by Thomas Kurz
In the previous article I wrote about individualization and accessibility of training. Closely connected with these two is another principle of training, that of gradual increase of loads. Effective training requires observing and understanding each athlete’s individual responses (adaptation or a lack of it) to all training loads, and then, if all is well, increasing the loads at grades that make the new loads accessible for a given athlete.
The degree of changes an athlete’s body undergoes as a result of exercises depends on the volume and intensity of the work done. If the loads do not exceed the limits of the body’s adaptability at a given stage of training, then there is a direct relation between the loads and the adaptation. The adaptations may involve morphological (structural), physiological (functional), and psychological (learning) changes. The greater the volume of the loads, the stronger and more lasting are the adaptations. The more intensive the loads, the more powerful are the processes of recovery and greater are the supercompensation phases following the workouts, but the adaptations are less stable.
To adapt to stressing stimuli, the athlete needs time—time to rest, to rebuild his or her structures and resources, and in the case of learning, to digest the information.
If the external training load remains the same, the performance resulting from using this load will initially improve, then plateau, and then gradually get worse. The effect of the standard load gradually diminishes as the body gets used to it. As the athlete adapts to the load, he or she handles the load more and more efficiently, with less energy expenditure. This puts less of a demand on the systems of the body so the functional changes in these systems diminish.
As long as the athlete needs to improve his or her performance, the volume and the intensity of training have to gradually increase. This has to be a long-term trend. In certain periods or phases of training the loads can be decreased, but this is usually only temporary. This principle also applies to developing skills. The exercises for developing skills, and in certain cases the skills themselves, have to be changed to more difficult ones as the athlete progresses.
The pace at which the training loads are increased must be correlated to the pace at which the body adapts. The body adapts itself to each new load with a certain delay. The delay depends on the volume and intensity of the load, and on the individual’s ability to adapt to the load. This ability depends on age and other factors, such as fitness and temperament. An abrupt increase of the training loads may surpass the athlete’s ability to adapt. The resulting loss of physiological, and especially psychological balance, may lead to overtraining or injuries (Bompa 1983).
In the next article I will write about the three methods of gradually increasing loads.
References are listed in Science of Sports Training (Kurz 2001).
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