A framework for understanding the training process leading to elite performance

Sports Med. 2003;33(15):1103-26. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200333150-00003.


The development of performance in competition is achieved through a training process that is designed to induce automation of motor skills and enhance structural and metabolic functions. Training also promotes self-confidence and a tolerance for higher training levels and competition. In general, there are two broad categories of athletes that perform at the highest level: (i) the genetically talented (the thoroughbred); and (ii) those with a highly developed work ethic (the workhorse) with a system of training guiding their effort. The dynamics of training involve the manipulation of the training load through the variables: intensity, duration and frequency. In addition, sport activities are a combination of strength, speed and endurance executed in a coordinated and efficient manner with the development of sport-specific characteristics. Short- and long-term planning (periodisation) requires alternating periods of training load with recovery for avoiding excessive fatigue that may lead to overtraining. Overtraining is long-lasting performance incompetence due to an imbalance of training load, competition, non-training stressors and recovery. Furthermore, annual plans are normally constructed in macro-, meso- and microcycles around the competitive phases with the objective of improving performance for a peak at a predetermined time. Finally, at competition time, optimal performance requires a healthy body, and integration of not only the physiological elements but also the psychological, technical and tactical components.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Physical Fitness
  • Running / physiology
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Swimming / physiology
  • Task Performance and Analysis