Work capacity: the concept

Work capacity is the ability to tolerate a workload and recover from that workload. In order for an athlete to improve they must be able to do a certain threshold amount of work. They must be able to work at a level that will ensure enough stress to achieve an optimum adaptive response. If they cannot do the work, they will not improve. Therefore, the goal with this type of individual would be to build a work capacity base that fits the specific demands of the athlete’s sport.

Work capacity falls into the category of general physical preparation (GPP). There are four components of work capacity:

  1. The ability to tolerate a high workload – the key word here is to tolerate. Many athletes are capable of doing an occasional high workload but cannot adapt to this workload on any kind of consistent basis.
  2. The ability to recover from the workload sufficiently for the next workout or competition. This is closely tied to the first concept. If the athlete cannot recover, then they are risking overuse injuries or overtraining. They will not be able to adapt to the training stress.
  3. The capacity to resist fatigue whatever the source. Fatigue is more than metabolic, it is the ability to resist neural fatigue and mental fatigue.
  4. It is the refinement of the efficiency and coordination of the cardiovascular, metabolic and nervous systems.
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