Throw in a month of preseason training/games and potentially 1-2 months of post-season play, and we have a recipe for a long season (and fatigued athletes).
A ton of resources continue to be poured into predicting injuries via monitoring training load.
Since maintaining strength/power and fitness levels throughout an entire NBA season is crucial to success, it only makes sense than to determine the minimal effective training dose to maintain strength/power and cardiovascular adaptations in order to minimize the amount of 'extra' training load experienced by athletes in the weight room or with extra conditioning.
An area of research that may help guide determining the minimal effective dose of training required to maintain strength/power and cardiovascular adaptations is in the "detraining" literature...
Macdougall and Sale provide an excellent resource for all things related to physiology and high performance. While there wasn't a ton of space in the book dedicated to the effects of detraining (I don't think there is a ton of research out on this topic in general), the information they did provide was helpful.
Here are a few random notes I wrote down while going through these sections and the references provided:
-Terminology is important when looking into the detraining literature, as some authors consider detraining as 'complete bed rest' while others make the distinction between detraining and tapering (complete cessation of training vs reduced training load, respectively)
-During a period of detraining, cardiovascular adaptations typically decline much quicker than strength/power adaptations
-The losses that occur with detraining are highly dependent upon the training experience/status of the subject. For example, an athlete with a long history of training will likely experience a greater decrease in strength/power and fitness levels following a period of detraining when compared to someone who was 'recently' trained.
-When it comes to the effect of detraining on cardiovascular adaptations, it appears that "upon complete cessation of training, the rate of loss for most adaptations mimics the rate at which they were achieved. Loss in cardiovascular adaptations will likely occur in almost mirror-image opposite fashion upon complete cessation of training. Once a training adaptation has been gained, considerably less training stimulus is required to maintain it than produce it in the first place." (Macdougall, Sale)
-It appears that while some cardiovascular adaptations decline after only a few days of detraining (plasma volume), cardiovascular gains can be preserved for approximately 6-10 days upon cessation of training.
-Here is an excellent overview from the SimpliFaster website of the changes that occur with detraining
-Cardiovascular adaptations can be maintained during longer 'breaks' from full training by performing maintenance training - "gains in VO2 max can be maintained for multiple weeks when reducing training volume by up to 40%." (Macdougall, Sale)
-Here are a few studies (oldies but goodies!?) cited by Macdougall and Sale in their section on cardiovascular detraining/taper:
-Overall, strength/power gains are able to maintained for a longer period of time when compared to cardiovascular gains. Strength gains appear to be able to be maintained for up to four weeks.
-"Although some muscle-fiber atrophy can occur fairly quickly and as soon as 10 days into detraining, strength training can be suspended for a few weeks with relatively little loss of STRENGTH and MUSCLE MASS; furthermore, any loss can be rapidly regained." (Macdougall/Sale, Jespersen 2011)
-"One reason behind the rapid regain of muscle mass is that the increased number of myonuclei that occur with hypertrophy are retained during a period of subsequent atrophy, allowing hypertrophy to develop more rapidly the second time (think 'muscle memory'). (Macdougall/Sale, Bruusgaard 2010)
-Eccentric strength may decline more rapidly than concentric strength (Hortobagyi 1993)
-While strength can be maintained for a longer period of detraining, power and sport-specific power appear to rapidly decrease. For example, after four weeks of detraining, forces produced during swimming decreased despite maintained strength as measured on a swim bench (Neufer 1987)
-“Current research seems to indicate that neuromuscular performance is more susceptible to decline because of detraining in highly trained athletes compared with recently or moderately trained individuals” (Pallares 2010)
-“By contrast, in recently or recreationally trained athletes, strength gains after short-term training cessation seem more readily retained. In addition, muscle power seems to be lost at a greater rate than strength after detraining” (Pallares 2010)
-“Moreover, muscle power appears particularly susceptible to detraining in highly conditioned athletes, being lost at a faster rate than maximal strength." (Pallares 2010)
-“The training taper (which resulted in minimal loss of strength or power) consisted of 4 wk of progressively lowering training volume while increasing intensity. During this phase, subjects completed two strength training sessions per week: a) one maximum strength session with 90%–95% 1RM (3–4RM) loads, two to four repetitions per set, and two to three sets per exercise; and b) one maximal power training session with 45% 1RM (BP and PBP) or 60% 1RM (squat) loads, five to eight repetitions, and three to four sets." (Pallares 2010)
Following up from the above on 'tapering'...
-Once adaptations have been achieved, it's much better to simply reduce training rather than simply stop altogether.
If periods of detraining are expected, it's important to have a period of intense training prior to detraining or tapering (Mujika 2010)
-In making broad recommendations... "Durations ranging from 8 to 14 days represented the borderline between fatigue disappearance and detraining. However, tapers lasting 1–4 weeks can also induce performance improvements, although negative results may be experienced by some athletes. The inter-individual variability in the optimal taper duration was not attributed to specific event intensity or an athlete’s physiological characteristics." (Mujika 2010)
-"Unfortunately, no study has examined the taper in the context of multiple peaking. In many individual sports, international competition involves a series of qualifying rounds and/or stages over several days. Most team sports competitions involve one or more games per week over a season lasting several months. Because of the lack of research in the area of multiple peaking, it is not known how often an athlete or team can obtain the performance benefits of an efficient taper, and it is not possible to make sound recommendations in this respect." (Mujika 2010)
-“The maintenance of training intensity (i.e., “quality training”) is necessary to avoid detraining, provided that reductions in the other training variables allow for sufficient recovery to optimize performance.” (Mujika 2003)
- More research is needed
- Training history/status plays a role in the extent of the effects of a period of detraining
- Cardiovascular adaptations tend to decrease the quickest upon cessation of training
- Strength is the most likely to be maintained during four weeks of detraining
- Power adaptations tend to decrease quickly due to loss of neuromuscular activation
- Strength and power can be maintained with a significant reduction in volume of training so long that training intensity is maintained.
While I didn't come across any hard and fast guidelines specific for basketball athletes, I feel that the info above can come in handy during a long season. Monitoring fitness, strength, and power levels throughout a season is likely the best way to ensure each player isn't losing the adaptations they worked hard to achieve during the off-season/pre-season and that enough of a stimulus is being provided to maintain fitness/strength/power levels.
Per usual, always more to learn. For now, this post has helped organize my thoughts and put together a few key studies cited by people much smarter than I.