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The Basis for Training
by Tudor O. Bompa, PhD
Athletic performance has dramatically progressed over the past few years.
Performance levels unimaginable before are now commonplace, and the number of
athletes capable of outstanding results is increasing. Why such dramatic
improvements? There is no simple answer. One factor is that athletics is a
challenging field, and intense motivation has encouraged long, hard hours of
work. Also, coaching has become more sophisticated, partially from the
assistance of sport specialists and scientists. A broader base of knowledge
about athletes now exists, which is reflected in training methodology. Sport
sciences have progressed from descriptive to scientific.
Most scientific knowledge, whether from experience or research, aims to understand and improve the effects of exercise on the body. Exercise is now the focus of sport science. Research from several sciences enriches the theory and methodology of training, which has become a science of its own (figure 1.1). The athlete is the subject of the science of training. The athlete represents a vast source of information for the coach and sport scientist.
During training, the athlete reacts to various stimuli, some of which may be
predicted more certainly than others. Physiological, biochemical, psychological,
social, and methodological information is collected from the training process. All this diverse information comes from the athlete and is produced by the
training process. The coach, who builds the training process, may not always be
in a position to evaluate it. However, we must evaluate all the feedback from
the training process to understand the athlete's reactivity to the quality of
training and properly plan future programs. In light of this, it becomes clear
that coaches require scientific assistance to ensure that they base their
programs on objective evaluations.
Theory and methodology of training is a vast area. Closely observing the information available from each science will make coaches more proficient in their training endeavors. The principles of training are the foundation of this complex process. Knowing the training factors will clarify the role each factor plays in training, according to the characteristics of a sport or event.
Chapters 11-13, which cover the methodology of developing biomotor abilities (strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, and coordination), will help the coach select the optimal training method. The planning section shows how to train athletes to achieve maximum performance at the desired time. A training program must include regeneration and recovery between training lessons to ensure continuous improvement in the athlete's performance.
Scope of Training
Training is not a recent discovery. In ancient times, people systematically
trained for military and Olympic endeavors. Today athletes prepare themselves
for a goal through training. The physiological goal is to improve body function
and optimize athletic performance. The main scope of this training is to
increase athletes' work and skill capabilities and to develop strong
psychological traits. A coach leads, organizes, and plans training, and educates
the athlete. Many physiological, psychological, and sociological variables are
involved. Training is primarily a systematic athletic activity of long duration,
which is progressively and individually graded. Human physiological and
psychological functions are modeled to meet demanding tasks.
The aspiration toward high results in competitions should be closely linked with physical excellence. Individuals should strive toward harmoniously combining spiritual refinement, moral purity, and physical perfection. Physical perfection signifies multilateral, harmonious development. The athlete acquires fine and varied skills, cultivates high psychological qualities, and maintains extremely good health. The athlete learns to cope with highly stressful stimuli in training and competitions. Physical excellence should evolve through an organized and well-planned training program based on a high volume of practical experience.
Paramount to training endeavors for novices and professionals is an achievable goal, planned according to individual abilities, psychological traits, and social environment. Some athletes seek to win a competition or improve previous performance; others consider gaining a technical skill or further developing a biomotor ability as a goal. Whatever the objective, each goal needs to be as precise and measurable as possible. In any plan, short or long term, the athlete needs to set goals and determine procedures for achieving them before beginning training. The deadline for achieving the final goal is the date of a major competition.
Objectives of Training
To improve skill and performance, athletes, led by the coach, must meet the
training objectives. The general objectives presented in this chapter will be
useful for comprehending the concepts in this book.
Multilateral Physical Development
Athletes need multilateral physical development as a training base as well as overall physical fitness. The purpose is to increase endurance and strength, develop speed, improve flexibility, and refine coordination, thus achieving a harmoniously developed body. We expect athletes with a strong base and a good overall development to improve athletic performance faster and better than those without this foundation. In addition, such athletes will have a superior body form, which increases their self-esteem and reflects a strong personality.
Sport-Specific Physical Development
Sport-specific development improves absolute and relative strength, muscle mass and elasticity, specific strength (power or muscular endurance) according to the sport's requirements, movement and reaction time, and coordination and suppleness. This training creates the ability to perform all movements, especially those required by the sport, with ease and smoothness.
Technical training involves developing the capacity to perform all technical actions correctly; perfecting the required technique based on a rational and economical performance, with the highest possible velocity, high amplitude, and a demonstration of force; performing specific techniques under normal and unusual circumstances (e.g., weather); improving the technique of related sports; and ensuring the ability to perform all movements correctly.
Tactical factors include improving strategy by studying the tactics of future opponents, expanding the optimal tactics within athletes' capabilities, perfecting and varying strategies, and developing a strategy into a model considering future opponents.
Psychological preparation is also necessary to ensure enhanced physical performance. Psychological training improves discipline, perseverance, willpower, confidence, and courage.
In some sports (team sports, relays, rowing, cycling, etc.), team preparation is one of the coach's main objectives. The coach can accomplish this by establishing harmony in the team's physical, technical, and strategic preparation. The coach must establish such a concord for psychological preparation, meaning sound relationships, friendships, and common goals among teammates. Training competitions and social gatherings consolidate the team and enhance the feeling of belonging. The coach must encourage the team to act as a unit and should establish specific plans and roles for each athlete according to the needs of the team.
Strengthening each athlete's health is important. Proper health is maintained by periodic medical examinations, a proper correlation of training intensity with individual effort capacity, and alternating hard work with an appropriate regeneration phase. Following illness or injury, the athlete must begin training only when completely recovered, ensuring adequate progression.
Prevent injuries by following all safety precautions; increasing flexibility beyond the level required; strengthening muscles, tendons, and ligaments, especially during the initiation phase of a beginner; and developing muscle strength and elasticity to such a degree that when athletes perform unaccustomed movements accidents will be unlikely.
Training increases athletes' knowledge of the physiological and psychological basis of training, planning, nutrition, and regeneration. Coaches should discuss athlete-coach, athlete-opponent, and teammate relationships to help athletes work together to reach the set goals.
This summarizes some general training objectives that a coach may consider in developing a training program. Specific characteristics of most sports and of individuals performing them may require the coach to be selective or to establish additional training objectives. Pursue training objectives in a successive manner. The early program should develop the functional basis of training, then move toward achieving sport-specific goals. For instance, Ozolin (1971) suggests first developing general endurance followed by specific or anaerobic endurance. Another example is the Romanian gymnasts who commence each annual training program with a phase (approximately one month) of strength development before starting technique work. The sequential approach is also extensively used in long-term training programs.
Classification of Skills
Several attempts have been made to classify physical exercises. One criterion
was based on the idea that if a person looked good, then he or she was healthy
and strong. The founder of German gymnastics, Friederich Jahn, employed as a
criterion the equipment the athletes used (Eiselen 1845). Leshaft (1910) divided
all exercises into three groups. The first group included simple exercises
(calisthenics); the second group incorporated more complex exercises and exercises with progressive loading
(jumping, wrestling); and the third group was
complex exercises (games, skating, fencing).
Aside from classifying athletes into individual sports (track and field, gymnastics, boxing) and team sports (basketball, volleyball, rugby), a widely accepted classification uses biomotor abilities as a criterion. Biomotor abilities include strength, speed, endurance, and coordination (Grantin 1940). This classification is highly practical for coaches (Farfel 1960). Sport skills can be classified into three groups of exercises: cyclic, acyclic, and acyclic combined.
Cyclic skills are used in sports such as walking, running,
cross-country skiing, speed skating, swimming, rowing, cycling, kayaking, and
canoeing. The main characteristic of these sports is that the motor act involves
repetitive movements. Once athletes learn one cycle of the motor act, they can
duplicate it continually for long periods. Each cycle consists of distinct,
identical phases that are repeated in the same succession. For example, the four
phases of a rowing stroke, the catch, drive through the water, finish, and
recovery, are part of a whole. The athlete performs them in the same succession
during the cyclic motion of rowing. All cycles the athlete performs are linked;
the present one is preceded and will be followed by another one.
Acyclic skills show up in sports such as shot putting, discus throw, most gymnastics, team sports, wrestling, boxing, and fencing. These skills consist of integral functions performed in one action. For instance, the skill of discus throwing incorporates the preliminary swing, transition, turn, delivery, and reverse step, but the athlete performs them all in one action.
Acyclic combined skills consist of a cyclic movement followed by an acyclic movement. Sports such as all jumping events in track and field, figure skating, tumbling lines and vaulting in gymnastics, and diving use acyclic combined skills. Although all actions are linked, we can easily distinguish between the acyclic and cyclic movements. For instance, we can distinguish the acyclic movement of a high jumper or vaulter from the preceding cyclic approach of running.
The coach's comprehension of these skill classifications plays an important role in the selection of the appropriate teaching method. The whole (entire skill) method of teaching seems to be the most efficient for cyclic sports, because it is difficult to break down the respective skills of running, speed skating' or cross-country skiing. For acyclic skills, breaking down a skill and teaching the components separately (the parts method) results in quicker retention. For example, you can divide the hitch kick technique in the long jump into components (steps) until the athletes accomplish each part properly; then they can learn it as a whole.
Classification of Sports
Voluntary motor acts result from a complex ensemble of muscle contractions performed under dynamic or static conditions, and involve force, speed, endurance, coordination, and amplitude. Categorizing sports is based on training objectives and on physiological and skill similarities necessary to attain and ensure an adequate performance. With this in mind, Gandelsman and Smirnov (1970) divided all sports into seven groups:
Perfect the coordination and form of a skill.
Attain a superior speed in cyclic sports.
Perfect the strength and speed of a skill.
Perfect the skill performed in a contest with opponents.
Perfect the conduct of different means of travel.
Perfect the activity of the central nervous system (CNS) under stress and low physical involvement.
Develop the ability to perform in various events in combined sports.
The first group includes gymnastics, modern rhythmic gymnastics, figure skating,
and diving. Performance often depends on the perfection of coordination,
technical complexity of a skill, and artistic presentation, because points are
based on subjective judgment. Most skills are acyclic, although some are cyclic
(the approach in tumbling and vaulting in gymnastics, jumps in figure skating).
The acyclic structures of most skills are diverse, defining a variety of types
and intensities of training work, which leads to many adjustments in body
The second group includes sports such as running, walking, speed skating, rowing, cycling, canoeing, cross-country skiing, and swimming, in which superior velocity is the main objective. Another attribute is the cyclic manner in which the athletes perform the skill. The speed they develop for the competition distance of these sports depends on their perfection of the cyclic movements and their ability to overcome fatigue. Fatigue becomes more difficult for long-distance athletes, mainly because of the stress on the cardiorespiratory system.
Sports in the third classification relate to developing maximum force to improve performance. Athletes can develop force either through increasing the mass they use during an exercise and maintaining the rate of constant acceleration (weightlifting) or increasing the acceleration rate while maintaining constant mass (throwing and jumping events). The first case refers to developing strength and the second to developing power.
The fourth group includes all team sports and individual sports performed against opponents (boxing, wrestling, judo, fencing). Excellent sensory organ functioning and the capacity to perceive and act quickly under continually changing contest circumstances are required qualities. Decisions made in a complex game situation depend on the athlete's capacity to perceive external stimuli. The quickness and precision of interpretation can prevent opponents from performing a successful tactical maneuver or lead to a team's success.
The fifth group of sports incorporates activities such as horseback riding, sailing, motor sports, and waterskiing. This group is not researched as much, although some skills are beneficial for daily life. In some sports (sailing, motorcycling, etc.), the equipment quality influences the outcome of the competition; however, athletes must perfect the skills of handling the equipment. The development of these complex skills requires many hours of training. Processing information received by the central nervous system (CNS) through proprioceptors must be extremely fast, because athletes have to make quick decisions during a race. Good physical preparation with specific strength development according to the needs of the sport is important to athletes' success. Aside from strength and reaction time, balance and endurance are among the dominant biomotor abilities athletes need when competing in this group of sports.
Although the activities in the sixth group (shooting, archery, chess)
are well recognized sports, they are not physical exercises because the motor
component is low. As Gandelsman and Smirnov (1970) have suggested, however,
these sports reflect the main tendency of modern training, the CNS's increased
role of guiding the activity. During training and competition, the CNS is under
a great deal of stress. Though a competitor does not experience high physical
involvement, chess players and shooters participate in well-planned physical
exertion. Both sports require excellent endurance, allowing the competitors to
focus their concentration, patience, and psychological self-control during a
prolonged competition. Upper-body strength is beneficial for shooting so the
athlete can hold the weapon still, without deviating from the target.
Finally, combined sports incorporate many events (e.g., decathlon) or different sports such as the modern pentathlon (horseback riding, fencing, swimming, and cross-country running). Women's heptathlon, triathlon, and biathlon are also in this group. Physiological and psychological interpretations must be
made according to the specifics of each event in the combined sport, because most include activities from various sports and zones of intensities. The variety of events or sports that dictate the type of training to use is complex, resulting in all-around athletes.
The classification of sports Gandelsman and Smirnov (1970) proposed is schematic. It is, however, beneficial for the coach to have a good understanding of the attributes of all sports activities, because a sport included in one group may have some features characteristic of another group. Understanding the features and related characteristics of a sport may improve the coach's training endeavors, making possible a more effective outcome and a more varied training program. Table 1.1 summarizes sport classifications.
System of Training
A system is an organized or methodically arranged set of ideas, theories, or
speculations. A system should encompass accumulated experience as well as
pure and applied research findings in an organized whole. A system should not be imported, although it may be beneficial to first study other systems when developing one. Furthermore, in creating or developing a better system, you must consider a country's social and cultural background.
A sport system should include the physical education and sport organization of a nation, considering school programs, recreation and sport clubs, the organizational structure of sport governing bodies, and the systems of athletic training.
The organization of a nation's system should first define its goals, and, based on that, structure itself so that all echelons and units are linked in a solid and sequential setup (figure 1.2). The suggested system has a pyramid structure: at the base are the youngsters in physical education; the peak encompasses the high-performance unit, the nation's athletic ambassadors
A national sport system should consider the nation's values, traditions, climate, and sports emphasis, especially for young participants. Young people must develop the basic skills and abilities to benefit from physical instruction, as well as to perform appropriately in most sports. The latter refers to track and field, swimming, and gymnastics. The emphasis on track and field is to develop the basic skill required in most sports (running, jumping, and throwing). Swimming encourages appropriate development of the cardiorespiratO1:Y function and lifeguard abilities. Gymnastics improves balance and coordination. These three sports are part of children's general instruction in most European countries, especially Russia, Germany, and Romania.
Creating a training system for a sport may stem from the general knowledge in the theory and methodology of training, scientific findings, the experience of the nation's best coaches, and the approach used in other countries. The highlight of developing a training system should be creating a model for both short- and long-term training. All coaches should then apply the model. This approach does not exclude the possibility of individual expression. Each individual has a place within the system, and a coach may attempt to enrich the system through his or her talents. Furthermore, by using their abilities and skills, coaches should apply the system according to the club's specifics, the social and natural environments, and athletes' individual characteristics. Sport specialists and scientists occupy an important place in creating and evolving a training system. Their research, especially applied research, could enrich training know-how; improve methods of athlete evaluation, selection, peaking, and recovery and regeneration following training; and increase knowledge of how to cope with stress.
The quality of a training system depends on direct and supportive factors (figure 1.3). Although each link in the system has a role, the utmost importance lies with the direct factors, training and evaluation of training.
The direct result of a quality training system should be a high level of performance. Training quality does not depend on one factor, the coach. Instead, it depends on many factors, some not commanded by the coach, which could affect the athlete's performance (figure 1.4). Hence, all factors that affect the quality of training should be effectively used and constantly improved.
A high level of performance is the result of many years of well-planned,
methodical, and hard training. During this time, the athlete tries to adapt his
or her organs and functions to the specific requirements of the chosen sport.
The adaptation level is reflected by performance capabilities. The greater the
degree of adaptation, the better the performance.
Training adaptation is the sum of transformations brought about by systematically repeating exercise. These structural and physiological changes result from a specific demand that athletes place on their bodies by the activity they pursue, depending on the volume, intensity, and frequency of training. Physical training is beneficial only as long as it forces the body to adapt to the stress of the effort. If the stress is not a sufficient challenge, then no adaptation occurs. On the other hand, if a stress is intolerable, then injury or overtraining may result.
The time required for a high degree of adaptation depends on the skill complexity and the physiological and psychological difficulty of the event or sport. The more complex and difficult the sport, the longer the training time required for neuromuscular and functional adaptation.
A systematic and organized training program induces several alterations. Although researchers observed the most organic and functional changes in endurance athletes (Astrand and Rodahl 1970; Mathews and Fox 1976), most athletes experience neuromuscular, cardiorespiratory, and biochemical modifications. Psychological improvements also result from physical exercise.
Research in anatomical adaptation has shown that material (bone composition) strength decreases with high-intensity exercise. Also, mechanical properties of bones do not strictly depend on chronological age but on the mechanical demands of the athlete. Low-intensity training at an early age may, therefore, stimulate long bone length and circumference increases. High intensity, on the other hand, may inhibit bone growth (Matsuda et al.1986).
Researchers also believe that bone adaptation to exercise is a function of age. Immature bones are more sensitive to cycle load changes than mature bones. Strength training at a young age accelerates the maturation process, causing permanent suppression of bone growth (Matsuda et al.1986). The purpose of training, therefore, is to stress the body so that it responds in adaptation and not aggravation.
Athletes performing strength and power training at near or maximal voluntary contraction increase the cross-sectional area of muscle fibers (hypertrophy). The growth of a muscle and its weight are due largely to hypertrophy, occasionally muscle fiber splitting (hyperplasia), and the increase of protein content.
Researchers often link high performance in power or speed events with genetics and the dominant muscle fiber type. Simoneau et al. (1985) suggests, however, that fiber type composition is not determined solely by genetics. Researchers have observed conflicting results within transfer from fast-twitch to slow-twitch muscle fiber type. Some results verify that when the stimulus is appropriate, the potential to convert one fiber type to another does exist. Therefore, adaptation to fiber type areas could depend on the nature and duration of the training program as well as the pre-training status of the athlete. Thus, it is not solely a genetic factor.
We do not fully understand enhancements of explosive power performance and the corresponding biological adaptation of a specific training stimulus. Gravity normally provides most of the mechanical stimulus responsible for developing muscle structure during everyday life and training. It is reasonable to assume, therefore, that high-gravity conditions could influence the muscle mechanics of even well-trained athletes. Researchers report improvements as a result of fast adaptation to the simulated high-gravity field. They suggest that adaptation has occurred both in neuromuscular functions and in metabolic processes (Bosco et al. 1984).
Performance improvements are also due to changes in the neuromuscular system. During sustained maximal or submaximal activities, the average firing rate of a motor unit increases over time. This neuromuscular strategy can increase the length of time the athlete holds the contraction. During submaximal prolonged activity, as contractile failure develops in active motor units, new units maintain force output. During sustained, maximal voluntary contraction, however, units with the highest initial frequencies showed the most rapid rate of decrease.
High-speed and short-duration activity are responsible for small adaptive changes in enzymes (protein products that induce chemical reactions) and increases in creatine phosphate (CP). The more intensive an activity, the higher its enzyme action, as with oxidative glycolytic metabolism. The greater the hypertrophy, the higher the oxidative enzyme activities. Aerobic exercise is ineffective in changing the glycolytic processes; therefore, the longer an athlete participates in training, the more hypertrophied are his or her slow-twitch muscle fibers (Sale 1989).
Endurance training at a prolonged and moderate intensity improves aerobic capacity, mainly through levels of myoglobin (an oxygen binding pigment that stores and diffuses oxygen), mitochondrial enzymes (both in size and number), glycogen stores, and a greater oxidative capacity. Prominent adaptations to prolonged activity are enhanced respiratory capacity and respiratory rates, increased oxygen transport, augmented cardiac output, and structural changes in the volume density of muscle mitochondria. Thus, the increase in maximum oxygen consumption demonstrates enhanced aerobic capacity for prolonged exercises and increases enzyme activity in working muscles. A major benefit of increased enzyme levels is the oxidation of fatty acids, which improves the organism's ability to use fat as an energy source. Researchers believe that increases in muscle mitochondria and myoglobin account for approximately 50% of the increase in maximal oxygen consumption. The other 50% is probably accounted for by better oxygen transport through the cardiovascular system (de Vries 1980). The dominant aerobic training also increases the anaerobic capacity by a considerable margin (Gollnick et al. 1973b).
FROM: PERIODIZATION - Theory and Methodology of Training