5 simple insights to forge real benefits
Authors: Francesco Cuzzolin, Julio Calleja-Gonzalez, Igor Jukic, Baris Kocaoglu, Jaime Sampaio, Mar Rovira, Antonio Santo.
The EuroLeague is a highly intense competition, characterized not only by numerous games, involving 18 teams from 10 different countries, but also by the inherent intensity and technical quality present in each basketball game. Throughout the competitive season, with a typical schedule involving 2 to 3 games per week, finding an appropriate time for practice presents a constant challenge. This difficulty stems from the necessity to strike a balance between the workload required for game preparation and the time allocated for travel, treatments, or other beneficial recovery procedures. These factors are crucial in enhancing players’ availability and readiness for the competition, similarly to promoting a work-life balance.
Given the challenging scenario, as it is happening also in the NBA, many organizations/clubs are endeavoring to safeguard their players’ health, thereby enhancing their performance levels throughout the season by managing each players’ workouts individually, depending on player’s needs. This is typically achieved through observation and technology, monitoring both on-court activities (internal/external load) and player feedback questionnaires . After a dedicated analysis, it becomes possible to create a customized training schedule for each player, blending team practices with individual workouts. Usually, during periods of high weekly game volume, it is normal to reduce training loads to compensate for heightened stress .
A valuable contribution in these cases is the so-called microdosing of training , which some authors define as a preexisting concept of distributed practice. Microdosing (MD), traditionally associated with pharmaceutical applications, involves the administration of minimal amounts of substances to achieve subtle physiological effects. This practice has made its way into the training world, promising remarkable benefits with minimal risk. MD strategy is primarily employed in strength training, but its applicability extends seamlessly to various technical or physical practices. It can benefit individuals or small groups engaged in activities deemed crucial for our players.
Let’s take a closer look behind scientific approach to microdosing, examining its potential impact on training outcomes, and attempting to establish some basic principles for its application.
There is no consensus on what could be considered the optimal duration of a MD session. For example, Spiering et al.  suggested that reductions in volume by 33-66% can be made to preserve endurance and strength over time. In EuroLeague, team practices during the season are rarely over 75 minutes, with the most common duration being around 55-60 minutes. Individual sessions, whether technical or physical, are seldom over 60 minutes, averaging around 45 minutes. Therefore, it can be speculated that a total time ranging from 15 minutes to 40 minutes (with an average value of approximately 20 minutes) may address operational needs.
Training intensity has various variables to consider, depending on practice typology, period, and the player’s level of adaptations, to name a few. For this reason, there are many parameters that coaches can manipulate to obtain different results, and we must also consider the player’s individual response in that specific moment. To simplify, we can assert that, usually, during MD sessions, a low volume and high-intensity approach is employed to provide the minimum stimuli needed . It is the coach’s responsibility to minimize exercises that can be particularly stressful to optimize training residuals , thereby avoiding discomfort.
The weekly frequency of MD sessions to stimulate physiological adaptations must be high, ranging from a minimum of 3 to 4 times a week or even higher, compared to the usual 1-2 sessions in the standard professional basketball season. This strategy helps players enter games feeling fresh and ready to compete while also providing an appropriate amount of high-intensity training adaptations outside of games. Lastly, having all players available multiple times during the weekly microcycle, allows the team to minimize the gap between high and low-minute players, maintaining a comparable workload and fitness level throughout the entire team.
- MOMENTS OF APPLICATION
There are numerous opportunities to employ MD, always following a good warm-up, and each of them serves a distinct purpose. This includes a morning MD session in strength training, intended to achieve an ergogenic effect synchronized with the circadian rhythm ; pre-practice use to activate or enhance the body’s response; and post-practice or game application, such as compensatory training for players with fewer minutes on the court, promoting active recovery and body regeneration. It is essential for coaches to consider the best synergy of their proposals, and not only the acute response of players but also the long-term cumulative effects to avoid, for example, the risk of detraining.
Linear periodization, involving a sequential progression of training variables, is impractical in the context of professional team sports. Non-linear periodization, however, emerges as not merely an alternative but arguably the only viable solution for catering to the dynamic needs of athletes throughout the season. Relying on the coaching staff’s assessments and experience, this approach acknowledges the necessity of adapting to the specific demands of the moment. Simply adhering to a logical progression without considering the context of training load application and the current condition of players can not only prove ineffective but also pose significant risks to player health. The non-linear approach, integrating coaches’ knowledge, experience, and even an element of artistry, stands out as a valuable and practical strategy in these specific circumstances.
Microdosing is not necessarily a novel concept; rather, it is a synthesis of various existing strategies, models and concepts. While the term itself may not be groundbreaking, there are still several aspects of the framework that warrant further investigation to ascertain its effectiveness in specific situations. Regardless of whether the term “microdosing” endures, the foundational theories presented to address challenges related to competition scheduling, acute/chronic programming, individualization, and motor learning in athletes will remain relevant. Microdosing stands as a compelling strategy for navigating these complexities and hopefully this exploration can be useful for coaches and players to discern when it is suitable to incorporate micro-dosing into their programming strategy.
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