We investigated heavy training- and overtraining-induced changes in heart rate and blood pressure variability during supine rest and in response to head-up tilt in female endurance athletes. Nine young female experimental athletes (ETG) increased their training volume at the intensity of 70-90% of maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) by 125% and training volume at the intensity of < 70% of VO2max by 100% during 6-9 weeks. The corresponding increases in 6 female control athletes were 5% and 10%. The VO2max of the ETG and the control athletes did not change, but it decreased from 53.0 +/- 2.2 ml x kg(-1) x min(-1) to 50.2 +/- 2.3 ml x kg(-1) x min(-1) (mean+/-SEM, p < 0.01) in five overtrained experimental athletes. In the ETG, low-frequency power of R-R interval (RRI) variability during supine rest increased from 6 +/- 1 ms2 x 10(2) to 9 +/- 2 ms2 x 10(2) (p < 0.05). The 30/15 index (= RRI(max 30)/RRI(min 15), where RRI(max 30) denotes the longest RRI close to the 30th RRI and RRI(min 15) denotes the shortest RRI close to the 15th RRI after assuming upright position in the head-up tilt test), decreased as a result of training (analysis of variance, p = 0.05). In the ETG, changes in VO2max were related to the changes in total power of RRI variability during standing (r = 0.74, p < 0.05). Heart rate response to prolonged standing after head-up tilt was either accentuated or attenuated in the overtrained athletes as compared to the normal training state. We conclude that heavy training could increase cardiac sympathetic modulation during supine rest and attenuated biphasic baroreflex-mediated response appearing just after shifting to an upright position. Heavy-training-/overtraining-induced decrease in maximal aerobic power was related to decreased heart rate variability during standing. Physiological responses to overtraining were individual.