Terms

      The following are commonly accepted and practical ideas about overload implementation:

  • Increase loads gradually and progressively. Training loads should gradually become more intense over a period of time and never increased abruptly or with excessive intensity.
  • Test maximums. Competitive training loads progressive build to maximize efforts (peaking).
  • The intention is NOT to achieve muscular failure. 
  • Design ample recovery time. Too little recovery time results in over training. Too much recovery time causes an effect known as "detraining".
  • Plan and monitor training loads. Athletes need to participate in a long-range, periodized training plan.  An evaluation of progress must be incorporated into the seasonal training to determine training decisions are approaching a point of exceeding the overload and risking over training.
  • Each athlete should be responsible for tracking their individual progress. It is essential to determine where there are deficits in the training. If athletes "run out of gas", for example, training can be overloaded to improve skilled performances when fatigued.
  • Alternate activities. Organize workouts to allow recovery on some aspects of training while increasing intensity on others. Use periodized planning to link into weekly and daily activities.
  • Coordinate all training activities and schedules. Fitness training loads should be adjusted for technical and tactical activities, travel, competitions, and other factors that could influence how overloading should occur.
  • Focus on skill work first. Practice skills that require greater coordination prior to intense fitness training if both are performed in the same workout session. For example, complete Olympic lifting before weight training activities of lesser complexity.

The Overload Principle must work in concert with other Sports Training Principles:

The Balanced Principle

The Individualization Principle

The Transfer Principle
The Recovery Principle

The Reversibility Principle

The Variation Principle

Overloading 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 submaximal 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 means repeatedly practicing 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 of the sport.

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 Athletic Training:

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