The principles of training
Adaptation is the process of adjusting to a physical or environmental or psychological stress or stimulus. Selye (1956) described a theoretical model summarising this adaptation process. His theory is based on the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). According to this, stress causes a temporary reduction in performance or function which is followed by an adaptation that improves the body’s performance or function. This improved response is often called the ‘supercompensation’ theory of training.
Figure 13: Training results in fatigue. Following the fatigue phase, a period of recovery and then supercompensation follows. If training does not occur, then a return to baseline fitness follows (adapted from Selye, 1956).
Consider the fatigue-recovery response to a training unit as outlined in Figure 13. When the player completes a strength training unit, the immediate response following the unit is fatigue. The player cannot display the same pre-training strength levels in this fatigue period. In addition, the muscles trained may be low in fuel (glycogen) and may also be needing tissue repair as a result of the damage that normally occurs when training. After a period of time, recovery of muscle fuel stores will take place. During this recovery period, repair of damaged tissue also takes place and, if all goes well, the player’s strength levels will increase above their previous baseline at a later stage. This is then what we call the supercompensation phase of training.
The theory further suggests that if the player’s muscular system does not receive another stimulus (a training unit) within this supercompensation window, then their strength levels will re-adjust to the former baseline level of strength. Thus, according to this theoretical model, the principle of adaptation is best achieved by allowing a sufficient period of recovery to ensure that the player will be ready to train and benefit from the next training unit. The period of recovery will vary between players and will vary depending on the workload already completed (McLester et al, 2008, Hennessy, 2011).