It is that time of year again when tennis fans around the world are looking forward to seeing who will be crowned the Australian Open Champion for 2018. Unfortunately a number of the best players in the world have been forced to retire from the Australian Open or have missed the competition entirely due to injury. With the amount of hours that some of these players spend on the court it is no surprise that their bodies are not able to keep up, and eventually get injured. However, if the time between workouts/ training sessions and the dose of those workouts or training sessions are correctly prescribed, a large number of injuries can be prevented.
These two concepts are known as Minimum Effective Dose (MED) and Supercompensation. The MED is simply the smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome and anything beyond the MED is wasteful. For example, water boils at 100°. It can never be ‘more boiled’ by adding more heat to it and you can save money on gas or electricity if you don’t try to continue increasing the temperature of the water. The same can be said of athletic development, if you only complete the MED of training to achieve the desired adaptation, you are able to conserve energy, recover faster and train more frequently. This is where the concept of supercompensation comes in.
The term supercompensation is used to describe the period of time after training when the trained function has a higher performance than it did before training. As you can see in the yellow section of the graph below, supercompensation occurs when the body has recovered beyond its original capabilities. If we can then expose the athlete to another MED at the peak of this supercompensation time, the athlete will continue to improve.
Unfortunately a lot of athletes train to hard, often causing a decrease in performance and this eventually leads to injury. In the basic graph below you can see that this athlete does not allow enough time between training sessions to allow full recovery of that particular system which doesn’t allow for supercompensation to take place and leads to an overall decrease in performance.
It takes time and a lot of careful planning to take full advantage of Minimum Effective Dose and Supercompensation. Taking the time to get to know your athletes and what is going on in their life can have a huge impact on what might be the MED for each session and can have lasting effects on their long-term athletic development.