Training Load: Finding the Sweet Spot

Sep 09, 2016

Athletes strive to improve their performance. This means they need to have the right amount of training load. Adjustments in training load are needed, particularly in frequency, duration and intensity. At various times, training loads are adjusted to increase or decrease fatigue depending on the phase of training. However, there are chances of getting injuries if you train at too high or too low loads. Therefore, it’s essential to find the right levels to achieve better fitness and performance.

What is Training Load?

Training load refers to the cumulative amount of stress placed on an individual from a single workout or over a period of time. It is based on intensity and duration. To determine the intensity, heart rate is measured and the calculation is further affected by your personal information such as age, sex, weight, maximum oxygen consumption rate and training history.

Training on Right Levels

Train at low loads and you’ll get high injury risk. Train at very high loads and you’ll also get high injury risk. Therefore you have to find that “sweet spot” where you can still train at optimal loads so you can increase your fitness and performance yet keeping risk of injuries at minimum.

It’s important for athletes to train at safe but demanding levels. Consistent training on high loads will help develop resistance to soft tissues injuries. Training programs should target chronic high workloads.

However the fact still remains that the higher an athlete’s training load, the higher the risk of overtraining and risk of injury. With many athletes exposed to high training loads and high training competition stress, it’s necessary to manage risks associated with possible injuries and to maintain optimal overall health and well-being of an athlete.

Low load training is far less efficient and less effective. In spite of numerous studies showing the link between training load and injuries, there is emerging evidence suggesting that insufficient training may lead to higher risk of injuries. In a paper written by Tim Gabbett entitled, “Injury Prevention and Performance Enhancement in Team Sports: Train Smarter and Harder”, it showed that team sport athletes who perform less than 18 weeks of pre-season training prior to sustaining an initial injury are at higher risk of sustaining later injury.

Consistent yet Safe High Load

So how should an athlete get to that consistent high load without being placed at greater risk of injury? Through acute:chronic workload ratio. Let’s say if your acute workload (ex. hours of training per week) is much higher than your chronic workload (ex. hours of training over the average of the last 4 weeks), this means you have higher injury risk.

For instance, in rugby players, the magic ratio number was 1.5 (i.e. acute load is 1.5 times higher than chronic load). A spike in training one week higher than the 1.5 workload ratio increases players at risk of injury.

Balancing your training load is the key. It takes sensible training structure to reduce injury risk.

You can rely on our physiotherapists to achieve your athletic goals with planned, gradual progression and individualised strength and conditioning, all of which are a powerful contribution to reduce injury risk while improving your fitness and performance.
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