By Tim Gabbett and the Gabbett Performance Solutions team
Load Management is About Creating High-Performing Athletes
There is a growing body of evidence that high chronic loads are associated with lower injury risk (1). Consequently, medical and performance staff from sporting teams have changed the way they view load monitoring data. No longer is it simply used to “keep athletes injury-free”, but now, practitioners are using this information to build “robustness” and “resilience” in their athletes. If the knowledge around the benefits of training load is increasing, is it possible for performance and medical staff to one day develop an “unbreakable” athlete?
In a recent British Journal of Sports Medicine paper, researchers and practitioners from Australia, Europe, South America, North America, and the United Kingdom joined forces to address this question. In the paper we provided a framework whereby sports medicine professionals (i.e. strength and conditioning coaches, sport scientists, and physiotherapists) can work together to solve the problem (2).
Pedal to the Metal, or Slam on the Brakes! Increasing Capacity Involves More than Increasing Load
Verhagen and Gabbett (3) recently described the relationship among load, load capacity, health, and performance (Figure 1). Positive training adaptations occur when load is gradually and systematically increased above an athlete’s current load capacity. This would suggest that in order to increase load tolerance, all one has to do is safely progress load above current capacity. But not so fast! Load capacity is also influenced by factors associated with health (e.g. mood, stress, sleep quality, etc). So, the load that can be tolerated today, may not be tolerable tomorrow (3). This suggests that in order to safely progress load, practitioners must also consider an athlete’s health. When building load capacity, before we put our pedal to the metal (or sensibly progress load), we may need to gently put on the brakes (on occasions regress load)!