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In today’s sports landscape, the issue of overtraining receives significant attention. Coaches, parents, and athletes are consistently cautioned about the adverse effects that come with excessive and frequent training sessions.  In youth baseball, pitch counts are meticulously monitored, and volleyball practices meticulously track the number of jumps. We have shifted from the “push through the pain” mentality to a more cautious approach.  In many cases, these measures are beneficial. Athletes often require safeguards against their own tendencies to overdo it.  And coaches should be aware of the limits of their athletes. Striking a balance in life, especially for young athletes, is crucial. However, it is equally important to witness the tangible rewards of hard work and dedication. That means not overtraining, but not undertraining either.

 An athlete’s progress and performance improvement are of utmost importance. Without noticeable advancements, motivation to train can dwindle, leading to declining performance or even burnout. This vicious cycle can quickly take hold. So, when results fall short of expectations, where should we turn? After dedicating countless hours to a sport, what about enhancing performance on the track?  in the weight room? On the field? While the solutions may vary on an individual basis, there are scientific factors related to the concept of undertraining that can provide valuable insights. 

 What exactly is undertraining? Which variables are associated with it? If you find yourself undertrained, what steps should you take to move forward? If these questions spark your curiosity, allow this article to shed light on the fascinating subject of undertraining and its implications for athletes. 

The Impact of Undertraining and the Consequences of Insufficient Effort in Athletic Performance 

Undertraining is commonly associated with a decline or plateau in performance resulting from inadequate training frequency, volume, or intensity. In practical terms, it signifies a failure to exert enough effort or employ effective strategies to achieve desired improvements. 

When it comes to team sports, it is often easier to gauge undertraining in terms of running faster or jumping higher, rather than relying on statistics like batting average or free throw percentage. The latter examples encompass more than just speed or strength. 

For instance, let’s consider a 14-year-old volleyball player aiming to enhance her vertical jump from 22 inches to 24 inches. It becomes evident that she needs to engage in targeted training to achieve this goal. However, the challenge lies in determining the appropriate training volume and frequency. If her vertical jump remains stagnant at 22 inches or, worse, starts to decline, several important questions arise. 

The Telltale Sign of Undertraining  

Among the various factors that can hinder performance progress, undertraining stands out as a significant and literal indicator. When your efforts in training fall short of providing the necessary stimulus to your body, it has no incentive to respond and adapt. While this perspective may seem simplistic, the underlying principle holds true: the human body needs to perceive adaptation as a necessity rather than a luxury. 

 To ensure consistent improvements, it is crucial to adhere to the fundamental principle of training known as progressive overload. This principle revolves around consistently increasing the demands placed on your body, both in terms of volume and intensity. By consistently challenging your body beyond its comfort zone, you compel it to respond and deliver the desired results. 

 If you find yourself stuck in a plateau, whether it be in sprint times, jump height, or any other aspect of your workout performance, it is essential to consider the possibility of undertraining. Evaluating whether you have been providing adequate stimulus and progressively overloading your workouts can shed light on the potential cause of your stagnant progress. 

 Remember, achieving consistent gains requires a proactive approach that ensures your body recognizes the need for adaptation. By employing progressive overload and avoiding undertraining, you can unlock your full potential and witness the desired advancements in your performance. 

 Beyond the Overtraining Focus 

While research on overtraining surpasses that of undertraining, the following points offer anecdotal insights. For example, oredom emerges as a significant concern for long-term progression, particularly among youth athletes. Thus, coaches and others involved, should diligently monitor the impact of boredom on exercise programs, recognizing that both compliance and exertion are more likely when the workout is enjoyable. Therefore, introducing variety into coaches’ and athletes’ workouts becomes essential. It’s not about delving into the realm of “muscle confusion” but rather recognizing that performing the same speed workout for ten consecutive weeks can lead to a decline in effort and focus. Human nature plays a pivotal role, and breaking the monotony becomes crucial. 

 Unable to Break a Sweat While this observation is primarily anecdotal, it is worth noting that during training sessions, unless you are intentionally taking lengthy breaks between sprints, you should experience an increased heart rate and break a sweat.  Interestingly, individuals who believe they are unable to sweat often spend significant practice time worrying.  This can negatively affect their utilization of their training time. It is beneficial for both individuals and athletes to embrace the sweat-inducing aspect of training. 

By recognizing the importance of addressing boredom and ensuring an appropriate level of intensity, athletes can maintain engagement and motivation throughout their training. Embracing variety in workouts and appreciating the physiological response of breaking a sweat can contribute to more effective and efficient training sessions.  This will ultimately lead to improved performance outcomes. 


  1. Haff, G., & Triplett, N. T. (2016). Essentials of strength training and conditioning (4th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.