Recently with sports training an interesting component to follow with performance is the total volume of training the athletes are experiencing. One way to quantify this is to examine the acute to chronic training volume. Volume is the amount of work done, think how many reps you did with a weight (10 reps at 100lbs. is 1,000lbs of total volume for that set) now add up all the work you did in the session to get the session volume. The acute training volume is the total amount of work performed by the athlete over the week. Chronic volume is the average training load per week over the past 4 weeks. You can also think of this as the amount of training the athlete does over the microcycle compared to the mesocycle.
Research comparing injury rates with increases ratios of the acute to chronic training volume
In rugby players any time the acute training volume was greater than 1.5x the chronic training volume per week there was a significant increase in the rates of injuries for the athletes. Overall these athletes still were getting hurt even when the training volume didn’t massively increase. Also, these are rugby athletes which means there is collisions in the sport which those risks of injury are going to be higher than sports like golf. However, it is an important point to track increases in volume above what an athlete typically has to recover from since this increases their risk of injury.
Ways to track this on a budget
Having methods to track total athlete training volume especially in ball sports often requires accelerometers that can cost thousands of dollars (per year) along with doing the analysis of that data. Another method is to video tape every single practice and game to find out how far the athletes move and at what velocity they move and change direction. This will take a crazy amount of time. The best bet is to simply track the total amount of time practice lasts and have the athlete’s rate how hard they thought the practice was on average. Then multiply those sums together and track the total perceived volume load the athletes did over time. Research shows that this tends to be a close estimate in trained athletes of total training load. As you do this, track and see how increases in volume over what the athletes normally do has any relationship to the amount of non-contact injuries on your team. If you are just working with weight lifting based sports then you can literally track the sets and reps of the loads the athletes are lifting to get an idea of the training volume.
Implications for coaches and athletes
Every person adapts to the total amount of work their body typically has to perform if given enough time. Any time you rapidly increase this amount of work you massively increase your risk of injury. On the opposite side of the equation, any time you decrease the total amount of work an athlete is doing they are going to decrease performance and fitness. When this can become an issue is when athletes don’t train all summer and then show up for fall sports their risks of getting injured goes through the roof. Starting up your practices with lower intensities and ramping up with time will decrease your risk of getting folks hurt. Also making sure that you have your athletes in some type of summer training and conditioning program so they are adapted to training volumes before the practices start. If an athlete gets hurt, getting them to do all the training they can without slowing injury recovery is important to keep them adapted to handling significant volumes of work. This is why I like sled work if I am dealing with an injury to help keep up work capacity.
Implications for personal trainers and people getting back in shape
If you or someone you work with has been completely sedentary one set of any exercise equals a massive increase in training volume over what they were adapted to. So it is always important to start them off with less work than you would think they need to be doing. Having them build up with 3-5 total sets of an exercise and only one heavy set initially will be more than enough for them to adapt to over what their body was prepared for before then. Apply this same logic anytime you add is something new like different exercises or intensities (walking is a lot easier on the body than running).
Tracking the amount of work your athletes do is very important to get an idea of what they can tolerate without getting injured. An athlete that is injured can’t play for you, so you want to make sure that you keep them healthy. The goal is always to have productive training and if you have an idea of what someone is used to you can then write them better recommendations of what to do to make progress while minimizing the risk of injury.