Acute Versus Chronic Workload for Basketball

Improve Performance & Reduce Injury

At the end of the day, training is about improving performance and reducing the potential for injury due to the inherent dangers of the sport. We can’t dwell on the potential for the injury. We just need to know it exists and reduce by training properly.

To say we have the exact recipe for training is untrue. We must consider many variables to ensure training will provide purposeful and transferable results.

Some of the considerations are:

  • Biomechanics of the skills like running, shuffling, jumping/landing, backpedal, etc.

  • Recovery of the athletes

  • The total volume of training

  • Age and experience

  • Social stressors

  • And, many more

To say we can have one answer to solve this puzzle is kind of crazy. We have to consider all things.

Acute vs Chronic

Two areas we can control are the Acute and Chronic Workloads. Acute is anything from a day to a week of training. Chronic is typically around a month or longer.

The ultimate goal is to build up our chronic training workload to build healthy and strong capacities to handle increasing workloads. The reason for this is so athletes can withstand the volume a long season can bring.

Acute Training Workloads can be an issue on the shorter end of the spectrum. The problem lies when coaches suddenly increase workload higher than usual in one workout or a week of workouts. The stress to the CNS, soft tissues, joints, and hormonal systems is too soon.

The problem isn’t increasing workload. It’s increasing workload too rapidly, which is why proper programming methods come into play.

I feel it’s hard to put an exact percentage of daily, weekly, or monthly increases, but there should be a progressive loading scheme that stresses the systems to cause adaptations. Sometimes, decisions must be made based on the athlete's physical and mental stress levels.

Other things to consider are what systems are being stressed and how quickly they respond. The muscular system and joint systems respond differently to the same stress and therefore need to be judged differently. The CNS can respond very quickly to an appropriate increase in workload but take 6-7 days to recover from a poorly programmed stimulus with very high intensity and workload (see poorly prescribed HITT).

Another significant consideration when examining workload is the ability to apply current monitoring systems, like a GPS, for readings on overall volumes, intensities, recovery, the total number of sprints or accelerations, etc. If you are like me and don’t have a GPS system to monitor my athletes' performance, you can use PRE scales. This simply means the athlete's workload is judged by the perceived amount they can do for the number of reps assigned. 

If ten reps are assigned, and the athlete feels as though they can only get seven, that lets us know the athlete is in a state of fatigue- especially if the athlete has previously accomplished ten reps at the same load. This method can be used for speed, conditioning, and strength.

The bottom line is that to increase workload to build a healthy, strong group of athletes, we have to have a systematic way of avoiding acute overload too soon and staying more focused on the chronic workload increases. We do this by reverse-engineering the process. What does this mean?

What does the ideal athlete look like in peak performance? When would we want this athlete to have this peak level of performance during the season? Let’s start with these questions and reverse engineer the programming to meet the qualities we want the athlete to have at the most crucial time. If we want great elastic qualities, incredible acceleration, and high max velocity speed, what training steps does it take to get the athlete there.

Training is an Art & Science

Training is a science as much as it is an art. It is not perfect, and it is not exact. It goes a long way to ensure we protect and improve our athletes' performance by controlling the controllable: respecting Acute Workloads through the principle of gradual increases and marrying it to the goal of Chronic Workloads to ensure healthy and strong athletes.

Acute and Chronic Workload equations are screwed up horribly in the sport of basketball at an alarming rate. Players who have experienced a low workload coming into the off or pre-season are “crushed” right off the bat with tremendous Acute Workloads, and we wonder why knee pain, back pain, foot and ankle pain arise. 

The Certified Basketball Speed Specialist course is one of the best resources to help communication between player to players, coach to coach, and coach to player. It is also a great tool to build appropriate acute and chronic workloads.

Categories: art of coaching, basketball footwork, basketball movement, basketball speed