Provided below is a guest-blog article by Faolan Dunphy. I have had the pleasure of sharing conversations with Faolan on some of the parallels between working with high-performance athletes and general population clients. In this article, he identifies these commonalities, and we find that the principles don’t really change. The application of the principles may vary slightly from athlete-to-athlete, but the magic occurs when coaches make the right choices in the moment to optimize training and performance. Enjoy!
Derek M. Hansen
Faolan C. Dunphy
BKin, CSCS, NCCP, SFL
I have worked for over 20 years in the physical preparation and personal fitness industry, with several of those years dedicated to teaching, and all of them dedicated to science-based learning. It strikes me as odd that there are fundamental training principles taught to everyone that are apparently either disregarded or forgotten in the day-to-day practice with both general population clientele and athletes. It has come to such a ridiculous point that one of my athletes said to me recently, “I had no idea that there was any education necessary for training people. I don’t see any logic or consistency when I look around at what other people are doing.”
Physical training principles are meant to govern the decision-making order when working with varied populations to ensure that relevant physical qualities, capacities, skills and adaptations are being developed as needed.
Keep in mind that training can be interpreted as an art rooted in science. The methods used and how to manipulate them is dependent on the individual/team’s situation and the knowledge, skills, tools and abilities of any particular coach/trainer in implementing them and is unique in every interaction.
I have outlined brief definitions of these individual principles, as well as some simple questions that could be asked as to how the principles may be integrated into programming for the greater daily and long-term success of the client. As I prefer to assess each circumstance individually, I will not answer these questions with sweeping generalizations for fear that someone will take the advice too literally and administer a poor interpretation to the detriment of the client.
The methods chosen to train an individual must match the individual’s goals.
A client wants to compete in a running based sport. In order for them to be successful, they need to run for a significant portion of their training. This should be obvious, but the next parts might not be obvious to some. How fast do they want or need to run? What distances at what speeds and what intervals? What is the terrain like? How do you go about meshing all the qualities? In this case speed/endurance, as well as cadence/tempo/stride, together? Are they strong enough to train for the sport/event? Are they strong enough to endure the event at a speed that meets their goal? Hence, the specificity of your decision-making will determine, in large part, the success of the client’s training program.
As an individual is trained, they will adapt to the methods applied.
An individual that swims will become a better swimmer. An individual that runs fast will become a better runner at that given speed, with sufficient and correct practice. An individual exposed to a higher altitude will become more comfortable at that altitude over time. What kind of adaptation does the individual need? What needs to be done to ensure that the adaptations occur in the desired timeline, and are appropriate for the goals in mind? Adaptivity not only requires specificity, but also progressively greater training loads to elicit positive adaptations to training.
The methods used to train an individual must be sufficient to create more stress than the individual is currently capable of handling.
In order to achieve higher levels of a particular physical capacity, the limits of that capacity must be exceeded. In what manner can this be accomplished?
How much overload? When? What to overload? Motor skill? Load? Volume? Velocity? A progression of work must be outlined to ensure overload creates positive adaptations.
The methods used to train an individual must follow a progression. In order for an individual to achieve greater success, the methods used must increase in an orderly, cumulative fashion.
What rate of progression is required to elicit safe and positive adaptations? Is regression of one or more aspects required in order to see progress in others? Must a progression be linear, or will it follow a non-linear path?
The results achieved by training will diminish if training is not maintained in a sufficient manner.
What happens if the training is backed off? Is there an event or season that needs to be tapered for? What qualities are absolutely necessary to keep and which ones can be done without, or with less of? Can the capacities trained for be maintained, and for how long?
Transferability is the ability of the training effect from one modality to carry over to another with a reasonable correlation.
Does strength translate to power or speed? Does endurance translate to speed or strength? Does strength or power translate to endurance? What modalities can be used to reduce, if necessary, the volume of specific training without detriment to the outcome? Less can often be more.
Recuperation intervals must match the training intensity and duration in order to either replicate or produce a greater result.
Adaptation occurs during recovery but is caused by overload and progression. Nutrition, sleep, rest, de-stress, para/sympathetic stimulus (dependent on the sport), leisure etc. How much? When? How often? What will lead to the most effective return to a subsequent training cycle and the most progress?
In training, the unique needs of the individual, or individual situation must be taken into account.
In my opinion, this by far the single most important principle required for a successful training process. Too often coaches and trainers learn systems to slot their clients/athletes into, and forget that no one system can address the whole uniqueness of an individual, or situation. What is the individual’s training/sport experience? Medical history? Personality? Ability? Capacity for managing various stimuli? A refusal to acknowledge the importance of individuality will always be met with less than optimal results.
All of these principles can be manipulated in a variety of ways. I consider this to be the final principle of creativity. Unfortunately, it seems that far too often this principle predominates all others in an attempt to satisfy our desire for something shiny and new, or a magic bullet that somehow will relieve the necessity for adhering to “boring old principles” – as I once overheard in a conversation.
I have found that the best way to precisely achieve results takes time and practice with a strong basis in scientific literature and scientific method and also a keen eye for observation. Hence, it becomes a process of changing one variable at a time and then observing the impacts of each of those changes.
“There is nothing new under the sun” they say. Personally, I’m hard pressed to believe that this is in any way, or even entirely, incorrect. However, it seems that it’s more a case of small new discoveries and explanations for things that are already inherently known. More often than not, new discoveries don’t change what is known all that dramatically. Paradigm shifts are rare, but it seems that they are being bought into with “One old/weird/new trick” as the internet scammers and profiteers would claim.
Stick to the basics, do them well and then get creative. Leave some of the tools in the toolbox sometimes. A jackhammer is not needed to paint a house and a paintbrush is useless to demolish concrete.
In my next article, I’ll review what I consider to be a simplified version of the training hierarchy based on physical performance qualities, which can be applied to both athletic and general populations.