There are many ways to manipulate cognitive load in a cognitive training plan. We can alter the cognitive tasks intensity, placement, and apply specialized training modes. These are all viable solutions for load manipulation.

In this article, we will focus on manipulating task durations to alter the volume of cognitive load placed on the athlete's brain.

Manipulating Cognitive Load With Task Duration.

Changing the duration of a cognitive task is going to alter the overall cognitive load on the athlete's brain. By extending the task duration even by a few minutes, the entire load of the session increases and the extra minutes add up over the course of the cognitive training plan. A few minutes more may not seem like very much, but when you add up what is happening over those minutes you will understand why increasing task duration can be so essential. The same works in reverse, taking a few minutes off each session is an effective deloading strategy as a handful of minutes off each session will significantly reduce the total reps and overall load on the athlete.

For example,

Performing 9 minutes of cognitive training per week over a month can total 1,620 cognitive reps per month. BUT performing an additional 6 minutes of cognitive training (15 minutes total) per week takes the monthly total to 2,700 cognitive reps. These small changes to task duration can have a huge influence on the total amount of REPS your athlete's brain clocks up. These reps are vital practise, repetition is how we train ourselves to be great at anything. Plus this significantly increases the cognitive load your athlete experiences.


As you can see in the examples below the minimal effective dose starts at 45m per week of cognitive training. Research has shown that we make around 35,000 decisions per day, so if your athlete's cognitive reps are only 1200 reps per week the load is not sufficient enough to create any meaningful cognitive adaptations. That amount of load is child's play for the brain. This is not to say that these smaller loading schemes are useless, but they should be used as a de-load strategy rather than the cornerstone of the cognitive training plan. Begin with the minimal effective dose, and increase in increments knowing that the additional 6 minutes or so is going to have an effect. Keep your shorter sessions and fewer reps for deloading much in the same way you would in a physical training program.


The below cognitive reps per minute are averaged at 45 to keep things simple.


1m x1

  • Total session duration 1m

  • Total duration per week 3m

  • Sessional reps 45

  • Frequency per week 3

  • Total reps per week 135

  • Total reps per month 540

1m x3

  • Total session duration 3m

  • Total duration per week 9m

  • Sessional reps 135

  • Frequency per week 3

  • Total reps per week 405

  • Total reps per month 1,620

1m x5

  • Total session duration 5m

  • Total duration per week 15m

  • Sessional reps 225

  • Frequency per week 3

  • Total Reps per week 675

  • Total reps per month 2,700

3m x3

  • Total session duration 9m

  • Total duration per week 27

  • Sessional Reps 405

  • Frequency per week 3

  • Total Reps per week 1,215

  • Total reps per month 4,860

Minimal Effective Dose

3m x5

  • Total session duration 15m

  • Total duration per week 45m

  • Sessional reps 675

  • Frequency per week 3

  • Total reps per week 2,025

  • Total reps per month 8,100

10m x2

  • Total session duration 20m

  • Total duration per week 60m

  • Sessional reps 900

  • Frequency per week 3

  • Total reps per week 2,700

  • Total reps per month 10,800

3m x 8

  • Total session duration 24m

  • Total duration per week 72m

  • Sessional reps 1,080

  • Frequency per week 3

  • Total reps per week 3,240

  • Total reps per month 12,960

5m x5

  • Total session duration 25m

  • Total duration per week 75m

  • Sessional reps 1,125

  • Frequency per week 3

  • Total reps per week 3,375

  • Total reps per month 13,500

10m x3

  • Total session duration 30m

  • Total duration per week 90m

  • Sessional reps 1,350

  • Frequency per week 3

  • Total reps per week 4,050

  • Total reps per month 16,200

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