Entries in Training (3)

Thursday
Aug112011

Training for intense exercise performance: high-intensity or high-volume training?

By: Paul B. Laursen
From: Team Danmark
Article Link: High-intensity and high volume training


Abstract

Performance in intense exercise events, such as Olympic rowing, kayak, track running and track cycling events, involves a mix of energy system contributions from aerobic and anaerobic sources. Aerobic energy supply however dominates the total energy requirements of these events after ~75 s of near maximal effort. As the aerobic energy system has the greatest potential for improvement with training, and intense exercise events generally persist for longer than 75 s, training methods for these events are generally aimed at increasing aerobic metabolic capacity. A short-term period (2-4 wk) of high-intensity interval training (HIT; consisting of repeated exercise bouts ranging in intensity from 80-175% of peak power) can elicit increases in intense exercise performance of 2-4% in well trained athletes. While the influence of high volume training (HVT) is less discussed, its importance should not be downplayed, as it may develop the aerobic base needed to support recovery and adaptation from HIT by promoting autonomic balance and athlete health. Indeed, when HIT is performed without a background of HVT, performance can be maintained, but is generally not improved. While the aerobic metabolic adaptations that occur with HVT and HIT are similar, the molecular events that signal for these adaptations may be different. The high levels of intramuscular calcium associated with HVT may signal for metabolic adaptations that improve muscle efficiency through the calcium-calmodulin pathway, while the brief low energy state created with HIT may elicit its effects through the adenosine monophosphate kinase pathway. These distinct molecular signaling pathways, which have similar downstream targets (i.e., mitochondrial biogenesis), may help to explain the potent effect that combined HVT and HIT has on aerobic energy system upregulation and intense exercise performance.

Introduction

Both high-intensity (short duration) training and low intensity (long duration) high volume training are important components of training programs for athletes who compete successfully in intense exercise events. In the context of this review, an intense exercise event is considered to be one lasting between 1 to 8 min, where there is a mix of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-derived energy from both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Examples of such intense exercise events include individual sports such as Olympic rowing, kayak and canoe events, running events up to 3000 m, and track cycling events.

Exercise training, in a variety of forms, is known to improve the energy status of working muscle, subsequently resulting in the ability to maintain higher muscle force outputs for longer periods of time. While both high volume and high-intensity training are important components of an athlete’s training program, it is still unclear how to best manipulate these components in order to achieve optimal intense exercise performance in well trained athletes. While a short-term period of high-intensity training is known to improve performance in these athletes (Laursen & Jenkins 2002), it is also clear that high training volumes are of equal importance (Fiskerstrand & Seiler 2004). More recent work by exercise scientists is revealing how the combination of these distinctly different forms of training may work to optimize development of the aerobic muscle phenotype and enhance intense exercise performance.

The purpose of this discourse is to i) review the energy system contribution to intense exercise performance, ii) examine the effect of high-intensity training and high volume training on performance and physiological factors, iii) assess some of the molecular events that have been implicated in signaling for these important metabolic adaptations and iv) make recommendations, based on this information, for the structuring of training programs to improve intense exercise performance. 

Energy system contribution to intense exercise performance – what is it we are trying to enhance?

Intense exercise events involve a near maximal energy supply for a sustained period of time. These near-maximal efforts require a mix of anaerobic and aerobic energy provision. To illustrate this, Duffield et al. (2004; 2005a; 2005b) examined the aerobic and anaerobic energy system contributions to 100, 200, 400, 800, 1500 and 3000 m track running in well trained runners. The data from the male runners in these studies are plotted in Figure 1, revealing that the energy contribution to an intense exercise event arises from a mix of aerobic and anaerobic sources. The crossover point, where aerobic and anaerobic energy contributes equally, occurs approximately at 600 m of near maximal running. This compares well with an earlier crossover estimate made by Gastin (2001) of about 75 s of near-maximal exercise. Thus, for an intense exercise event that lasts beyond 75 s, total energy output is mostly aerobically driven. This is a convenient situation for the exercise conditioner, because the aerobic energy system appears to be a more malleable system to adjust. Indeed, both high-intensity and high-volume training can elicit improvements in aerobic power and capacity.

Effect of training on physiological variables and intense exercise performance

The purpose of exercise training is to alter physiological systems in such a way that physical work capacity is enhanced through improved homeostasis preservation during subsequent exercise sessions. Manipulation of the intensity and duration of work and rest intervals changes the relative demands on particular metabolic pathways within muscle cells, as well as oxygen delivery to muscle. In response, changes occur in both central and peripheral metabolic systems, including improved cardiovascular dynamics (Buchheit et al. 2009), neural recruitment patterns (Enoka & Duchateau 2008), muscle bioenergetics (Hawley 2002), as well as enhanced morphological (Zierath & Hawley 2004), metabolic-substrate (Hawley 2002) and skeletal muscle acid-base status (Hawley & Stepto 2001). The rate at which these adaptations occur is variable (Vollaard et al. 2009), but appears to depend on the volume, intensity and frequency of the training. Importantly, development of the physiological capacities witnessed in elite athletes do not occur quickly, and may take many years of high training loads before peak levels are reached.

Training can be structured in an infinite number of ways, but in general, coaches tend to prescribe periods of prolonged submaximal or shorter high-intensity exercise sessions. Submaximal endurance training performed for long durations, involves predominantly slow twitch motor unit recruitment, while higher intensity training (usually completed as high-intensity interval training) will recruit additional fast twitch motor units for relatively short durations. Both forms of training are important for enhancing the aforementioned physiological systems and intense exercise performance, but the degree and rate at which these variables change in the short term appears to be affected more acutely by high-intensity training (Londeree 1997). 

Performance and physiological effects of additional training intensity

The marked influence of high-intensity training on performance and physiological factors is well known (Laursen & Jenkins 2002), but an athlete’s ability to perform this type of training may be limited. One successful method of performing higher volumes of high-intensity training is termed high-intensity interval training. High-intensity interval training is defined as repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise (i.e., from lactate threshold to ‘all-out’ supramaximal exercise intensities), interspersed with recovery periods of low intensity exercise or complete rest.

In already well trained athletes, the effect of supplementing high-intensity training on top of an already high training volume appears to be extremely effective. In well trained cyclists, high-intensity interval training, completed at a variety of intensities (i.e., 80 – 150% VO2max power output) for two to four weeks, has been shown to have a significant influence (i.e., 2-4%) on measures of intense exercise performance (i.e., time-to-fatigue at 150% of peak power output), peak power output, and 40-km time trial performance (Lindsay et al. 1996; Stepto et al. 1998; Westgarth-Taylor et al. 1997; Weston et al. 1997). In well trained middle distance runners, Smith and colleagues (1999; 2003) found improvements in 3000 m running performance when runners performed high-intensity interval training (8 x ~2-3 min at VO2max running speed, 2:1 work to rest ratio) twice a week for four weeks. In a retrospective study performed on elite swimmers Mujika et al. (1995) found that mean training intensity over a season was the key factor explaining performance improvements (r = 0.69, p < 0.01), but not training volume or frequency. Clearly, a short-term period of high-intensity interval training supplemented into the already high training volumes of well trained athletes can elicit improvements in both intense and prolonged exercise performance (Laursen & Jenkins 2002).

While the potent influence that a short-term dose of high-intensity interval training has on intense and prolonged endurance performance is well known, the mechanisms responsible for these performance changes with well trained individuals are not clear. For example, Weston et al. (1997) had six highly trained cyclists perform six high-intensity interval training sessions (8 x 5 min at 80% peak power output, 60s recovery) over three weeks, and showed significant improvements in intense exercise performance (time to fatigue at 150% peak power output) and 40 km time trial performance, without changes in skeletal muscle glycolytic or oxidative enzyme activities.   Thus, despite the likely high rates of carbohydrate oxidation (340 µmol.kg-1.min-1) required by these efforts (Stepto et al. 2001), this acute perturbation in energy status of working muscle did not appear to increase metabolic enzyme function in the skeletal muscle of these six cyclists (Weston et al. 1997), as would be predicted based on findings made in less trained subjects (Gibala & McGee 2008). Instead, an increase in skeletal muscle buffering capacity was reported (Weston et al. 1997). Other physiological factors that have been shown to increase in parallel with improvements in performance following the addition of high-intensity interval training to the already high training volume of the well trained athlete include improvements in the ventilatory threshold (Acevedo & Goldfarb 1989; Hoogeveen 2000), an increased ability to engage a greater volume of muscle mass (Creer et al. 2004; Lucia et al. 2000) and an increased ability to oxidize fat relative to carbohydrate (Westgarth-Taylor et al. 1997; Yeo et al. 2008).

In a recent study, Iaia et al. (2008; 2009) asked runners who were training 45km/wk to lower their training volume to only 15 km/wk for 4 weeks, and instead perform sprint training (8-12 x 30s sprints; 3-5 times/wk). After this distinct change in training, runners in the sprint training groups had maintained their 10 km run performance, VO2max, skeletal muscle oxidative enzyme activities and capillarisation compared with the 45km/wk control group (Iaia et al. 2009). However, 30-s sprint (+7%), Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test (+19%) and supramaximal running (+19-27%) performances had increased in the sprint training group (Iaia et al. 2008). This study indicates that low volume high-intensity interval training can maintain an athlete’s endurance performance and muscle oxidative potential (Iaia et al. 2009), and additionally increase intense exercise performance (Iaia et al. 2008).

High-intensity interval training has also been shown to be effective at enhancing various aspects of team sport performance. For example, Helgerud et al. (2001) showed that 8 weeks of high-intensity interval training (4 x 4 min @ 95% HRmax, 3 min recovery jog, twice per week) enhanced distance covered during a match (20%), number of sprints (100%), number of ball involvements (24%) and average work intensity during a match. More recently, Bravo et al. (2008) showed that 7 weeks of repeated sprint run training (3 x 6 maximal shuttle sprints of 40 m) was more effective at enhancing Yo-Yo intermittent recovery test performance and repeated sprint ability compared with traditional interval training (4 x 4 min running at 90-95% HRmax).

Finally, when high-intensity training can be woven into training programs using ball-specific drills or small-sided games, markers of intense exercise performance can also be enhanced, with the added benefit of simultaneously receiving skill-based training (Impellizzeri et al., 2006; Buchheit et al., 2009).

In summary, it is clear that when a period of high-intensity interval training is supplemented into the already high training volumes of well trained endurance athletes, further enhancements in both intense and prolonged endurance performance are possible. As well, lower volume high-intensity interval training can maintain endurance performance ability in already well trained endurance athletes. High-intensity interval training inserted into the training programs of team sport athletes is not only effective at enhancing markers of endurance capacity, but can also improve various aspects of game-specific performance. Nevertheless, while high-intensity training can have the aforementioned profound effects on various aspects of intense exercise performance, the importance of a high training volume background should not be overlooked.

Performance and physiological effects of additional training volume

As concluded by Costill and colleagues (1991), “it is difficult to understand how training at speeds that are markedly slower than competitive pace for 3-4 h.d-1 will prepare (an athlete) for the supramaximal efforts of competition”. Nevertheless, it is well known that athletes involved with intense exercise events perform a number of long duration, low intensity training sessions per week, resulting in high weekly training volumes. Indeed, it has been estimated that well-trained (including world-elite) athletes perform ~75% of their training at intensities below the lactate or ventilatory threshold, despite competing at much higher intensities (Seiler and Kjerland, 2006). This type of training likely contributes to the high energy status of their skeletal muscle (Yeo et al. 2008), their ability to sustain high muscular power outputs for long durations, and their ability to recover from high-intensity exercise. Relative to the number of studies showing enhancements in intense exercise performance with high-intensity interval training, there are relatively few studies documenting improvements in performance with increases in training volume. This may be due to the fact that the time-course for performance improvement with high volume training does not occur as rapidly compared with high intensity training, making investigation into its influence difficult for researchers. In one study that managed to achieve this, Costill and co-workers (1991) divided collegiate swimmers into groups that trained either once or twice a day for six weeks. As a result, one group performed twice the volume of training than the other (4,950 m.d-1 vs. 9,435 m.d-1) at similar high training intensities (95 vs. 93.5% VO2max). Despite higher levels of citrate synthase activity from the deltoid muscle shown in the group that doubled their training volume, performance times following a taper over distances ranging from 43.2 to 2743 m were not different between the groups. While this study demonstrates that a relatively acute period of high volume training (with similar high training intensities) does not appear to enhance performance, the subtle effects of low intensity high training volumes over time should be realized.

The importance of low intensity long duration training sessions has been shown in at least two studies. In one longitudinal study conducted over a six-month period, Esteve-Lanao et al. (2005) compared the influence of different amounts of intensity and volume training on running performance in eight sub-elite endurance runners (VO2max = 70.0±7.3 mL.kg.min-1).

The authors found strong relationships between time spent training at intensities below the ventilatory threshold and both 4 km (r=-0.79; P=0.06) and 10 km (r=-0.97; P=0.008) run performance (Esteve-Lanao et al. 2005). In another study, Fiskerstrand and Seiler (2004) retrospectively investigated changes in training volume, intensity and performance in 21 international medal-winning Norwegian rowers over the years from 1970 to 2001. From the 1970s to the 1990s, VO2max increased by 12% (5.8 to 6.5 L.min-1) while 6-min rowing ergometer performance increased by 10%. In parallel with these performance changes was an increase in low intensity training (i.e., blood lactate <2 mM; 30 h.wk-1 to 50 h.wk-1), or high training volume, coupled with reductions in race pace and supra-maximal intensity training (blood lactate 8-14 mM; 23 h.wk-1 to 7 h.wk-1). As a result, training volume increased by 20% over this period of time (924 to 1128 h.yr-1), as did intense exercise performance results (Fiskerstrand & Seiler 2004).

While the immediate effect of high training volumes on intense exercise performance is difficult to assess, it would appear that the insertion of these low-intensity training sessions has a positive impact on performance, despite being performed at an intensity that is markedly less than that which is specifically performed at during intense exercise competition. These relatively low intensity, high training volumes may be a crucial part of competitive training programs and may provide a platform for the specific adaptations that occur in response to the high-intensity or specific workouts. 

The important interplay between high-intensity and high-volume training

The review of studies that manipulate training intensity and volume over a short-term period reveals that successful training programs may benefit from both forms of training at particular periods within an athlete’s training program. When training does not have an appropriate blend of both high-intensity and high volume training inserted into the program, performance ability tends to stagnate. For example, Iaia et al. (2008; 2009) examined the influence of marked changes in intensity and volume training on performance and metabolic enzyme activity in endurance-trained runners. In this study, runners training 45km/wk lowered their training volume to only 15 km/wk for 4 weeks, but instead performed sprint interval training (8-12 x 30s sprints; 3-5 times/week). While markers of sprint performance were improved, 10 km run performance was only maintained, and not enhanced (Iaia et al. 2008; 2009). In a study on competitive swimmers, Faude et al. (2008) used a randomised cross-over design where swimmers performed two different 4-wk training periods, each followed by an identical taper week. One training period was characterized by a high training volume, while the other involved high intensity training; neither program involved aspects of both. The authors found no difference between the training periods for 100 m or 400 m swim performance times, or individual anaerobic thresholds (Faude et al. 2008). Clearly, a mix of both high-intensity and high volume training is important, but predominance of one form of training or the other does not seems to be as beneficial. In a study demonstrating the importance of having equal amounts of distinctly different training, Esteve-Lanao et al. (2007) divided 12 sub-elite runners into two separate groups that performed equal amounts of high-intensity training (~8.4% of training above respiratory compensation point). The difference between the groups in terms of their training however was the amount of low vs. moderate-intensity training they performed. In one group, more low-intensity training (below the ventilatory threshold; 81% vs. 12%) was performed. In the other group, more moderate-intensity training (above ventilatory threshold but below respiratory compensation point; 67 vs. 25%) was performed. While intense exercise performance was not assessed, it is interesting to note that the magnitude of the improvement in 10.4 km running performance 5 months following the intervention was significantly greater (p = 0.03) in the group that performed more low-intensity training (-157 ±13 s vs. -122 ±7 s). Admittedly, the 10.4 km test used to assess running performance falls outside of the intense exercise spectrum, but does suggest that the aerobic power and capacity of these runners was enhanced by this training scheme; a capacity identified previously in this article as critical to intense exercise performance success beyond ~75 s of all-out near maximal activity.

The synthesis of these studies reveals the importance of combining periods of both high and low intensity training into the training programs of the intense exercise athlete. Seiler and Kjerland (2006) refer to this training distribution as a polarized model, where approximately 75% of sessions are performed below the first ventilatory threshold, with 15% above the second ventilatory threshold or respiratory compensation point, and <10% performed between the first and second ventilatory thresholds. For the exercise scientist, these observations beg the question: why might the mixing of distinct high- and low-intensity training sessions be so effective at increasing the energy status of working muscle and subsequent exercise performance? 

How does it happen?  Beginning to understand molecular signaling

While the picture is far from complete, scientists have begun to make impressive inroads towards understanding how skeletal muscle adapts to varying exercise stimuli, and for an excellent review on the topic, the reader may refer to the work of Coffey and Hawley (2007). As assessed by these authors (Coffey & Hawley 2007), there appear to be at least four primary signals (along with a number of secondary messengers, redundancy and cross-talk) that can lead to an increase in mitochondrial mass and glucose transport capacity in skeletal muscle following several forms of exercise training. These include i) mechanical stretch or muscle tension, ii) an increase in reactive oxygen species that occurs when oxygen is processed through the respiratory pathways, iii) the increase in muscle calcium concentration as required for excitation-contraction coupling, and iv) the altered energy status (i.e., lower ATP concentrations) in muscle. These mechanisms and pathways are complex, with many beyond the scope of this review. For the purpose of this discourse however, the focus will be on the last two of these primary signals, which have received increased attention in recent studies.

The first of these mentioned molecular signals is the prolonged rise in intramuscular calcium, such as that which occurs during prolonged endurance exercise or high exercise training volumes. These high calcium concentrations activate a mitochondrial biogenesis messenger called the calcium–calmodulin kinases (Figure 2). Second, the altered energy status in muscle associated with reductions in ATP concentrations, such as that present during high-intensity exercise, elicits a concomitant rise in adenosine monophosphate (AMP), which activates the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). With these two secondary phenotypic adaptation signals identified, it becomes apparent how different types of endurance training modes might elicit similar adaptive responses (Burgomaster et al. 2008). In support of these distinct pathways, Gibala et al. (2009) showed significant increases in AMPK immediately following four repeated 30-s ‘all-out’ sprints. This was associated 3 hours later with a two-fold increase in peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivator-1α (PGC-1α) mRNA, a transcriptional coactivator that has been described by some as the ‘master switch’ for mitochondrial biogenesis (Adhihetty et al. 2003) (Figure 2). Of note, however, is that this occurred without an increase in the calcium–calmodulin kinases (Gibala et al. 2009), which are known to be stimulated during prolonged repeated contractions (Rose et al. 2007).

With these results in mind, it becomes clear what has been known by coaches for decades; that is, with respect to prescribing training that improves performance, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”. The high mitochondrial oxidative capacity, improved fat oxidation and glucose transport in the skeletal muscle of endurance athletes may be achieved through either high volumes of endurance training, high intensities of endurance training, or various combinations of both. Higher volumes of exercise training are likely to signal for these adaptations through the calcium–calmodulin kinases (Rose et al. 2007), while higher intensities of endurance training, which lowers ATP concentrations and raises AMP levels, appear more likely to signal for mitochondrial biogenesis through the AMP-activated protein kinase pathway (Gibala et al. 2009). As shown in Figure 2, these different signaling molecules have similar downstream targets (Baar 2006). The result is an increased capacity to generate ATP aerobically. Thus, at the molecular level it may be the blend of signals induced from combined high volume and high-intensity training that elicits either a stronger or more frequent promotion of the aerobic muscle phenotype through PGC-1α mRNA transcription (Figure 2). As well, the lower intensity higher volume training sessions are likely to promote autonomic balance by facilitating recovery and muscle remodeling based on the molecular signals received from the high-intensity training sessions.

How do we optimally structure training programs for high performing endurance athletes?

The synthesis of this information reveals a pattern highlighting the importance of applying periods of both high-intensity and high volume training at the appropriate time in a training program, in order to elicit optimal intense exercise performance. Experts in training program design refer to this art as periodisation (Issurin 2008). While the importance of the high-intensity interval training stimulus appears to be critical (Londeree 1997), the submaximal or prolonged training durations (volume of repeated muscular contractions) cannot be downplayed (Fiskerstrand & Seiler 2004). These high volume training periods likely form the aerobic base needed for the rapid recovery between high-intensity training bouts and sessions. Over time, the progressive result is likely to be an improved efficiency of skeletal muscle and a development of the fatigue resistance aerobic muscle phenotype. Indeed, development of the successful intense exercise athlete tends to require a number of years exposure to high training volumes and intensities (Schumacher et al. 2006). The low intensity high training volumes also likely promote the recovery and autonomic balance needed for the facilitation of the mitochondrial protein synthesis signaled for through the high-intensity interval training sessions. The art of successful intense exercise coaching, therefore, appears to involve the manipulation of training sessions that combine long duration low-intensity periods with phases of very high-intensity work, appropriate recovery, and tapering (Mujika et al. 2000; Issurin 2008; Pyne et al. 2009). These same principles are likely to apply for team sport athletes, although other forms of training should likely be incorporated, such as plyometric training (i.e., drop jumps and countermovement jumps), which has recently been shown to improve agility time in semiprofessional football players (Thomas et al. 2009).

The paper will finish with two practical examples that demonstrate the effectiveness of this model. The first example is New Zealand’s Olympic 800 m running legend, Sir Peter Snell. Snell was a protégé of the late New Zealand athletics coach Arthur Lydiard, who was renowned for prescribing very high training volumes to his athletes who performed intense track events. Throughout his years of training, Snell was prescribed training volumes that would replicate those performed by most marathon runners (~160 km per week, interspersed with weekly high-intensity track workouts; P Snell, personal communication). The result was an 800 m world record in 1962 (1:44.3), and winning double Gold in the 800 m and 1500 m events at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Summer Games.

In another report of a high training volume plan that elicited a winning intense exercise performance was that of the German 4000-m team pursuit cycling world record achieved at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games (Schumacher & Mueller 2002). In this paper, Schumacher and Mueller (2002) provide a detailed account of the training performed by the cyclists over the 7 month lead-up to the critical event. In general, training involved extremely high training volumes (29,000 – 35,000 km/yr) that included long periods of low-intensity road training (~50% VO2max) interspersed with stage racing (grand tour) events. While the road racing component of the cyclists’ training program would have entailed numerous periods of both high volume and high intensity stimuli, it wasn’t until the final 8 days prior to the Sydney Olympics that a specific high intensity training taper period on the track was prescribed. Nevertheless, this training design yielded outstanding results, and the model has since been replicated by both the Australian and British cycling teams to break this record repeatedly over the last two Olympic Games (M. Quod, Cycling Australia, Australian Institute of Sport, Personal Communication).

Summary

Our understanding of how best to manipulate the training programs of athletes competing in intense exercise events so that performance is optimised is far from complete. It would appear that a polarised approach to training is optimal, where periods of both high-intensity and low intensity but high volume training are performed. The supplementation of high-intensity training to the high volume program of the already highly trained athlete can elicit further enhancements in endurance performance, which appears to be largely due to an improved ability of the engaged skeletal muscle to generate ATP aerobically. Prolonged durations of low intensity or high volume training are likely to facilitate recovery and adaptation by promoting autonomic balance and the health of the athlete. Team sport athletes can also benefit from periods of high-intensity interval training, game-based interval training, and plyometrics. Some of the important molecular signals arising from various forms of exercise training include the AMPK and calcium-calmodulin kinases, likely to be activated in response to intense and prolonged exercise, respectively. Both of these signals have similar downstream targets in skeletal muscle that promote development of the aerobic muscle phenotype. Further understanding of how best to manipulate the training programs for future intense exercise athletes and team sportsmen will require the continued cooperation of sport scientists, coaches and athletes alike.

Consensus statements

1) Intense exercise events require a blend of anaerobic and aerobic energy, with the aerobic energy system predominating after near-maximal exercise durations of ~75 s.

2) Short term high-intensity training, typically performed as high-intensity interval training, can elicit improvements in intense exercise performance.

3) Low-intensity, long duration work, or high training volumes, are an important component of successful athletes that perform in intense exercise events, and may facilitate recovery and adaptation from high-intensity sessions by promoting autonomic balance and the health of the athlete.

4) From a metabolic perspective, high training volumes may promote development of the aerobic muscle phenotype through the CaMK signalling pathway, while high-intensity training may affect these adaptations through the AMPK signalling pathway.

5) A polarised training approach where relatively small volumes of high training intensities (~10-15%) are manipulated around large volumes of low intensity training (~75%) appears to be an effective means of enhancing intense exercise performance.

Figure captions


Figure 1. Percent aerobic and anaerobic energy system contributions to near-maximal running over distances ranging from 100 m to 3000 m. Figure derived based on the male data obtained from the studies of Duffield et al. (2004; 2005a; 2005b).

 


Figure 2. Simplified model of the adenosine monophosphate kinase (AMPK) and calcium-calmodulin kinase (CaMK) signalling pathways, as well as their similar downstream target, the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ coactivator-1α (PGC-1 α). This ‘master switch’ is thought to be involved in promoting development of the aerobic muscle phenotype. High-intensity training appears more likely to signal via the AMPK pathway, while high volume training appears more likely to operate through the CaMK pathway. ATP, Adenosine Triphosphate; AMP, Adenosine Monophosphate; GLUT4, Glucose Transporter 4; [Ca2+], intramuscular calcium concentration.

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Iñigo Mujika, Chris Abbiss, Marc Quod and Alison Hall for their helpful comments and editorial assistance during the preparation of this manuscript.

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Laursen PB, Marsh SA, Jenkins DG, Coombes JS. Manipulating training intensity and volume in already well-trained rats: effect on skeletal muscle oxidative and glycolytic enzymes and buffering capacity. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2007: 32: 434-442.

Laursen PB, Shing CM, Peake JM, Coombes JS, Jenkins DG. Interval training program optimization in highly trained endurance cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002: 34: 1801-1807.

Lindsay FH, Hawley JA, Myburgh KH, Schomer HH, Noakes TD, Dennis SC. Improved athletic performance in highly trained cyclists after interval training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996: 28: 1427-1434.

Londeree BR. Effect of training on lactate/ventilatory thresholds: a meta-analysis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997: 29: 837-843.

Lucia A, Hoyos J, Pardo J, Chicharro JL. Metabolic and neuromuscular adaptations to endurance training in professional cyclists: a longitudinal study. Jpn J Physiol. 2000: 50: 381-388.

Mujika I, Goya A, Padilla S, Grijalba A, Gorostiaga E, Ibanez J. Physiological responses to a 6-d taper in middle-distance runners: influence of training intensity and volume. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000: 32: 511-517.

Mujika I, Chatard JC, Busso T, Geyssant A, Barale F, Lacoste L. Effects of training on performance in competitive swimming. Can J Appl Physiol. 1995: 20:395-406.

Pyne DB, Mujika I, Reilly T. Peaking for optimal performance: Research limitations and future directions. J Sports Sci. 2009: 27: 195-202.

Rose AJ, Frosig C, Kiens B, Wojtaszewski JF, Richter EA. Effect of endurance exercise training on Ca2+ calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II expression and signalling in skeletal muscle of humans. J Physiol. 2007: 583: 785-795.

Schumacher YO, Mroz R, Mueller P, Schmid A, Ruecker G. Success in elite cycling: A prospective and retrospective analysis of race results. J Sports Sci. 2006: 24: 1149-1156.

Schumacher YO, Mueller P. The 4000-m team pursuit cycling world record: theoretical and practical aspects. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002: 34: 1029-1036.

Seiler KS, Kjerland GØ. Quantifying training intensity distribution in elite endurance athletes: is there evidence for an "optimal" distribution? Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2006: 16: 49-56.

Smith TP, Coombes JS, Geraghty DP. Optimising high-intensity treadmill training using the running speed at maximal O(2) uptake and the time for which this can be maintained.
Eur J Appl Physiol. 2003: 89: 337-343.

Smith TP, McNaughton LR, Marshall KJ. Effects of 4-wk training using Vmax/Tmax on VO2max and performance in athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999: 31: 892-896.

Stepto NK, Hawley JA, Dennis SC, Hopkins WG. Effects of different interval-training programs on cycling time-trial performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998: 31: 736-741.

Stepto NK, Martin DT, Fallon KE, Hawley JA. Metabolic demands of intense aerobic interval training in competitive cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001: 33: 303-310.

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Thursday
Jul212011

Overtraining and Chronic Fatigue: The Unexplained Underperformance Syndrome (UPS)

By: Rickard Budgett, GB Team Doctor
From: International SportMed Journal, 2000, Volume 1, Issue 3
 

All athletes must train hard in order to improve their performance. Some athletes fail to recover from training, become progressively fatigued, and suffer from prolonged underperformance. They may also suffer from frequent minor infections (particularly respiratory infections). This has been called the over training syndrome, burnout, staleness, or sports fatigue syndrome, but in the absence of any medical cause is more accurately called the Unexplained Underperformance Syndrome (UPS). The condition is normally secondary to the stress of training, but the exact etiology and pathophysiology is not known, and many factors other than overtraining may lead to failure to recover from training or competition. Changes in psychological, hormonal, and immune parameters have been shown in these underperforming athletes, some of which may be useful as markers when used on an individual basis. However, the importance of any of these changes, many of which are seen in athletes without UPS when training very hard, is not fully understood.

Athletes normally recover in 6 to 12 weeks with a programme of gentle exercise and regeneration strategies.

Key Points:

  • About 10% of endurance athletes may break down each year (not sprinters).  
  • Redefinition of Unexplained Underperformance Syndrome (UPS): “Persistent performance deficit despite 6 weeks relative rest.”
  • Three main groups of symptoms: frequent infections, mood disturbance, and fatigue.
  • Recovery normally takes 6–12 weeks with a light exercise regime and regeneration strategies.

 Introduction

Despite a hard training program and progressive overload, some athletes fail to improve and their performance may even start to deteriorate. Unexplained underperformance in athletes is a common problem, occurring in around 10– 20% of elite endurance squads, but is rarely seen in sprinters. In the absence of any other medical cause, this has been called the overtraining syndrome, burnout, staleness, “sports fatigue syndrome,” or chronic fatigue in athletes (1–3). The exact etiology and pathophysiology is not known, but the condition is often assumed secondary to the stress of training, or at least due to a failure to recover from training or competition (4). There has been some confusion in the literature on the definition and diagnostic criteria (5).

The term overtraining syndrome implies causation that limits investigations of this problem in athletes. There is confusion as to whether athletes suffering from frequent respiratory infections, depressed mood state, clinical depression, fatigue, or underperformance are all actually overtrained (6). In order to allow researchers and clinicians to investigate the problem, a broader definition was created at a round table discussion in St Catherine’s College, Oxford on April 19, 1999 (7).

The Definition of Unexplained Underperformance Syndrome (UPS)

UPS is a persistent, unexplained performance deficit (recognized and agreed by coach and athlete) despite 2 weeks of relative rest (7). This contrasts with the definition of chronic fatigue syndrome, where symptoms must last at least 6 months (8).

In addition to fatigue and an unexpected sense of effort during training, the following symptoms have been reported in UPS (4, 6, 7, 9): 

  • history of heavy training and competition
  • frequent minor infections
  • unexplained or unusually heavy, stiff, and/or sore muscles
  • mood disturbance
  • change in expected sleep quality
  • loss of energy
  • loss of competitive drive
  • loss of libido
  • loss of appetite

The list of symptoms is included to give a background to the basic definition. If the underperformance can be explained in terms of a major disease, then the diagnosis cannot be made. For this reason, all athletes with a diagnosis of UPS should have a careful history and physical examination. In most cases, it will be the coach and athlete who are best able to measure performance that may be compared to previous weeks, months or years. The performance deficit may be agreed by the sports scientist or sports physician if appropriate ergometer or field tests have been carried out. It may be most appropriate to compare performance to the same stage of previous competition cycles. Relative rest cannot be defined exactly but should involve a significant reduction in training and increase in recovery time, for example, as would occur normally before a major competition.

 

Figure 1 — Pattern of symptoms in the UPS.  

Endurance athletes present with fatigue and underperformance with secondary changes in mood that is specific to the sport and individual (10). In addition, those runners who suffer from frequent minor infections particularly upper respiratory tract infections (URTI), may form a separate overlapping sub-group (11). Due to these overlapping groups and the confusion of definitions, our definition of unexplained underperformance is broad and all-inclusive. However, it does not include over-reaching or so-called short-term overtraining from which athletes make a full recovery with less than two weeks of relative rest (1).

It is likely that there are several distinct subgroups and that some of these subgroups overlap as represented in Figure 1. 

It would be helpful if researchers and those writing case reports defined exactly which group(s) they were investigating or whether they had included all athletes with persistent unexplained underperformance.

The Normal Response to Training

All athletes must train hard in order to improve. Initial hard training causes underperformance but if recovery is allowed, there is supercompensation and improvement in performance (16). Training is designed in a cyclical way (periodisation) allowing time for recovery with progressive overload. During the hard training / overload period transient symptoms and signs and changes in diagnostic tests may occur; this is called overreaching (5).

There are changes in the profile of mood state (POMS) questionnaire that shows reduced vigour and increased tension, depression, anger, fatigue and confusion (15). Muscle glycogen stores are depleted and resting heart rate rises. The testosterone/cortisol ratio is reduced due to lower testosterone and high cortisol levels. Microscopic damage to muscle also leads to raised creatine kinase levels especially if there is eccentric exercise (17).

All these changes are physiological and normal if recovery occurs within two weeks. Overreaching will occur in most training programs and normally leads to improved performance despite the temporary underperformance and fatigue. The degree of overreaching necessary to enable an athlete to reach his/her maximum performance has been debated amongst coaches, athletes, doctors and sports scientists (6). Many feel that the ability to tolerate and recover from frequent hard training is one of the most important qualities in elite athletes. Nevertheless, it is debatable as to whether those athletes tolerating less training cannot reach the same level as their peers who can tolerate more.

Abnormal Response to Training

If the training is prolonged heavy and monotonous then there is a risk of UPS. Monotonous means lacking in variation or periodization and does not necessarily mean boring. Nevertheless, most athletes will recover fully after two weeks of adequate rest however hard the training. The cyclical nature of most training programs (periodization) allows this recovery and full benefit from hard exercise (16).

Eventually fatigue becomes so severe that recovery does not occur despite two weeks of relative rest. At this stage, a diagnosis of the UPS can be made.

Signs

Reported signs are often caused by associated illness and are inconsistent and generally unhelpful in making the diagnosis. Cervical lymphadenopathy is very common. There may be an increased postural drop in blood pressure and postural rise in heart rate, probably related to the underlying pathophysiology (18). Physiological testing may show a reduced V02 max and maximal power output and an increased sub-maximal oxygen consumption and pulse rate, with a slow return of the pulse rate to normal after exercise, and a surprising shift of the lactate curve to the right (15). This is the so-called “lactate paradox”, and has been shown unlikely to be due to glycogen depletion, and may be due to a downregulation of the peripheral adrenoreceptors (4).

Figure 2 — Overtraining or under-recovery, leading to Unexplained Underperformance Syndrome (UPS).  

Prevention and Early Detection

Athletes tolerate different levels of training, competition and stress at different times, depending on their level of health and fitness through the season. The training load must therefore be individualized and reduced or increased, depending on the athlete’s response. Other stresses, such as exams, need to be taken into account (10).

Figure 3 — The cycle of recurrent minor infections.

In practice it is very difficult to distinguish between overreaching and UPS. Researchers have attempted to follow blood parameters, such as hemoglobin, hematocrit and white cell count which alter acutely in exercise and are often low anyway in regularly training athletes due to a dilution effect caused by their increased blood volume. There was hope for urea and creatine kinase but these measure the stress of training and do not predict who will fail to recover. Mood state profiling on a regular basis can give useful guidance (19).

Many runners monitor their heart rate. This is non-specific but does provide objective evidence that something is wrong if the resting pulse is more than 10 beats per minute higher than the athlete’s normal consistent base (20). Other prevention strategies are a good diet, full hydration and rest between training sessions. It is more difficult for athletes who have a full-time job and other commitments to recover quickly after training. Many sports scientists and coaches are advising alternate day hard and light training within the normal cyclical programme (12).

Training intensity and spacing the training are the most important factors in optimizing performance and minimizing the risk of UPS. Morton used a complex mathematical model to optimize periodization of athletic training leading up to a major event such as a marathon. In this, he suggested intensive training on alternate days over a 150-day season, building up over the first two-thirds and tapering over the last third. This was more effective than moderate training throughout the whole year (16).

Many athletes use supplements but these do not seem to offer any protection from chronic fatigue. Trace elements and minerals, such as magnesium, have been investigated but there is no proven link to UPS or chronic fatigue syndrome (5). 

Pathophysiology

Training and Psychology

Researches have shown a drop in the “lactate: rating of perceived exertion (RPE)” ratio with heavy training (21). Thus for a set lactate level the perceived exertion is higher. This may represent central fatigue, but could be because of glycogen depletion causing lower lactate levels or the “lactate paradox”.

Fry et al (2) tried to induce overtraining by short, near-maximum, high-intensity exercise but failed, suggesting that this is a safe regime. This may be because of the frequent long periods of rest between efforts. This supports our own observations that sprinters and power athletes do not suffer from the UPS (36).

The mood state is most significant if it does not improve during tapering in the lead up to a competition, but unfortunately it may then be too late to prevent underperformance. The advice is therefore to taper and recover regularly through the season to enable regular monitoring of recovery.

At the British Olympic Medical Centre, it has been shown that both performance and mood state improve with five weeks of physical rest. Low level exercise has also been shown to speed recovery from the chronic fatigue syndrome (15).

The profile of mood state (POMS) questionnaire was used on a group of collegiate swimmers in the USA by Morgan (19). Training was increased whenever the mood state improved and reduced whenever the POMS deteriorated. The incidence of burnout, which was previously around 10% per year, reduced to zero (22). 

Hormonal Changes

The role of hormones in the UPS is still not fully understood. Stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol have been shown to rise more in underperforming athletes than in controls. Salivary cortisol levels (reflecting free cortisol levels) in a group of swimmers were significantly higher in stale, underperforming athletes and this correlated with the depressed mood state (23).

A low testosterone:cortisol ratio has been suggested as a marker of UPS, reflecting a change in the balance of anabolism to catabolism. This ratio falls in response to overreaching, so only a very low ratio is useful. In some athletes there is no significant change, despite all the symptoms of UPS (23).

A reduced response to insulin induced hypoglycaemia was demonstrated by Barron and Noakes suggesting hypothalamic dysfunction (24).

Noradrenaline levels have been shown to be higher in fatigued underperforming swimmers than controls, particularly during tapering, but levels were generally proportional to the training stress. There was no change in cortisol levels (25). Plasma catecholamine levels and stress ratings (by questionnaire) were a useful predictor of staleness and a well-being rating questionnaire during tapering predicted performance (26).

The rise in noradrenaline levels and fall in basal nocturnal plasma dopamine, noradrenaline and adrenaline levels has been proposed as a method of monitoring training. These levels correlate with symptoms. There may be a reduction in the sensitivity of beta-adrenergic receptors due to overstimulation, which could lead to undermobilisation of glucose in exercise and explain the lactate paradox (27).

Amino Acids and Central Fatigue

Many of the symptoms seen in underperforming athletes point to a cause within the brain. In 1987, Professor Eric Newsholme from Oxford University proposed a theory of central fatigue involving increased levels of 5HT. The neurotransmitter 5-hydroxytryptamine (5HT, serotonin) has been widely studied, is widespread in the central nervous system, and has been linked to determining tiredness and sleep. The amino acid, tryptophan, the precursor of 5HT, competes with the branched-chain amino acids for entry into the brain on the same amino acid carrier. Transport across the blood brain barrier is the rate-limiting step because the rate-limiting enzyme in 5HT synthesis is non-saturated. Thus a decrease in levels of branched-chain amino acids in the blood, due to an increased rate of utilization by muscle, will increase the ratio of tryptophan to branched-chain amino acids in the bloodstream and favor the entry of tryptophan into the brain. This may result in fatigue originating in the brain. Free tryptophan concentrations are further increased by a rise in plasma fatty acid levels. In endurance activity, free fatty acid concentrations rise and the branched-chain amino acid concentrations fall. In rats, it has been shown that this increases the concentration of 5HT in the hypothalmus and brainstem (28).

A study of runners in the Stockholm marathon showed that those receiving branched-chain amino acids rather than placebo suffered less from a sensation of effort in the second half of the marathon and maintained cognitive function, unlike the controls. The fall in plasma branched-chain amino acids and glutamine levels, associated acutely with hard training and chronically in runners with UPS, may lead to an increase in brain levels of the neurotransmitter 5HT (serotonin) (28,29). This could lead to down-regulation of 5HT receptors and account for many of the symptoms of UPS.

When tested on an isokinetic dynamometer, fatigued athletes did not produce the same concentric power as controls at the higher speeds but there was no difference in eccentric contraction. In addition, during an isometric contraction, superimposed tetanic stimulation increased force output (30). Thus, it seems that athletes with UPS have difficulty in maximally recruiting all muscle fibers when tested in the laboratory and this effect may be due to central fatigue.

5HT re-uptake inhibitors, such as fluoxetine, when given acutely to athletes reduce performance (time to exhaustion) consistent with the widespread effects of HT in the brain. It is possible that the anecdotal improvement of some athletes with these types of antidepressants is either due to the treatment of an undiagnosed depression or due to a slow fall in 5HT-receptor sensitivity.

5HT-containing cells are widespread in the central nervous system, and changes in 5HT receptor levels could account for many of the symptoms of overtraining affecting sleep, causing central fatigue, loss of appetite and inhibiting the release of factors from the hypothalmus which control pituitary hormones (28, 29).

Imunosuppression and Glutamine

There is evidence that moderate regular exercise helps reduce the level of infection in normal individuals. However, intense heavy exercise increases the incidence of infections (11). Upper respiratory tract infections have been shown more likely with higher training mileage and after a marathon (31). A number of factors probably contribute to this apparent immunosuppression, such as raised cortisol levels, reduced salivary immunoglobulin levels and low glutamine levels. Glutamine is an essential amino acid for rapidly dividing cells such as lymphocytes. Low levels of glutamine have been found in chronically fatigued and underperforming athletes, including marathon runners, compared to controls and levels are known to be lower after hard training (32). Thus, in addition to a possible role in Central Fatigue, glutamine may have a role in immunosuppression.

Glutamine intervention studies have been carried out, and there is some evidence that the incidence of infection in endurance athletes after prolonged exercise is reduced after taking glutamine compared to placebo. Recovery from a period of intense training (overreaching) is also quicker (33).

Lowered salivary immunoglobulins, reduced NK cell activity, and changes to the T helper/suppresser cell ratios are just some of the other immune parameters that may contribute to the apparent immunosuppression in many of these athletes (11).

Management

Athletes suffering from prolonged unexplained underperformance (UPS) are different from sedentary individuals with chronic fatigue because they present earlier, they tend to recover more quickly, and there is an opportunity to alter the major stress in their lives (training and competition). Nevertheless, management is similar to any individual with chronic fatigue and requires a holistic approach. Rest and regeneration strategies are central to recovery (1).

At the British Olympic Medical Centre it has been shown that both performance and mood state improve with five weeks of physical rest (15). Low level exercise has also been shown to speed recovery from the chronic fatigue syndrome (34,35).

If told to rest for several weeks athletes are unlikely to comply. Thus they should be given positive advice and told to exercise aerobically at a pulse rate of 120 - 140 beats per minute for 5 to 10 minutes each day, ideally in divided sessions, and slowly build this up over 6 - 12 weeks. The exercise program has to be individually designed and depends on the clinical picture and rate of improvement. The cycle of partial recovery followed by hard training and recurrent breakdown needs to be stopped. It is often necessary to avoid the athlete’s own sport using cross training because of the tendency to increase the exercise intensity too quickly. A positive approach is essential, with an emphasis on slowly building up volume rather than intensity to about one hour per day. Once this volume is tolerated, then more intense work can be incorporated above the onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA) (21). 

Very short (less than 10 seconds) sprints / power sessions with at least 3 - 5 minutes of rest are safe and allow some hard training to be done. Athletes can normally add in two to three 30-minute sprint sessions per week after 2 weeks of gentle endurance exercise (36).

There are no trials of regeneration strategies that were widely used in the old Eastern Block countries (30). These include rest, relaxation, counseling and psychotherapy. Massage and hydrotherapy are used and nutrition is looked at carefully. Large quantities of vitamins and supplements are given, but there is no evidence that they are effective. Stresses outside sport are reduced as much as possible. Depression may need to be treated with anti-depressants but normally drugs are of no value, although any concurrent illness must be treated. There is one report of the (prohibited) use of anabolic steroids to treat UPS (37).

Athletes who have been underperforming for many months are often surprised at the good performance they can produce after six to twelve weeks of extremely light exercise. At this point care must be taken not to increase the intensity of training too fast and to allow full recovery after hard parts of their training cycle. We recommend that athletes recover completely at least once a week.

Summary

UPS is relatively common in endurance athletes. It is a condition of underperformance with persistent fatigue, and an increased vulnerability to infection leading to recurrent infections in some athletes. Central, peripheral, hormonal and immunological factors may all contribute to the failure of recovery from exercise. The extent to which the stress of hard training and competition leads to the observed spectrum of symptoms is not known and probably very variable in each case.

Optimizing training and careful monitoring of athletes may help prevent UPS. With regeneration strategies and a structured exercise program, symptoms normally resolve in 6–12 weeks.

References

1. Budgett R. The overtraining syndrome. BMJ 1994;309:4465-4468.

2. Fry RW, Morton AR, Keast D. Overtraining syndrome and the chronic fatigue syndrome. NZ J Sports Med 1991;19:48-52.

3. Lehmann M, Foster C, Keull J. Overtraining in endurance athletes: a brief review. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1993;25:854-862.

4. Lehmann M, Foster C, Gastmann U et al. Definition, types, symptoms, findings, underlying mechanisms, and frequency of overtraining and overtraining syndrome. In: Lehmann M, Foster C, Gastmann U et al., eds. Overload, Performance Incompetence, and Regeneration in Sport. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum; 1999:1-6.

5. Budgett R. The overtraining syndrome. Br J Sports Med 1990;24:231-236.

6. Budgett R. Fatigue and underperformance in athletes: the overtraining syndrome. BMJ 1998;32:107-110.

7. Budgett R, Newsholme E, Lehmann M, Sharp C et al. Redefining the overtraining syndrome as the unexplained underperformance syndrome. Br J Sports Med 2000;34:67-68.

8. Royal Colleges of Physicians. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Report of a Joint Working Group of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Psychiatrists and General Practitioners. London: Royal College of Physicians; 1996.

9. Derman W, Schwellnus MP, Lambert MI et al. The “worn-out athlete”: a clinical approach to chronic fatigue in athletes. J Sports Sci 1997;15:341-351.

10. Budgett R. The overtraining syndrome. Coaching Focus 1995;28:4-6.

11. Nieman D. Exercise infection and immunity. Int J Sports Med 1994;15:S131.

12. Fry RW, Morton AR, Keast D. Periodisation and the prevention of overtraining. Can J Sports Sci 1992;17:241-248.

13. Morgan WP, Costill DC, Flynn MG, Raglin DS, O’Connor PJ. Mood disturbance following increased training in swimmers. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1988;20:408-414.

14. Dyment P. Frustrated by chronic fatigue? Phys Sports Med 1993;21:47-54.

15. Koutedakis Y, Budgett R, Faulmann L. Rest in underperforming elite competitors. Br J Sports Med 1990;24:248-252.

16. Morton RH. Modelling training and overtraining. J Sports Sci 1997;15:335-340.

17. Costill DL, Flynn MG, Kirway JP, Houmard JA, Mitchell JB, Thomas R, Park SH. Effects of repeated days of intensified training on muscle glycogen and swimming performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1988;20:249-254.

18. Kindermann W. Das Ubertraining-Ausdruck einer vegetativen Fehlsteurung. Deutsche Zeitschrift fur Sportsmedizin 1986;37:138-145.

19. Morgan WP, Brown DR, Fascm Raglin JS, O’Connor PJ, Ellickson KA. Psychological monitoring of overtraining and staleness. Br J Sports Med 1987;21:107-114.

20. Dressendorfer RH, Wade CE, Scaff JH. Increased morning heart rate in runners: a valid sign of overtraining? Phys SportsMed 1985;13:77-86.

21. Synder AC. A physiological/psychological indicator of overreaching during intensive training. Int J Sports Med 1993;14:29-32.

22. O’Connor PJ, Carson Smith J. Using mood responses to overtraining to optimize endurance performance and prevent staleness Flemish J of Sports Med Sports Sci 1999;80(3):14-19.

23. Flynn MG, Pizza FX, Boone JB, Andres FF, Michaud TA, Rodríguez-Zagás JR. Indices of training stress during competitive running and swimming seasons. Int J Sports Med 1994;15:21-26.

24. Barron JL, Noakes TD, Levy W. Smith C, Millar RP. Hypothalamic dysfunction in overtrained athletes. J Clinical Endocrin Met 1985;60:803-806.

25. Hooper SL, Mackinnon LT, Gordon RD, Bachmann AW. Markers for monitoring overtraining and recovery. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1995;27:106-112.

26. Hooper SL, Mackinnon LT. Monitoring overtraining in athletes. Sports Med 1995;20:231-237.

27. Lehmann M, Dickhuth HH, Gendrisch E, Lazar W, Thum M, Kaminski R, Aramendi JF, Peterke E, Weiland W, Keul J. Training-overtraining. A prospective experimental study with experienced middle and long distance runners. Int J Sports Med 1991;12:444-452.

28. Blomstrand E, Hassmen P, Newsholme EA. Administration of branched-chain amino acids during sustained exercise. Eur J Appl Phys 1991;63:83.

29. Blomstrand E, Perrett D, Parry-Billings M, Newsholme EA. Effect of sustained exercise on plasma amino acid concentrations and on 5-hydroxtryptamine metabolism in six different brain regions in the rat. Acta Physiol Scand 1989;136:473.

30. Koutedakis Y, Frishknecht R, Vrbová G, Sharp G, Budgett R. Maximal voluntary quadriceps strength patterns in Olympic overtrained athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1995;27:566-572.

31. Nieman D, Johanssen LM, Lee JW, Arabatzis K. Infections episodes before and after the Los Angeles Marathon. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 1990;30:289-296.

32. Parry-Billings M, Budgett R, Kouttedakis Y et al. Plasma amino acid contrations in the overtraining syndrome: possible effects on the immune system. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1992;24:1353-1358.

33. Castell LM, Poortmans J, Newsholme EA. Does glutamine have a role in reducing infection during intensified training in swimmers. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1996;28:285-290.

34. Fultcher KY, White PD. Randomised controlled trial of graded exercise in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. BMJ 1997;314:1647-1652.

35. Wearden AJ, Morris RK, Mullis R et al. A randomised, double blind, placebo controlled treatment trial of fluoxetine and a graded exercise programme for chronic fatigue syndrome. Br J Psychiatry 1998;172:485-490.

36. Fry AC, Kraemer WJ. Does short-term near-maximal intensity machine resistance training induce overtraining? J Strength Cond Res 1994;8:188-191.

37. Kereszty A. Overtraining. In: Larson L, ed. Encyclopedia of Sports Science and Medicine. New York: MacMillan; 1971:218-222.


Sunday
Jul172011

Mike Spracklen's Notes, October 1987

By: Mike Spracklen, October 1987
From: Spracklen's Notes
PDF site link: Spracklen's Notes

TRAINING FOR TECHNIQUE

This training System has been designed to provide a variety of methods that are compatible with the process of learning good rowing technique. The methods are not dissimilar to those used by coaches throughout the rowing world, but they have been adapted to encourage the improvement of technique in such a way that technical progress is an important part of the System.

The System originated from the concept that technique should play a bigger part in the preparation of oarsmen for racing. One benefit to be gained from the principle of this System of training is that the drudgeries of winter training become purposeful. The oarsmen become distracted from the hard work

they are doing without realizing it!

Mike Spracklen.
October 1987

TECHNIQUE

An efficient technique is essential for the greatest utilization of athletic endeavor. The sport of rowing is a highly skilled activity and even small deficiencies can detract from a rower’s performance.

There is more than one way to move a boat fast through the water and gold medals have been won using a variety of different techniques. There is one common factor present in all fast crews, which is that the rowers in those boats apply their power together. As in the old adage, 'a load shared is a load halved'.

In order to achieve efficiency of effort, the oarsperson must be taught to row with identical movements. This is referred to as 'style'. It is for the benefit of all rowing that rowers be taught a uniform style. It is to the benefit of our international squads if a common style is adopted by all.

Technique has played a minor role in Britain during the past decade. In an environment where success is easier to achieve from physical training than by the slower methods of teaching technique, successes at higher levels have been elusive. Improvements in technique would help to improve the performances of our International crews in the world.

FACTORS AFFECTING THE PROCESS OF LEARNING A NEW ROWING STYLE

When trying to adapt to a different technique, whether it is a completely new movement or a change, a rower has more difficulty in controlling his actions in certain identifiable circumstances and the learning process slows down. These problem areas are identified as follows:

  1. at high rates of striking
  2. at maximum intensity of work
  3. in a state of physical tiredness
  4. when large increases and sudden changes are demanded
  5. when too many changes are to be made at one time

This system avoids the extremes of these adverse conditions. Increases are made in easy stages and only when a rower has shown that he/she is able to cope with the change are further increases demanded of him/her. Training periods of long duration at low rates form the foundation of the System. At low rates the oarsperson is able to control their movements and make corrections as they go when deterioration occurs. The gradual onset of fatigue when training over long distances permits control to be attained. When explosive work is introduced the rower will have built a sound foundation to cope with high demands without loss of form.

The more hours spent on the water practicing a particular movement the sooner that movement will become natural to the rower. This 'grooving in' process is accelerated when the rowers are able to hold good form through long periods of tiredness, but care must be taken to ensure that quality is not lost and that bad faults are not being ingrained. The ultimate test for an rower's technical ability is whether or not he/she can hold good quality when he is under extreme pressure from physical exertion, like the last 250 meters of that one important race!

An outline of the techniques practiced by the men’s' heavyweight squad are illustrated in this pamphlet. To explain the training methods which will help to achieve good technique is the purpose of this publication.

TRAINING

Whilst importance is placed on the improvement of technique in this System, the training methods have been devised to provide the best preparation for oarsmen at all levels of competition. Training for the improvement of endurance levels is a high priority. Long outings with variations of low rates are essential for the development of strength coordination and aerobic endurance as well as for 'grooving in' new techniques. This System provides guidelines for achieving a sound physical and physiological foundation for 2000-meter racing.

TRAINING LOADS

Training loads have been prepared so that one method can be compared with another even though the work content may be different. The loads have been derived from a mixture of simple mathematics and the experience of crew training up to the highest levels of competition.

  • The methods are based on a normal training load representing 80% of a rower’s maximum effort. The suffix 'N after the method code signifies Normal Training Load.
  • Maximum loads are suffixed with 'H’ signifying High Loads. High loads are equal to 100% effort and are calculated by increasing a normal load by 25%.
  • Reduced loads are suffixed with the letter 'L' signifying low loads and these are generally 25% below the normal load.

The work methods have been prepared on a time basis rather than on distances. This allows a rower to work at his own pace regardless of the type of boat in which he is training e.g. pair, four or single. The intensity of work is programmed to suit the ability of the oarsmen individually or the squad as a whole.

When no suffix is shown against a Method Code, only one set is required. A numeral before the code will indicate the number of sets to be completed.

An example of a training load for an International oarsman who is training twice a day for six days a week would be, five sessions at 'N', normal load, one or two at 'H', high load, 3 or 4 at 'L, low load with one or two light outings.

REST PERIODS

The recovery periods between sets should be sufficient to allow the pulse rate of an oarsperson, after work, to drop below 120 beats per minute. These rest periods are shown as 5 minutes light paddling, but should be reduced as the rower’s physical condition improves with training. 

INTENSITY OF WORK

All strokes, unless otherwise stated, are rowed as hard as can be maintained for the session. An important part of the system is that pressure is maintained as the rates rise so that an oarsperson is able to apply maximum output to 200 strokes when he needs to!

AEROBIC/ANAEROBIC CONTENT

All work methods below the rate of 30 are continuous for the improvement of aerobic capacity. Where the stretch of water does not permit continuous work, turns should be made quickly and the work set back by 30 seconds. Work above rate 32 contains a high anaerobic content. This type of work is done intermittently with controlled rests between each set piece. 

WARMING UP AND WINDING DOWN

Stretching exercises should be made routine, before and after each session. Thirty minutes of warming up paddling should be done before scheduled work commences. A more specific warm up should be adopted before intensive training so that the body is in a fully prepared condition.

Fifteen minutes of paddling after exercise to wind down is important. Gentle muscular contraction helps the body to clear waste products, which have accumulated in the blood stream during heavy exercise.

RATE CHANGES

Rates of striking (stroke rate) are changed by only two strokes per minute at any one time. These gradual changes help the rower to retain technical control during and after the change has been made.

Increases in rates are carried out by generally quickening movements (lively recovery and faster catches etc.) and reductions, by sliding slower forward between strokes.

Rhythm is affected by the speed of the boat. Two or three slightly shorter and quicker strokes will increase boat speed and help the rower to achieve a higher rate whilst maintaining a good rhythm.

It is not easy for a crew to make a rate change and to hold the rate consistently for any length of time. Rates should be checked frequently and adjusted when necessary. It should not be expected that a crew will achieve the rates on every occasion, often the crew will have difficulty in making the change successfully without loss of quality. It is the determination to improve which is of greater value than the actual rate which is scheduled.

HOW THE SYSTEM OPERATES

A particular point of technique is selected in a rower or crew. This may be emphasis on part of the stroke or a correction to an existing movement. Examples would be:

  1. Individual fault corrections
  2. Greater acceleration of the blade through the stroke and stronger finishes
  3. A longer reach forward

A target rate is selected and a period of time for improvement allocated in the training program. At the beginning of a winter period the target rate would be 26 or 28 and the time period about 14 days depending on the difficulty of the change

The first outing would be a long piece of work at a low rate. The coach would ensure that the correct interpretation and application of the change during this outing, was accomplished.

Various methods involving rate changes below the target rate are introduced to add flexibility and variety to the program. The rowers have to concentrate on control of movements as rates change up and down. Gradually confidence grows and the change is 'grooved in' at the lower rates.

The rates slowly increase throughout the period. Care is taken by the coach to ensure that when deterioration occurs the rate is reduced until good form is reestablished.

At the end of the period the target rate is consolidated with a long row.

If the desired success has not been achieved, the coach decides from which point the schedule should be repeated or whether a new approach should be adopted. If the crew has been successful the coach will select another point of technique for improvement and a similar process is completed. Even at the highest levels there is always room for improvement. No rower is perfect.

The coach uses his/her skills to decide which point of technique are important. He/she will usually work on the weakest link in the chain throughout the training period, gradually improving one fault after another until his crew has achieved good technique at race rate at the end of the winter.

The rate of improvement will of course depend on the ability of the rowers, their motivation, and degree of difficulty of the change and of course the skill of the coach. Perfection is never achieved and the coach decides which points of technique are worth pursuing and those that are not.

 

METHODS

The meanings of some words used are as follows:

PROGRAM

The complete training program in its entirety

PERIOD 

A specified period of time within the program

SESSION

One complete training session from stretching exercises to winding down.

METHOD  

The type of work and its content

SET OR SET PIECE

A piece of continuous work normally part of a Method.

QUALITY

Refers to technique

CONTINUOUS

Work done without change of pressure.

INTERMITTENT

Work done with light paddling between each set piece

Note:  

“minute” is symbolized by ‘ … therefore the following: “change rates at 3' 2' 1' 2' 3' 4' - 11' total” -reads as “change rates at 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minutes, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes – 11 minutes total.”

DESCRIPTION OF “METHODS”

PYRAMID

Change rates at 3' 2' 1' 2' 3' 4' - 11' total.

Rates increase then decrease by 2 at each change.  

CASTLE

 

Change rates up and down by 2 alternately every 2 minutes.  

PYRAMID  CASTLE  

Change rates by 2 at end of each minute as follows: 22,24,26,24,26,28,26,26,26,28,26,24,26,24,22. -15' total.   

STAIRCASE

Increase rate by 2 at each stage.  

LADDER

Row 20 strokes at each rate with 10 light strokes between each change. Rates increase by 2 strokes per minute.

 

E.g.       24 to 34, 26 to 36 etc

 

 

CONSOLIDATION

Continuous work for the time and rate given.  

SPEED WORK

 

 

5 (5 x 20 strokes. 10 light between) rate 36. Rate 36 - 500 strokes

Rate 36 - 400 strokes Rate 40 - 300 strokes

 

 

WORKOUTS

This section implements all of the preceding sections. For the most part each workout is outlined in terms of training effect, training load, and technical aim; these will be bolded for ease of understanding.

PYRAMID

 

Change rates at 3' 2' 1' 2' 3' 4' - 11' total.   

Rates increase then decrease by 2 at each change.

 

 

 

 

Minutes

 

Total

 

 

3’

2’

1’

2'

3’ 

11’

PYR 24 

5 sets at rates

20

22

24 

22 

20 

55’ 

PYR 26

5 sets at rates 

22

24 

26 

24 

22 

55’

PYR 28

4 sets at rates

24

26

28

26

24

44’

PYR 30

3 sets at rates

26

28 

30 

28 

26 

33’

PYR 32

3 sets at rates

28

30 

32 

30 

28 

33’

PYR 34

2 sets at rates

30

32 

34 

32 

30 

33’ 

When the above Pyramids are rowed continuously -each set piece with a five-minute period of light paddling between sets - training effect is improvement of aerobic capacity.  

When these Pyramids are rowed intermittently -one minute light paddling between each rate change and a five minute rest period of light paddling between sets -training effect is improvement of aerobic capacity and acclimatization of lactate in the body

All the above work is Normal training load, but can be increased or reduced by 25%. Alterations should be made to times, making sure that the Pyramid principle is retained, but normally a different type of work would be done if it is necessary to amend the load for the best training effect.

Technical aim is to establish good technique at the lowest rate and to hold this quality as the rate increases. This method is a useful part of the system because longer pieces are rowed at the lower rates and the quality at the higher rates has to be held for a shorter space of time. It is equally important to hold quality when rates drop during the second half of a Pyramid.

When no suffix is shown, one only set is required.
A Half Pyramid refers to first half.

CASTLE

 

 

 

 

Minutes

Method 

Rates

Changes

Total

CAS 24 N

22 & 24

2’

66’

CAS 26 N

24 & 26

2’

44’

CAS 28 N

26 & 28

2’

36’

CAS 30 N

28 & 30

2’

26’

 

This work is continuous. If turns are necessary, they should be made within 30 seconds with work resuming as quickly as possible. Training effect is improvement of aerobic capacity. 

 

 

 

Minutes

 

Method

Rates

Changes

Total 

Execution 

CAS 32 N

30

+ 32

2'

24'

3 x  8'

CAS 34 N

32

+ 34

18'

3 x 6'

CAS 36 N

34

+ 36

1¼’

15'

3 x  5'

CAS 38 N

36

+ 38

1'

12'

3 x  4'

 

This work is intermittent with five minutes of light paddling between sets. Training effect is development of anaerobic capacity.   

Training loads            'N' = Normal training load of approximately 80%

 

'H' = High training load of 100%, an increase of 25%

‘L’  = Low training load of 60% a decrease of 25%

Technical aim is to establish good quality at the higher rate making sure that the quality improves when more time is available at the lower rate.

Where the stretch of water does not permit more than eight minutes of continuous work the changes are reduced to 1½ minutes. Below five minutes the changes are reduced to intervals of one minute. The total time for the method remains.

PYRAMID CASTLE

 

1.    PYR/CAS  28  L

The rates change every one-minute as follows:

22,24,26,24,26, 28,26,28,26,28, 26,24,26,24,22.

Continuous work for 15 minutes x two sets   =total work 30 minutes.

The rate of striking (stroke rate) increases by two strokes at the end of each minute. At the end of the third minute the rate returns to the rate of the previous minute and starts the same process again until the maximum rate of 28 is reached. The method then follows a pattern of the same format returning to the original rate of 22.

'N' Normal training load is three sets x 15 min - total 45 minutes. 'H' High training load is four sets x 15 min - total 60 minutes.

2.   PYR/CAS  30  N

The rates change every one minute as follows:

24, 26, 28, 26, 28, 30, 28, 30, 28, 30, 28, 26, 28, 26, 24

Continuous work for 15 minutes x two sets = total work 30 minutes. The format is exactly as for PYR/CAS 28 above.

'H' High training load is three sets x 15 minutes - total 45 minutes. 'L' Low training load is one set of 15 minutes.

Technical aim. This method is a valuable part of the System. If the oarsmen are unable to hold quality when rates increase the reduction of rate gives sufficient time for the quality to be re-established.

If the stretch of water allows thirty minutes of continuous work the changes should be increased to two minutes. When no suffix is shown, one only set is required.

STAIRCASE

Method

Sets

Rates 

Changes 

Set 

Total 

Light 

SIC 26 N

x 20:22:24:26: 

4'

16'

45' 

3’

S/C 28 N

3

x 20:22:24:26:28:

3’

15'

45'

3’

S/C 30 N

3

x 20:22:24:26:28:30:

2’

12'

36'

2’

S/C 32 N

3

x

22:24:26:28:30:32:

1½’

9'

27'

1½’

S/C 34 N

4

x

24:26:28:30:32:34:

1'

6' 

24'

1’

 

 

 

 

 

Strokes 

 

S/C 36 N 

8

x 26:28:30:32:34:36: 

10

60

480 

2’

S/C 38 N

7

x 28:30:32:34:36:38:

10

60

420

2'

S/C 40 N

6

x 30:32:34:36:38:40:

10

60

360

2'

S/C 42 N

x 32:34:36:38:40:42:

10 

60

300

2' 

All work is rowed continuously for each set with light paddling between sets.  

The training effect of staircases below rate 32 are basically for improvement of aerobic endurance and above 32 the work is anaerobic.

Training load. When no suffix is shown on the schedule this indicates that only one set piece is required. If more than one Staircase is required, the Method Code will be preceded by the number e.g. 2 x 5/C 40. Staircases are seldom used for an entire workload; they are used to supplement others to make a useful session of complex work.

Technical aim is to establish quality at the lowest rates and to hold good form throughout the session. Technically this is one of the toughest exercises in the scheme.

LADDER

Row 20 strokes at each rate with 10 light strokes between each change. Rates increase by 2 strokes per minute.

Method

Rates

Strokes

Set

Total 

Light 

LAD 26 N

20: 22: 24: 26

80

24

1920

1’

LAD 28 N

20:22:24:26:28

100

16

1600

1’

LAD  30 N

20: 22: 24: 26: 28: 30

120

12

1440

1’

LAD  32 N

22: 24: 26: 28: 30: 32

120

9

1080

2’

LAD  34 N

24: 26: 28: 30: 32: 34

120

8

96O

2’

LAD  36 N

26: 28: 30: 32: 34: 36

120

7

840

2’

LAD  38 N

28: 30: 32: 34: 36:38

120

6

720

3’

LAD  40 N

30: 32: 34: 36: 38: 40

120

5

600

3

LAD 42 N

32: 34: 36: 38: 40: 42

120

4

480

3 

 

Row 20 strokes at each of the above rates with 10 light strokes between. Light paddling for five minutes between each set.

Pulse rates should drop between 100 and 120 per minute during light paddle after each set before the next set is started. The recovery times are a guide and should be adapted to meet the required rest period for each crew.

 

The rate should be built up before the tenth stroke and the target rate held for the last ten strokes.

When no suffix is shown, one only set is required. When more than one set is required the Method code will be proceeded by the quantity.

The sets shown indicate the total work required for a Normal training load. It is not suggested that a LAD 26 N be done in its entirety for one session. LADDER work is a useful training method; it adds variety to a session and flexibility to the training loads.

Example: LADDER PROGRAM

LAD/PROG 40 N

22:24:26:28:30:32
24:26:28:30:32:34
26:28:30:32:34:36
28:30:32:34:36:38
30:32:34:36:38:40
600 strokes.

Row for twenty strokes at each of the above rates with 10 light strokes between.

CONSOLIDATION

Method

Rate

Minutes 

CON 20N

20

120'

CON 22 N

22

80'

CON 24 N

24

60'

CON 26 N

26

40'

CON 28 N

28

30'

CON 30 N

30

24'

 

Training effect of the above work is improvement of aerobic endurance. 

CON 32 

N

32

20'

4 x 5” with 5’ light between.

CON 34

N

34

15'

5 x 3’ with 3’ light between.

CON 36

N

36

12'

6 x 2’ with 2’ light between.

CON 38

N

38

9'

6 x 1½’ with 1½’ light between.

CON 40

40

8' 

8 x 1’ with 1’ light between.

Training effect of this work is improvement of anaerobic endurance.  

All above work is at Normal training load of approximately 80%. Times should be increased or decreased by 25% for amendments.

Technical aim is to Consolidate equality at a specific rate. Good quality must be established early in the session and held throughout the period of tiredness, which gradually develops until it reaches its peak of exhaustion at the end of the work

 

SPEED WORK

Method

Rates 

 

 

SPE 36 N

36

5 (5 x 20 strokes 10 light) 

500 strokes

SPE 38 N

38

4 (5 x 20 strokes 10 light)

400 strokes

SPE 40 N

40 

3 (5 x 20 strokes 10 light)

300 strokes

Build the rate up over 10 strokes and hold the target rate for the remaining ten strokes.  

For 'H' high training load the rest period between strokes is reduced to 5 strokes light.

For 'L' low training load the rest period between strokes is increased to 20 strokes light.

Example: SPEED PROGRAM  

SPEED/PROG N above race rate.

5 x

20 

strokes 

10

light 

5' rest

5 x

20

strokes

5

light

5' rest

5 x

20 

strokes

5

light

5' rest

5 x

20

strokes

10

light

5' rest

5 x

20

strokes

15

light

5' rest

5 x

20 

strokes

20 

light

600 strokes. 

   

SPECIFIC WORK

Other types of work can be included in the system.

Examples would be:

I.

Timed rows:

6 x

500m

 

 

4 x

1OOOm

 

 

 

3 x

15OOm

 

 

 

2 x

2OOOm

All above work is at Normal training load of approximately 80%. Times should be increased or decreased by 25% for amendments. 

Technical aim is to Consolidate equality at a specific rate. Good quality must be established early in the session and held throughout the period of tiredness, which gradually develops until it reaches its peak of exhaustion at the end of the work.

SUMMARY OF WORKOUTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Methods

 

 

 

 

Loads

 

 

 

 

 

PYR

26

N

76

mins

4 sets

x 19

mins

 

 

 

 

28

N

57

mins

3 sets

x 19

mins

 

 

 

 

30

N

38

mins

2 sets

x 19

mins

 

 

 

 

32

N

30

mins

2 sets

x 15

mins

 

 

 

 

34

N

22

mins

2 sets

x 11

mins

 

 

 

 

36

N

19

mins

1 set

x 19

mins

 

 

 

 

38

N

15

mins

1 set

x 15

mins

 

 

 

CAS

24

N

66

mins

2 mm.

changes

 

 

 

 

26

N

44

mins

2 mm.

changes

 

 

 

 

28

N

36

mins

2 mm.

changes

 

 

 

 

30

N

26

mins

2 mm.

changes

 

 

 

 

32

N

24

mins

3 sets

x 8 mins

 

 

 

 

34

N

18

mins

3 sets

x 6 mins

 

 

 

 

36

N

15

mins

3 sets

x 5 mins

 

 

 

 

38

N

12

mins

3 sets

x 4 mins

 

 

 

PYR/CAS

28

L

30

mins

2 sets

x 15 mins

 

 

 

 

30

N

30

mins

2 sets

x 15 mins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changes.

 

S/C

26

N

48

mins

3 sets

x 16

mins

4

mins

 

 

28

N

45

mins

3 sets

x 15

mins

3

mins

 

 

30

N

36

mins

3 sets

x 12

mins

2

mins

 

 

32

N

27

mins

3 sets

x 9

mins

mins

 

 

34

N

24

mins

4 sets

x 6

mins

1

mins

 

 

36

N

480

str

8 sets

x 60

str

10

str

 

 

38

N

420

str

7 sets

x 60

str

10

str

 

 

40

N

360

str

6 sets

x 60

str

10

str

 

 

42

N

300

str

5 sets

x 60

str

10

str

 

LAD

26

N 1920

str

24

sets

x 80

str.

4

x 20:10

light.

 

28

N 1600

str

16

sets

x1OO

str.

5

x 20:10

light.

 

30

N 1440

str

12

sets

x120

str.

6

x 20:10

light.

 

32

N 1080

str

9

sets

x120

str.

6

x 20:10

light.

 

34

N

960

str

8

sets

x120

str.

6

x 20:10

light.

 

36

N

840

str

7

sets

x120

str.

6

x 20:10

light.

 

38

N

720

str

6

sets

x120

str.

6

x 20:10

light.

 

40

N

600

str

5

sets

x12O

str.

6

x 20:10

light.

 

42

N

480

str

4

sets

x120

str.

6

x 20:10

light.

CON

20

N

120

mins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22

N

80

mins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

N

60

mins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

26

N

40

mins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

28

N

30

mins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30

N

24

mins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

32

N

20

mins

4 sets

x 5

mins

 

 

 

 

34

N

15

mins

5 sets

x 3

mins

 

 

 

 

36

N

12

mins

6 sets

x 2

mins

 

 

 

 

38

N

9

mins

6 sets

x 1½ mins

 

 

 

 

40

N

8

mins

8 sets

x 1

mins

 

 

 

SPE

36

N

500

str

 

5 sets

x   100 str (5 x 20:10 light)

 

 

36

N

400

str

 

5 sets

x   100 str

 

 

 

 

40

N

300

str

 

5 sets

x 100 str

 

 

 

 

SAMPLE PROGRAM

PERIOD 2:                           14 to 29 November.

TRAINING AIM:

Development of aerobic capacity with some strength improvement.

TECHNICAL AIM:

To make full use of body weight at the finish, make sure that the body swings back while the blade is driving through the stroke, and do not let the body curl forward at the finish.

DAY

1

a.m.

 

CON 22  L

 

 

p.m.

 

CAS 24  N

 

2

a.m.

6

LAD 26

 

 

p.m.

 

PYR 26 N

 

3

a.m.

 

CON 24 L

 

 

p.m.

 

CAS 26 H

 

4

a.m.

4

LAD 28

 

 

p .m.

 

PYR 28 N

 

5

a.m.

 

S/C 26 L

 

 

p.m.

 

PYR 30 N

 

6

a.m.

 

S/C 30 L

 

 

p.m.

 

LAD 30 N

 

7

a.m.

 

Rest

 

 

p.m.

 

Rest

 

8

a.m.

 

CON 26 L

 

 

p.m.

 

PYR/CAS 28 L

 

9

a.m.

 

PYR 30 N

 

 

p.m.

 

CAS 28 N

 

10

a.m.

6

LAD 28

 

 

p.m.

 

PYR 30 H

 

11

a.m.

 

S/C 28

 

 

p.m.

 

PYR/CAS 28 L

 

12

a.m.

 

CAS 26 N

 

 

p.m.

 

PYR 30 L

 

13

a.m.

 

CON 28 N

 

 

p.m.

2

S/C 30

 

14

a.m.

 

Rest

 

 

p.m.

 

Rest

TARGET RATE:  28

 

 

 

TIME KEEPING AND RATINGS CONTROL

 

 

 

A means of measuring the stroke rate and the timed pieces is essential. A stroke meter is the ideal instrument, but a normal stopwatch can be used successfully. Counting the number of strokes rowed for each minute or part of a minute can identify ratings. The easiest way is to count the strokes completed in 15 seconds, 30 seconds and then the full minute, for greater accuracy. For example:

8 strokes in 15 seconds = rate 32 (8 strokes x 4) 16 strokes in 30 seconds = rate 32 (16 strokes x 2)

When counting the strokes it is easier to count the number of ‘catches’ rowed. A stroke begins and finishes at the same place and nine catches are equal to eight strokes. Seventeen catches are equal to sixteen strokes, and thirty three catches are equal to thirty two strokes per minute.

ROWING  TECHNIQUE

STING AND FLOAT

Good rowing technique is a combination of POWER (muscular coordination) and BLADE control. A boat will only travel as fast as the blades drive it! 

In a 2000 meter race an Oarsperson rows between 200 and 250 strokes in his bid for a medal. This is a small number compared with the many thousands rowed in a training period. Concentration of effort per stroke is obvious and it is one of the hardest things to achieve in the sport.

A stroke can be divided into two phases:

1. The Power phase.

2. The Recovery phase.

This System sets out to train rowers to apply full power to each stroke and to take a good rest between strokes, which will enable them to apply a high load for a long time.

The phrase 'Sting and Float' identifies the Power as the 'sting' and the recovery as the 'float'.

Good technique is based on the coordinated strength of the oarsperson, which provides the power, and control of the blade to transmit that power into efficient propulsion of the boat.

The correct path for a blade, the sequence of movements, which coordinate muscular strength into power and the recovery phase, which helps the body to maintain full power for 200 strokes, is illustrated on the following pages.

BLADEWORK

The most efficient path for the blade is described as follows:

The blade should:

  • Enter the water quickly in the most acute angle to achieve full use of the reach forward.
  • Move quickly into the horizontal plane once it is covered.
  • Accelerate from entry, through the middle of the stroke to the finish where it reaches maximum thrust.
  • Remain at the same even depth throughout the stroke, well covered but with the shaft clear of the water.
  • Leave the water quickly and cleanly at the end of the stroke and turn onto the feather only when it is clear of the surface.
  • Travel forwards well clear of the water after extraction, at an even height until it comes down to the surface squared and ready for the next stroke.

It is important to avoid the following common TECHNICAL ERRORS for the reasons given:

1. BLADE MISSING THE FIRST PART OF THE STROKE.

The angle and speed of entry is critical. Length of stroke is lost and valuable leg drive is used inefficiently until the blade is covered.

2. BLADE TRAVELS TOO DEEP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STROKE.

The direction in which the blade travels through the stroke is important. It must relate to the direction of the boat. A blade moving in an angle, which takes it deep into the water at the midway point, is inefficient: the blade achieves less grip, some of the propulsive force is misdirected, and resistance to the oarsperson is caused by the shaft breaking through the water. These are the main areas of inefficiency, but other problems created by a deep blade are height of draw, balance, rhythm and inconsistency.

3. RAGGED EXTRACTION

The blade must be extracted cleanly at the finish of the stroke at the moment full power is released. A blade that drags out of the water impedes the smooth flow of a fast moving boat.

4. BLADES NOT CLEARING THE SURFACE DURING THE RECOVERY.

The blade must be carried forward well clear of the water to avoid contact with the surface, a wave or another puddle. If the blade is carried too close it is necessary to lift the blade higher when it is to be squared for the next stroke. This movement Just before blade entry inhibits the preparation for a good catch. It also leads to the blade missing the first part of the stroke as described before. A blade carried too close to the water restricts the free flow of the boat and the crew finds difficulty in keeping the boat on a level keel.

Correction of these errors is part of learning good technique. Understand what good blade work is, make sure the rowers are quite relaxed, and encourage them to look at their own blade work during technical sessions and inform them that practice makes perfect and mileage makes champions.

POWER

In the same way that oarsmen must apply their power together, the oarsmen must work their muscles in support of each other. The correct movements of the body to achieve this coordination of strength are described as follows:

  1. The hands guide the blade into the water.
  2. The legs provide the speed which gives the blade early grip on the water.
  3. The muscles of the back, shoulders and arms hold firm and provide strong connection between legs and blade.
  4. The legs provide the main source of the power and maintain firm pressure throughout the stroke. Soon after blade entry, the trunk begins to swing back and the shoulders send the seat forward, drawing the oar so that through the middle of the stroke all muscle groups are working together.
  5. The trunk continues to swing back till the time the arms are pulling so that pressure is maintained on the blade whilst the boat is increasing its speed.
  6. The oarsperson sits tall as his/her hands draw high into his/her chest at about the height of his second rib. He/she makes sure that his/her hands do not hit his/her body at the finish of the stroke.
  7. His/her hands move quickly and smoothly down and away from his/her body following the line of his thighs. The inside hand turns the blade onto the feather immediately after it is clear of the water.
  8. When the arms are relaxed and straight and hands clear the knees the trunk swings forward before the slide leaves backstops. The body angle is held all the way forward to the front stops in readiness for the next stroke.
  9. The seat leaves backstops slowly and unhurriedly, but without wasting any time. The sliding forwards is in sympathy with the motion of the boat and it is during this phase that the rower rests and prepares himself/herself for the next stroke.
  10. His/her legs begin to rise as the seat approaches front stops. He/she remains sitting tall in the boat and floats up over his/her knees ready for a long reach forward. He/she is quite relaxed, letting the speed of the boat running beneath him/her draw his/her seat forward to front stops.

The style is based on a powerful drive from the legs with other muscle groups working in support. Every available muscle is used to drive the blade. Immediately the blade is released from the water the rower relaxes. This allows his/her body to achieve some recovery. It is this recovery which enables the rower to apply full power to 250 strokes or the number of strokes it takes to row 2000 meters.

It is Important that the following common POWER ERRORS are avoided for the reasons given:

SITTING TOO LONG AT BACK STOPS POSITION.

The sooner the sliding seat leaves backstops the slower it needs to travel. At the rate of thirty, the time available for sliding forward with a good rhythm would be under 1+ seconds. Clearly, time spent sitting too long at backstops has to be made up to avoid the rate dropping, and the rower ends up sliding faster forward.

The momentum generated from the power of the stroke should be channeled into a smooth and lively recovery of the hands leading the body forward and the seat from back stops without wasting time.

SLIDING TOO FAST FORWARD

The speed of the sliding forward should not exceed the speed during the stroke. Sliding too fast forward does not allow the rower to rest fully. There are other disadvantages in that it does not permit smooth running of the boat, the rower loses feel for the boat and he/she is hurried into the forward position from which he/she is unable to time his/her next stroke. Falling or pitching over the knees at front stops stems from sliding too fast forward.

STRETCHING FOR MORE LENGTH FROM FRONT STOPS POSITION.

The length of stroke, determined by the angle of the body in the forward position, originates from the swing forward of the trunk from backstops. Attempting to reach for more length once the slide has left backstops often has the opposite affect. Diving forward for more length can cause the body to fall onto the thighs and actually prevent good length forward.

Stretching for more length, putting strain on the arms and back, at a time when the body should be set ready to spring onto the stroke, not only prevents a good beginning but it puts strain on the back which sometimes cannot hold firm. This leads to slide shooting which is a common fault!

Another common fault, which is linked to stretching for length, is the hands dropping which lifts the blade too high off the water. This inevitably means that the first part of the stroke is missed.

SHOOTING THE SLIDE.

When the legs drive at a faster pace than the hands move, it is evident that the back muscles have not held firm and some of the leg power is wasted. There is also the risk of injury to the back muscles. Stretching for more length forward is a common cause of slide shooting. It is important that the trunk holds firm as the legs drive the blade into the water.

OPENING THE TRUNK AT THE BEGINNING OF THE STROKE.

Young people and sometimes newcomers to the sport are often weak in the lower back and have difficulty in holding the trunk firm against the power of their legs. In these circumstances it is advisable to teach the technique of opening the body before driving the legs. This places the back in a stronger position and more able to hold firm. As development of the back muscles takes effect, gradual change in the technique should be introduced. It is very difficult to achieve a good catch in a fast moving boat without full use of the legs.

BODY CURLING FORWARDS AT THE FINISH OF THE STROKE.

This fault occurs when pressure is reduced on the blade during the last part of the stroke. With no support, the body curls forwards. This reduced blade pressure is caused by either of the following faults:

I. Using the arms at the beginning leaves the rower less arm strength with which to draw the finish. This also eliminates the powerful latissimus dorsi and reduces the effect of the deltoids (shoulders), gluteals and erector spinae muscles.

II. When the back does not hold firm against the leg drive, the legs reach backstops ahead of the stroke in the water. The arms are unable to cope with this amount of work left to do and pressure on the blade is reduced.

III. Opening the body at the beginning of the stroke which delays the leg drive and reduces the effect of the legs so that co-ordination of the muscle groups is less efficient. The weakness shows at the most vulnerable part of the stroke, i.e. the finish.

The oarsperson sits tall in the boat as he/she swings back at the finish, applying full body weight to the blade. This swing back supports the draw with the arms, and pressure is maintained on the blade of an accelerating boat. It is with this pressure that the body recovers itself for the next stroke.

UNCONTROLLED SLIDE FORWARD AND POOR PREPARATION OF THE BODY.

The hands extract the blade from the water in the lively flowing movement leading the body into an inclined forward position and the seat into motion, sliding to front stops. The rower relaxes during this recovery phase to help the body achieve some rest and to prepare for the next stroke. 

It is a common fault to move the seat off backstops with the arms still bent and the body not fully inclined forward. The effect of this is:

I. The hands are carried too high so that they can clear the knees as they rise. The blade is carried too close to the water, which also impedes the balance of the boat.

II. The body swinging forwards as the slide approaches front stops will fall onto the thighs and prevent a good forward reach.

III. The last minute reach forward prevents the rower from preparing well for the next stroke.

IV. The oarsperson is less able to relax and have sufficient rest. Tension will be likely in his hands and shoulders.

V. The stern of the boat will drop rapidly just before the catch as the oarsperson pitches forward from front stops.

VI. The body will be in a weaker position for the next stroke.

CORRECTION OF FAULTS

Understand what a fault is and accept that it exists.
Identify the cause of the fault.
Understand what good technique is and practice it.
Practice makes perfect.

SCULLING TECHNIQUE

Three factors determine the speed of the boat. They are:

1. Power - how fast the boat travels each stroke.
2. Length - how far the boat travels each stroke
3. Rate - how many strokes are rowed.

If a crew rowed at maximum capacity in all three of these components at the same time, it is doubtful that crew could row 10 strokes before technique withered and boat speed faded. The number of strokes required to complete 2000 meters is about 250 and clearly, an equilibrium of power, length and rate must be achieved. Rowing is basically a power endurance sport, but it requires a high level of skill. Choosing the "right" technique and then teaching it is a coaching skill and there are many differing opinions about which method is the best. Whatever the method, power, length and rate are the basic ingredients.

RATE

Rate is the easiest to achieve. Keeping it at its optimum in a race is not the main problem. Length and power are the first to deteriorate when the pressure of the race reaches its peak.

LENGTH

The most efficient part of the stroke is when the blade is passing at 90 degrees to the boat. Only when it is at this angle is its force propelling the boat wholly in the correct direction. In theory, an efficient length of stroke is from 45 degrees at the catch to 135 degrees at the finish. In practice, the body prevents the arms from reaching more than 125 degrees. To achieve 45 degrees at the catch, the reach must extend beyond this angle. A longer finish can be drawn in a sculling boat but it is inefficient to draw more than 130 degrees.

POWER

Maximal power is achieved by appropriate sequencing of the contributing muscles from strongest to weakest.

  • Legs first. The quadriceps and gluteals.
  • Then the Back. The lower back.
  • Then the Shoulders and Arms. The latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids and biceps.

THE STROKE

The boat goes only as fast as the blades drive it. The power transferred through the blade to the boat is only as much as the legs supply. A good technique is based on the work of the legs to create most of the total power.

THE CATCH

The faster the blade enters the water the more positive will be the grip, the longer will be the stroke and the faster the boat will travel. The important points are:

  1. Hands guide the blade into the water.
  2. Legs apply the power
  3. Trunk and arms link legs to blade

MIDDLE OF THE STROKE

All the muscles are working through their middle range and the blade is at its most efficient point in the stroke. Make full use of this advantage by beginning the draw with the arms before midway. The arms must start to draw well before the legs reach the backstops.

THE FINISH

Retain pressure on the blade through to the finish by pressing toes on the footboard, by using the leverage of the trunk, and by keeping the arms working with the body. Although legs reach backstops before the arms and trunk have finished working, the toes should continue pressing hard to give support with the back until the blade is extracted. The trunk should be moving towards the bow until the moment before the hands reach the body (if the arm draw starts too late, this timing will be delayed).

RHYTHM

The rowing stroke comprises fast movements and slow movements. The essence of good rhythm in the boat is the contrast between them. Done well, a good motion looks smooth, continuous, and unhurried but it can be difficult to see that contrast. The fast movements begin with the entry of the blade and continue through the stroke and the movement of the hands away from the body after blade extraction (the finish). The slower movements begin when the hands pass over the knees and continue until the next stroke. The inertia created by the power of the stroke carries the hands down and away from the body when the seat is at the backstops. The body relaxes immediately as the blade leaves the water so there is no interference with this natural free-flowing movement. The seat moves slowly forward in contrast to its speed during the stroke. The rower prepares by gathering, ready to spring from the stretcher onto the next stroke. The movement of the seat must be faster during the stroke than it is during the recovery. The sooner it leaves the backstops after the finish, the more time it has to reach the front stops and the slower it can travel. The hands and then the body move lively away from the finish to allow the seat to start on its way forward.

THE RECOVERY

Hands, Body, Slide...

1.Move the hands down and away over the knees
2.Pivot the body forward onto the feet
3.Move the seat away from the backstops.
4.Move forward, rest the body and let the boat run underneath you.

PREPARE FOR THE STROKE

To achieve optimum position for the application of power and good forward length - note the following points of posture:

  1. Head high encourages good posture for body and spine.
  2. Chest against thighs. Rotation should be centered around the hip joint, not the upper or lower back.
  3. Shins vertical - strong position for the quadriceps.
  4. Relaxed but alert - poised like a cat ready to spring

SCULLING

The oar handles should be held in the fingers, not the palms. The hands should generally be at the tips of the oars to maximize inboard leverage, with the thumbs pressed against the handle nub to generate sufficient outward pressure against the oarlock. As someone said, "The handles should be grasped like one is holding a small bird: firmly enough to hold on, but not so hard as to kill it." The grip of the fingers around the oar will automatically increase sufficiently when contact with the water is made The arms and hands should extend along a horizontal plane out well over the gunwales as the blade angle is increased in preparation for grasping the water. The entry of the blade into the water will be accomplished with a relaxation or slightly positive "flick" of the hands and arms while maintaining the blade angle (not opening the back) to achieve the catch.

RELAXATION

Contract only those muscles needed to perform a specific function. This is achieved by relaxation of the hands, arms and shoulders, the areas where tension will be most prevalent. The muscles of the upper body will be more effective if they begin the catch in a relaxed condition. Muscles will contract instantly when a load is forced upon them.

BLADEWORK

The importance of blade work must be appreciated. Only the blades move the boat, therefore an important part of the technique is the skill with which the blades are controlled.

Good blades have these characteristics:

  1. A long stroke in the water I Minimum loss of reach forward/Quickly grip the water I Covered throughout the stroke.
  2. Utilize power/Grip the water with minimum loss of leg drive/Work in a horizontal plane/Covered throughout the stroke.
  3. Do not interfere with the run of the boat/Clean extraction/Carried forward clear of the water/Balance the boat.

RHYTHM - WHERE TO POISE
 
It is always necessary to compose before any dynamic action (e.g. Lifting a weight, striking a note, hitting a ball, or rowing a stroke). The question is "where is the best place to "poise" prior to the action? There are different ideas in rowing on where the poise should be.

The current method is to poise during the last part of the movement towards the front stops. The inertia created by the draw at the finish is used to carry the hands away from the body, the trunk into the catch angle and the seat from backstops. The rower has time to relax, let the boat run under the seat, and to prepare for the next stroke. The poise just before blade entry is sufficient to achieve a very fast catch.

SCULLING STYLE

Sculling styles differ in where emphasis is p laced. Body positions and movements will be influenced by this emphasis. The method should be based on rhythm. The stroke is divided into two phases:

  1. The Stroke or power phase, and
  2. The Recovery or resting phase.

Scullers are trained to apply full power to each stroke and to rest during recovery, which will help them apply power to 250 strokes or the number required to complete the race.

The ability to apply power is an essential physical requirement. Physical capacity is acquired by training but the coordination of muscular contraction in the rowing stroke is the essence of good technique.

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