Football Workouts: Hazards of Overtraining Overweight Athletes

STACK Expert Giovanni Grassi explains why, when training overweight football players, sometimes less is more.

Overweight Football Player

Overweight football players often need to cut weight in order to play their best. For the coach, this presents a dilemma. You want to train your athletes to perform at their peak, but you don't want to push them so far that they overtrain—or worse yet—injure themselves.

Overtraining is serious. It can put talented athletes out of commission. Fatigue from overexertion can damage the central nervous system.

The old-school approach with overweight athletes was simply to "kick their butts" until the number on the scale changed, even if the player reached exhaustion. The idea was, the longer you do an exercise, the more of a burning sensation you feel, the more weigh you lose. But this is not the right approach.

Here are three red flags to watch for when trying to get your overweight athletes in shape.

1. Loss of strength

Linemen need strength to play their positions. Once you see a lineman struggle with his movements in the weight room, where he should be dominating, you know he may have overtrained.

Better approach: Try to give your athletes some time between training sessions. Allow for at least two hours of rest after a strength session before putting your guys through extra conditioning three times a week. Also allow for a full day to recover and a full 24 hours between sessions.

2. Dehydration

The lower number on the scale may result more from a loss in body fluid than body mass. Dehydration of 1 to 2 percent of body weight decreases performance. At 3 percent, the athlete is at risk for heat illness (cramps, heat exhaustion, heat stroke) and a decrease in physiological function. At 5 percent dehydration, studies show detrimental effects on muscle strength performance.

Better approach: Always allow your players to rehydrate during training. Constantly remind them to take in fluids throughout the day. Let them know and understand the consequences of not rehydrating.

3. Prolonged recovery time

Training too much can lead to overreaching—and soon, overtraining, if not spotted in the early stages. Allow for more rest and downtime than training time during the early weeks of your program. Serious muscle fatigue can lead to loss of strength and an increased chance of injury.

Better approach: Allow for a two-plus-hour rest period between strength and conditioning sessions. If you cannot get that much rest between sessions, sacrifice intensity in one of the sessions. Keep the main lifts (Squat, Bench, Deadlift, Overhead Press, etc.) in your strength sessions but reduce the selection of other exercises you perform, especially if your weight-loss conditioning involves a lot of body movement.

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