From Risk to Resilience: Training Principles for Athletes

Any athlete out there knows they have to train in order to improve their performance. However, not everybody knows how much, how fast or how soon to progress their training program. In Tim Gabbett’s article, How much? How fast? How soon? Three simple concepts for progressing training loads to minimize injury risk and enhance performance, he addresses an athlete’s concerns about peak performance. He explains a key principle to training by saying, “Load must exceed capacity to improve performance,” where capacity refers to the strength and endurance and the load is the amount of training. In other words this is the overload principle, but how you overload is tricky. Graduation progression that slowly challenges the capacity is always recommended over the load that greatly exceeds one’s capacity at once. Too much load at once can cause tissue tearing and potential injuries. It is important to find the balance between the two when developing an adequate training programs. While too little training may result in under preparedness, too much may result in injury.

There are three main concepts that are crucial for any rehabilitation or training program: the floor, the ceiling and time. The floor represents the athlete’s current ability, the ceiling represents the capacity needed to perform the specific activities of the sport and the time is the time an athlete will require to safely progress from floor to ceiling.

Out of the three concepts, the most important and the one that determines preparedness and risk of injury is time. This concept explains why preseason is a very important part of every sport. All athletes are required to perform at certain level for their sport, but not every athlete is committed to their sport during the offseason. Without proper maintenance during the offseason, an athlete may be prone to deconditioning. This concept sometimes puts athletes below the floor and on the “basement” level, making it harder to achieve their potentials and training requirements in a timely manner. According to this article, if an athlete is starting the season from “the basement” level due to either deconditioning or an injury, it is much more important to take the time and bring that athlete to their actual ceiling level than it is to cut the time and lower the ceiling.

Considering the concepts of the floor, ceiling and time, there are at least 5 ways rehab and performance staff can minimize the risk of injury and give athletes the best chance of achieving their performance goals:

  1. Maintain an adequate training load during the offseason and while injured, potentially raising the floor level when returning to competition.
  2. Identify the ceiling and ensure that the athlete is training for the sport and level they are participating in.
  3. Asses individual differences in training tolerance among athletes. Even though athletes may be training for the same sport, not everyone is on the same level and it is important that their training programs are individualized.
  4. Identify and prepare for the most demanding passages of play. This means the athleteshould prepare and train for the worst-case scenario.
  5. Training programs require an understanding of the (1) physical demands of the sport, (2) physical capacities required to perform these activities and (3) factors that limit performance on an individual basis. Progressive, gradual, and systemic increases in training load allow athletes to safely progress to the ceiling, reduce injury risk, improve availability and enhance performance. The coach, athletic trainer, physical therapist and strength and conditioning coach, should all be aware of these concepts in order to provide best preparedness and injury recovery or prevention for all athletes.

Bottom line, every athlete should partake in a training regimen that is individualized to their abilities and their sport in an appropriate timely manner in order to best prevent any injuries.

If you want to learn more about training to minimize risk of injury and improve performance, give us a call today! With Direct Access in NJ we can get you in for an evaluation without you having to see your Doctor, probably quicker than you could even get that appointment, while also saving you both time and money!  

Please, call us to schedule you evaluation at one of BeneFIT’s locations, Bridgewater (908.203.5200) or Chester (908.879.5700)  with one of our highly trained Doctors of Physical Therapy!