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Progress in sport

Created by Nandor Veres JR.

Before going into depth in the next few blogs about aerobic training, I would like to touch ever so briefly on a few very important concepts that every coach, athlete, social wellness person, parent and everyone else on the planet should be aware of, three fundamental concepts to training:


-General Adaptation Syndrome,

-Progressive Overload,



Although, so far, in my mind I would like this blog to be somewhat academic and technical (hence limited personal input such as opinions etc) this might however very well change as time goes on, since things people say might just rub me the wrong way, and consequently, a section just might find its way in this blog, with proper foundations highlighting why that someone said something real silly. Anyways, with that out of the way, there should not be a trainer or coach, that is not crystal clear on the three concepts I am about to briefly go over, surely the reader will soon understand why (if not already clear familiar).


1) General Adaptation Syndrome:

Shared by most non-extinct species on this planet, easy way to observe this phenomena would be to, look at a person exposed to the sun, he/she gets tan to avoid burning as easily in the future… Obvious, anyways, this concept was first formalized by Dr. Selye, who observed animal short term responses and long term adaptations to external stress.

In the case of training, exercise (any form of exercise) stimulus is the stress. Prior to training, assuming a healthy individual, would be in homeostasis (a more or less constant internal environment), upon completing the training, the system/individual would first be fatigued (that is an alarm phase), then the body would attempt to adapt to the stress, given enough time to recover, the system would adapt, and in expectation of more exercise, would super-compensate, that is in the case of training, achieve a slightly higher state of readiness to deal with more stress. If more stress is given within the “correct” window, the body will go through the same cycle mentioned above, and once again achieve a higher plateau than before. This is the process by which we get stronger, faster, smarter, more efficient etc etc.

There are two other alternatives to consider, first, if the system is exposed to more stress prior to super-compensation phase, that is while still in fatigue, or compensating, but not past initial level of homeostasis, then, fatigue would once again set in, and the system would get weaker (exhausted) eventually if the poor timing continues. The other alternative is if the body goes through the entire cycle, (fatigue, recovery, super-compensation), but additional stimulus is not provided, then there would be a return to pre-training homeostasis, hence no gains (just wasted time and money).

So the key to successful training is to ride this adaptation curve, catching the body at the top of the curve with ever increasing stimulus, not to early nor to late, timing is the key, and this is were the clever coach comes into play.


2) Progressive overload: is the key element to keep super-compensation moving along. Perhaps a famous, and great example is Milo, since I do not wish to google the story, ill just briefly outline it without dates and such. Anyway, Milo was a Greek fella, long long time ago, when a little boy, he had a calf, Milo would carry the creature on his back every day. As the calf crew, so did Milo and his strength, by the time, the boy became a man, the calf became a bull, and Milo the strongest man on the planet (we can question the accuracy of that of course, but the point stands). So, he got stronger, because he progressively lifted just slightly heavier animal every day, hence his body was able to slowly adapt to the increasing load. Milo might be fiction, or not, w/e the case, however the principle is real, and beyond question or doubt. Once again, the challenge is in finding the right load and knowing how to manage it over time, once again, this is were the competent coach comes in, as this understanding takes considerable knowledge in human anatomy, biology, physiology, exercise physiology, chemistry and training background, both practical and theoretical. Ill leave it at that.



3) Specificity, these concepts really sound self explanatory, yet are very rarely employed. Reason why should be obvious. So, to drive this point home, ill start with what this is, then a quick example.

Without getting to fancy, specificity says that you should train as close as possible, to the sport/activity you are training for. So, should a boxer use extra weighted boxing gloves? No, does anyone understand why? Should you hit tennis strokes with dumbbells or heavier racquet? NO!! why? Might sound counter-intuitive but it is not. Without going into training specifics, ill do that later, here is my example, this also illustrated perhaps why tennis is a complex sport, and will also tie into my initial blog topic, “aerobic training”.


The name of this game is metabolic specificity, so what that really is, is you train your metabolic pathways (how your body makes energy out of food stuff, mainly fats and carbs). There are three main metabolic pathways, with some different names:

a) ATP-PCr, anaerobic-alactic or phosphagen cycle,

b) Fast glycolytic, anaerobic-lactic or glycolytic (not so precise, but some books use it, perhaps ill explain at some point why, though the explanation requires understanding fast glycolysis, crebs cycle and electron transport chain, not likely if dear reader does not have proper science background)

c) Oxidative or aerobic.


So, clarification-->

a) is for quick bursts such as a punch, a 1-8 second sprint, a serve, a single squat etc,

b) couple of short sprints, ie one point played, 100m sprint, 20 reps on any given exercise (could be 10 reps slow or 30 fast, as long as the general window is clear), a spider or suicide run etc etc.

c) a longer run, ie 40min, or full duration of a match, oxidative system will kick in after 2-4minutes of continuous work (better trained individuals faster).

However, no single system works alone at any given time, perhaps sleeping at night is the closest we come to pure oxidative metabolism. Now to illustrate, if you stand up and hop on a treadmill, even though you are about to do a 40min slow jog, if not for system a) you would simple fall off the treadmill, because the oxidative system (or process) takes a while to kick in, as does b) Oooo.

So we need all three, and, all three can and need to be trained, it should be no surprise that the general adaptation syndrome, applies to our metabolic pathways as well.

Hence a properly trained tennis player, needs to specifically train the energy systems of the body, all non technical training should be done first in general form, then the obtained strength, speed, endurance converted to sport specifics. In the case of metabolic pathways, this would mean, short sprints and explosive movements for ATP-PCr, interval type training, strength endurance for FG and primarily aerobic running for oxidative, ohh and of course, progressive overload needs to apply to all of the above, hope that is not a surprise.


I will be revisiting these concepts quite a bit in the future, as they are key to proper educated training planning (call it programming and periodization yes there is a difference, also to be revisited in detail later on).


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