What is Progressive Overload?
Progressive overload is a periodisation method that advocates for the gradual increase of the stress placed upon the nervous system.
Progressive Overload is an important principle in cognitive training. Without progressive overload, you won’t create enough cognitive stress, and training results will be minimal. However, too much overload can lead to under-recovery and mental fatigue.
The challenge, therefore, lies in getting the balance right, so that you keep improving without exceeding the brain's capability to recover. Following trends in your athlete's cognitive and physiological measures will ensure that your programming is spot on.
Cognitive Progressive Overload can happen in 3 ways:
Increasing Task Intensity: Increase the intensity of a cognitive task.
Increasing Task Duration: Doing more cognitive reps.
Increasing Task Frequency: Increasing the number of cognitive training sessions per week, compared to previous weeks.
Increasing Task Intensity
Increase the intensity of the cognitive tasks each week.
Week 1 70%
Week 2 80%
Week 3 90%
Week 4 100%
Increasing Task Duration
Doing more cognitive reps by increasing task duration and even pairing together different durations to optimise the cognitive load.
Week 1 - 3 sessions
3m cognitive task duration x6 sets
Total session duration 18 mins
Week 2 - 3 sessions
5m cognitive task duration x6 sets
Total session duration 30 mins
Week 3 - 3 sessions
3m cognitive task duration x3 sets
5m cognitive task duration x5 sets
Total session duration 34 mins
Week 4 - 3 sessions
10m cognitive task duration x4 sets
Total session duration 40 mins
Increasing Task Frequency
Increasing the number of cognitive training sessions over the training weeks,
Week 1 2 cognitive training sessions
Week 2 3 cognitive training sessions
Week 3 4 cognitive training sessions
Week 4 5 cognitive training sessions
Under or overloading your athlete for too long will always result in the stagnation of results. Your athlete's data will guide you. No matter what, without data on your athlete's performance, you will be guessing and it can be difficult to accurately periodise when you guess. Paying attention to the data makes your job easier and keeps those performance improvements coming.