Podcast, Science and Physiology

Markers of overreaching, and the LSCT cycling test with prof. Robert Lamberts and Annemiek Roete | EP#299

 August 16, 2021

By  Mikael Eriksson


In this episode, Professor Robert Lamberts (Stellenbosch University) and Annemiek Roete (University of Groningen) discuss their recent systematic review on (noninvasive) markers of functional overreaching in endurance athletes. We also discuss the Lamberts Submaximal Cycle Test (LSCT), and it's application in triathlon as a monitoring tool as well as its application as a performance indicator. 

In this Episode you'll learn about:

  • Physiological (VO2max, submaximal power output, PPO), heart rate (resting, max, submax, HRR, HRV), and subjective (RPE, POMS, DALDA) markers of functional overreaching
  • Which markers are the best for assessing non-functional overreaching, and how many (or how few) should you be monitoring?
  • Is functional overreaching necessary or beneficial for endurance adaptations?
  • What is the LSCT (Lamberts Submaximal Cycle Test) protocol?
  • The LSCT as a performance predictor in triathlon
  • The LSCT as a method to monitor training adaptations and overreaching 

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04:00 -

  • My name is Robert Lamberts and I am a professor in exercise physiology at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, where I have been based for the last 15 years, even though I am originally from the Netherlands.
  • And my name is Annemiek Roete and I am a PhD student and the lead author of the first study that we are going to discuss here in the podcast.

Objective with the studies

06:15 -

  • There is a widespread issue among athletes and coaches that they are not able to objectively quantify fatigue, which in turn leads to a risk of functional and non-functional overreaching with potential severe performance drops.

    In the present study our goal was to try and find objective markers that could indicate high levels of fatigue in athletes before they reached a state of non-functional overreaching (where it would take them weeks to months to recover properly).

The meta-analysis

10:35 -

  • One aspect that witnesses about over-training is that peak power output for shorter durations are lower, which is quite logical and can be expected.
  • Another aspect that witnesses about over-training that is really interesting is that is sub maximal heart rate is actually lower on the same power output, which is rather counter intuitive.

    This is because the parasympathetic system is highly activated (in order to try and bring the body into a ”recovery mode”).

    The typical experience is a heart rate that slowly goes up and slowly goes down, instead of a very responsive heart rate that goes up fast and goes down equally quick.
  • Yet another slightly counter intuitive sign of functional overreaching that we found in the meta-analysis was a larger heart rate drop after seizing exercise.

    That means that the HR drops quicker after one stops exercise.
  • Additionally, we found that resting HR was not a very significant marker of functional over reaching.
  • We also saw that athletes who were in a functional over reaching state could have an influence of the athletes’ mood.
  • Finally, over reached athletes tend to rate the same exercises as harder as they used to rate the same exercise when they are not over reached.

Rapid fire questions

01:05:00 -

  • What is your favorite book, blog or resource related to endurance sports? Annemiek: all sources that translate science to practice. Robert: Science of Sport.
  • What is a personal habit that has helped you achieve success? Annemiek: Passion for what I do. Robert: Listening to my body!
  • Who is somebody you look up to or has inspired you? Annemiek: Anybody who challenges themselves. Robert: People who challenge commonly accepted views.


Mikael Eriksson

I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Please contact me if you have feedback on the podcast or want to make suggestions for improvement or send in a question for a Q&A episode.

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