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Sports Med. 2009;39(9):779-95. doi: 10.2165/11317780-000000000-00000.

The quantification of training load, the training response and the effect on performance.

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MRC/UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.


Historically, the ability of coaches to prescribe training to achieve optimal athletic performance can be attributed to many years of personal experience. A more modern approach is to adopt scientific methods in the development of optimal training programmes. However, there is not much research in this area, particularly into the quantification of training programmes and their effects on physiological adaptation and subsequent performance. Several methods have been used to quantify training load, including questionnaires, diaries, physiological monitoring and direct observation. More recently, indices of training stress have been proposed, including the training impulse, which uses heart rate measurements and training load, and session rating of perceived exertion measurements, which utilizes subjective perception of effort scores and duration of exercise. Although physiological adaptations to training are well documented, their influence on performance has not been accurately quantified. To date, no single physiological marker has been identified that can measure the fitness and fatigue responses to exercise or accurately predict performance. Models attempting to quantify the relationship between training and performance have been proposed, many of which consider the athlete as a system in which the training load is the input and performance the system output. Although attractive in concept, the accuracy of these theoretical models has proven poor. A possible reason may be the absence of a measure of individuality in each athlete's response to training. Thus, in the future more attention should be directed towards measurements that reflect individual capacity to respond or adapt to exercise training rather than an absolute measure of changes in physiological variables that occur with training.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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