Produced, edited, and copyrighted by
Professor Brent S. Rushall, San Diego State University
Volume 1, Number 4: October 17, 1994


3. Physical Focus

There are four categories of physical work that could occur at training.

The usual basic determinants of physical training are expressed in terms of volume and intensity. For eventual competitive performances, physical training has to be at least of the same intensity as competitions. However, even that does not equate exactly to the demands of competitions. In the training phase before serious competitions, it is beneficial to do as much competition-specific work intensity as possible without producing an overtrained state. It is not possible to describe exact amounts of specific-intensity work that should be produced at practices. Rather, it is better to tax each athlete's capacity to the fullest without producing detrimental excessive fatigue (which usually results from working too hard with less than desirable forms of exercise).

To adapt workloads to suit individual athletes, it is best to evaluate the level of absolute performance and technique that is exhibited. Each athlete should perform as much training as possible at competition-specific intensities and form as a preparation for proximate competitions. To maximize this opportunity, it is best to program the following criteria.

Following the above steps, will lead each athlete to incur a beneficial level of fatigue that will stimulate appropriate overcompensation that will produce a training effect. If activity persists beyond that level, fatigue will change from being beneficial to being detrimental because no characteristics of the performance will be competition-specific. It is with that excessive fatigue that maladaptation occurs and the value of the initial beneficial trials is lost.

These three emphases are orientations for practice behaviors that should be developed in athletes to produce the most efficient improvements through training. Since they are behaviors, they need to be taught, reinforced, and set as general behavioral expectations for participation in the sport. If they are not expected consistently then less than desirable training orientations will become the "norm," resulting in a reduction in the benefits of practice. In most human endeavors, performance improvements come from focused, correct, specific work. Sport training should be oriented similarly.


  1. Ashy, M. H., Landin, D. K., & Lee, A. M. (1988). Relationship of practice using correct technique to achievement in a motor skill. Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 7, 115-120.
  2. Rushall, B. S. (1987). Caracteristicas conductuales de los campeones. In G. Perez (Ed.), Proceedings of the Jornades Internacionals de Medicina I Esport. Barcelona, Spain: INEF.
  3. Rushall, B. S. (1991). Imagery training in sports. Spring Valley CA: Sports Science Associates (Published in Australia by the Australian Coaching Council, Canberra, ACT).
  4. Rushall, B. S. (1992). Mental skills training for sports. Spring Valley CA: Sports Science Associates (Published in Australia by the Australian Coaching Council, Canberra, ACT).
  5. Rushall, B. S., & Pyke, F. S. (1990). Training for sports and fitness. Melbourne, Australia: Macmillan Educational.
  6. Troup, J. (1990). International Center for Aquatic Research annual - Studies by the International Center for Aquatic Research, 1989-90. Colorado Springs, CO: United States Swimming Press.

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