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Training Quality

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It is very common to hear judo cuaches talk about train more or iincrase the training volume. Undoubtedly, quantity of training is important. Without quantity you may not be working out enough or with the consistency needed to see results in high performance. But, what happen with quality? Without quality in your judo sessions you may not even be doing the working in the right direction to make your goals a reality.

Have a look to this interesting article about the importance of quality training.

Haugen, Thomas & Tønnessen, Espen & Sandbakk, Silvana & Sandbakk, Oyvind. (2023). Training Quality-An Unexplored Domain in Sport Science. 10.1123/ijspp.2022-0500.

Performance in sport is influenced by multiple factors wherein natural selection and sport-specific training adaptations are considered particularly important. While selection is closely related to genetics and remains practically unaffected, the utilization of the genetic potential leading to specific adaptation is a mere product of the various stimuli provided through the training process. The training process consists of multiple stages aiming to close the gap between current and desired performance level. These stages in sequence include goal setting, knowledge of the sport-specific requirements, athlete capacity and gap analyses, application of training principles, organization of training load factors (eg, exercises, locomotion modalities, volume, intensity, frequency), and implementation of recovery strategies (eg, rest, nutrition).

Numerous studies have described the quantitative aspects of the training characteristics (what and how much) in world-leading athletes across various sports.13 These features are quite well understood, and experimental studies have later tested the training models derived by the best practitioners.4,5 However, when successful athletes are asked to explain the reasons behind their success, they often highlight the quality of their training. This aspect has so far received limited attention in sport science, and several fundamental questions related to this feature need to be addressed.

What is training quality? According to Oxford Languages, the term “quality” is derived from the Latin “qualis,” meaning “how” or “what kind.” Quality refers to the standard of excellence of something and/or the ways processes are undertaken. Somewhat surprisingly, no consensus has been established in the sport-science community regarding a clear definition of training quality, and most practitioners argue that it depends on the perspective. These perspectives can range from being holistic (ie, the entire training process) to reductionistic (ie, single training sessions). In this context, an invited commentary by Bucher Sandbakk et al currently in review for an upcoming issue of IJSPP defines training quality as “the degree of excellence related to how the training process or training sessions are executed to optimize adaptations and thereby improve overall performance.”

What factors affect training quality? Within the multifaceted training process, numerous contextual variables are involved. Most important are athlete-dependent characteristics such as age, sex, training experience, motivation, determination, performance level, maturity, training smartness, recovery/training status, and job/study/family situation. However, training quality is also strongly influenced by the coach (sport-specific knowledge, experience, and pedagogic skills), training peers, support staff, training facilities, climate/weather, and equipment. Training quality is related to the deeper insights of training, mainly derived from the athlete–coach interplay where judgments, decisions, and adjustments are founded on observations, perceptions, and analyses of distinct domains (eg, physiological, technical, tactical, or mental) within the training process.

High training quality can only be obtained directly by athletes, but coaches and support staff can influence training quality indirectly via actions directed toward the athletes. This dichotomy is probably part of the reason why athletes, coaches, and support staff apparently have somewhat different views on training quality, as their attitudes and approaches to training are formed by their specific roles. Coaches typically focus on dose planning prior to the session, supervision and feedback during training execution, and analysis of the session afterward. Complementarily, athletes typically focus on preparation in terms of sufficient sleep and recovery from the last session, working tasks and right focus (eg, effort) during training, followed by nutrition, shower, and changing to dry clothes immediately afterward.

Who makes the call whether the training process is of good quality or not? In most practical occasions in elite/top sport, training quality is evaluated based on the results of the process. These are typically quantitative in nature and operationalized by objectively defined performance indicators where the degree of quality is linked to a deviation from a predetermined goal. If the results over time do not satisfy the predetermined goal, the coach can face pressure from the sport-governing body in charge, and the athlete becomes anxious about future selections and/or the potential loss of financial support. However, most evaluations should to a larger degree consider the quality of the process undertaken to facilitate long-term development in the sport discipline. This is a far more challenging act, as the holistic nature of training quality cannot by assessed by objective measures alone. Experienced coaches who have achieved success with multiple athletes over time are perhaps best capable to judge. However, all parties involved in the training process should participate in training-quality-evaluation processes to (1) facilitate discussions around the impact of the different factors involved and (2) create a foundation to further improve training quality.

We argue that, over time, training quality separates good from great athlete development. Accordingly, IJSPP welcomes more study submissions related to how training quality can be assessed and improved and positively influence physiology and performance in sport. The commentary by Bucher Sandbakk et al that will be published in a forthcoming issue will provide a framework in this regard.

REFERENCES

  • 1.Haugen T, Sandbakk Ø, Seiler S, Tønnessen E. The training characteristics of world-class distance runners: an integration of scientific literature and results-proven practice. Sports Med—Open. 2022;8:46.
  • 2.Tønnessen E, Sylta Ø, Haugen TA, Hem E, Svendsen IS, Seiler S. The road to gold: training and peaking characteristics in the year prior to a gold medal endurance performance. PLoS ONE. 2014;9:e101796.
  • 3.van Erp T, Sanders D, de Koning JJ. Training characteristics of male and female professional road cyclists: a 4-year retrospective analysis. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2020;15(4):534–540.
  • 4.Sylta Ø, Tønnessen E, Hammarstrøm D, et al. The effect of different high-intensity periodization models on endurance adaptations. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016;48:2165–2174.
  • 5.Filipas L, Bonato M, Gallo G, Codella R. Effects of 16 weeks of pyramidal and polarized training intensity distributions in well-trained endurance runners. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2022;32:498–511.

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