The Overload Principle for Sports Fitness and Skills
The Overload Principle is a basic sports fitness training concept. It means that in order to improve, athletes must continually work harder as they their bodies adjust to existing workouts. Overloading also plays a role in skill learning.
Overloading taps the body's mechanisms that bring about the desired changes that go hand-in-hand with specificity. Improving cardiovascular fitness involves sustaining submaximal activities for extended periods of time. Increasing strength requires lifting progressively heavier weight loads. The principle applies to duration and volume of training, as well.
For example, if a tennis player's goal is to improve upper body strength, he would continue to increase training weight loads until his goal was achieved.
If the training load was not increased to push him to higher levels of strength, he would show little improvement. To improve his game, increased upper body strength must be coordinated into the execution of game skills.
Overload and Sport Skill Learning
Sport skills are learned through a variety of techniques and concepts. It is the quality of practice that counts, rather than quantity and intensity.
Learning movements correctly the first time is ideal. But when learned skills require substantial corrections, overlearning helps.
Overlearning means repeatedly practicing a skill beyond what is required to perform it. Simply, it is a method of overloading learning where quality and quantity are used to overcome errors. Normally, skills are best learned when fatigue does not affect the athlete's ability to correctly pattern movements.
Tips on Applying the Overload Principle
The following advice is commonly accepted and practiced:
1. Increase loads gradually and progressively. Training loads should become more intense over a period of time, not increased too abruptly or with too much intensity.
2. Test maximums. Through testing, even if the test comes in the form of competition, training loads usually vary between 60-85% of maximum efforts.
3. Avoid muscular failure. It is not necessary to train until muscles fail or the athlete collapses.
4. Allow ample recovery time. Too little recovery over time can cause an overtraining effect. Too much recovery time can cause a detraining effect.
5. Plan and monitor training loads. Design long-range, periodized training programs, test athletes, and evaluate their progress to guide training decisions about overload.
6. Track team and individual progress. Identify general areas where there are common deficits compared to other fitness components and skill qualities. If athletes "run out of gas", for example, training can be overloaded to improve skilled performances when fatigued.
7. Alternate activities. Organize workouts to allow recovery on some aspects of training while increasing intensity on others. Use periodized planning to link into weekly and daily activities.
8. Coordinate all training activities and schedules. Fitness training loads should be adjusted for technical and tactical activities, travel, competitions, and other factors that could influence how overloading should occur.
9. Focus on skill work first. Practice skills that require greater coordination prior to intense fitness training if both are performed in the same workout session. For example, complete Olympic lifting before weight training activities of lesser complexity.
The Overload Principle must work in concert with other Sports Training Principles:
The Balance Principle
The Individualization Principle
The Transfer Principle
The Specificity Principle
The Recovery Principle
The Reversibility Principle
The Variation Principle
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