Matching the phase of an athlete’s training to their condition is critically important to maximize gains and prevent injuries that can slow down or end careers. This concept of matching the appropriate phase of training with the athlete’s condition can be summed up with the phrase “Training with I.C.T.E.” (Individual components…Complete body…Technique…Extent)
ICTE phases refer to the sequence of training starting with the very small parts of the body and working to the whole body. This sequence is also heavily dependent on the athlete’s condition and what types of injuries or performance skills they have developed.
- Phase 1: Individual component – Athletes in this phase of training are diagnosing each piece of their body individually (i.e. each muscle, ligament, joint, bone, etc.). In this phase, diagnosis is very specific and looks to find any piece that is not working right. Before moving on to more physically stressful training, each abnormal tissue should be fixed. This could involve rehabbing damaged and weak muscles, supporting and repairing lax ligaments, etc. Working on developing speed and power while a joint is imbalanced or a muscle is damaged, will produce sub-optimal performance, ingrain improper bio-mechanics and increase the amount of injury to an athlete.
- Phase 2: Complete body – Once all the pieces of the body are working properly, the athlete will start developing their whole body’s ability to work in a coordinated manner. These are generic activities (standing, walking, running, jumping, etc). Focus is on two major areas. 1) developing control of each body region involved in the motion and 2) transferring energy sequentially and efficiently along the kinetic chain.
- Phase 3: Technique – Here is the stage where you begin to develop skills specific to the activity you are engaged in. For baseball pitchers, throwing a ball, for golfers, the basic swing, for swimmers…..you get the idea. The goal is again twofold 1) developing control of the pieces involved in the activity and 2) efficiently transferring energy along the kinetic chain.
- Phase 4: Extent – This is when it is appropriate to start working on the bio-mechanical functions of: speed, power, range, independence, technique & endurance. Whichever function you are focusing on, this is the phase to make sure that you are developing all of the involved tissues in a balanced manner. For example: when developing strength of a tennis forehand swing, it is important to not only develop the prime mover muscles, but also to equally develop the synergists, antagonists and stabilizers.
If the athlete’s training does not match their physical condition, problems can result. If their training is too easy or too focused on individual components for their condition, rates of improvement will be slower than could be achieved. If they are training harder than their condition warrants, while their bio-mechanics are incorrect or technique is wrong, the athlete will be causing damage or memorizing how to do your activities improperly. Training harder than an athlete’s condition or technique capabilities warrant is the classic scenario.
Here’s a quick example.
I recently started working with a college cross-country team. These athletes were running 10-20 hours per week. On examining them, about half had severe pronation problems and 25% had knee problems. All had major muscle strength imbalances.
Every hour of running was injuring their joints, stretching their ligaments and damaging their muscles and bones. Some of these injuries will take a long time to heal, others will leave permanent scar tissue, cartilage damage and dysfunctional joints. Their training was giving them some improvement in their run times in the short term, but they were injuring themselves in ways that would take them out of elite competition and set themselves up for chronic illnesses. The team was also not achieving a high rank in their division.
This group of runners did not do the first three phases of ICTE training. They didn’t assess and correct their 1) individual components for structural issues, 2) didn’t work on correcting the complete body basic motions for efficiently transferring energy along their kinetic chains and 3) didn’t work on perfecting their running technique before training to increase their extent (power & speed).
Matching athletic training program with their physical condition will lead to faster improvements, less injuries and higher levels of performance. Knowing what their physical condition is would be based upon step by step examinations geared towards the ICTE phases:
- Individual body components
- Complete body activities that using their entire kinetic chain in an efficient manner
- Techniques specific to their sport that utilize their entire body and are efficient
- Extend their current capabilities in Speed, Power, Range of motion, Independent control, Techniques that are more refined and Endurance through training that develops their body in a Balanced manner (i.e. agonists, antagonists, synergists, stabilizers)
By Dr. John M. Wallman, President, Diagnosis Foundation