• Sutton Atkins

'Minimum Stimulus' explained...

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This "meme" has been doing the rounds on Facebook for a while, and judging by the comments, it needs explaining, because some people (even some notable very fast professional skaters) disagree with it, and don't really understand it. (Thus almost proving instantly that a great skater - and having great physical genes - is not necessarily a great coach).

Anyway, writing a hard training program is easy, this is true. More intervals, more kilometers, more laps, faster speeds, higher heart rate, more reps... etc. ... and in 3 weeks, a significant percentage of your group is sick, injured, or is at least performing badly. i.e. at least 'over-reaching' and more probably 'over-training'. (But true 'over-training' usually takes a bit longer to kick in.) ... I digress.

The crux of this that so many people in 'social-media-world' disagree with (misunderstand), is "training with minimum stimulus". And as one pro skater in the USA wrote: "Why would anyone coach want a philosophy of being as lazy as possible". ... well, here's why....

There are multiple reasons to train with minimum stimulus each session and in most sessions (but not in all sessions): Recover sooner, or at least recover more thoroughly before your next session (thus meaning your next session will be of higher quality, and you can often then fit in more sessions per week.

So, why is 'more sessions per week', better than 'a few big hard ones'. Good question... enter Yakovlev's Law. This well established, and well proven model of training theory explains that training too hard can in fact mean that you won't so much benefit from your training. (which is why "racing is the best training" is also not true.) So how does it work? Quite simply, there is a 'honeymoon-period' or a 'sweet-spot-moment' of the timing of your next training session, this is where the most super-compensation happens. So the intensity, volume and timing of your next session are crucial.

*There are now more up to date models, more complicated, and you can get synergy effect from summating multiple sessions together, and then recovering from them all at one. But there's a threshold. It also complicates this explanation. So I'll leave that one alone one for now.

  • Training too little obviously means little benefit.

  • Training again too late obviously means little or no benefit.

  • Training again too soon means little or no benefit.

  • Train too hard means very little or no benefit.

Here's the magic for most people that have jobs, families etc.. You probably can't change the timing of your next session. If you train Tuesday evening, then your next session either has to be Wednesday evening, or Thursday evening. 24 hours later, or 48 hours later. So the you have to manipulate the effect by training the right 'hardness' so that the 'sweet-spot-moment' is 24 hours later or 48 hours later to fit your life. (As a side note; this is where Sk8skool Personal Coaching is really effective with so many years of experience in coaching over 1000 athletes one-to-one over the last 10 years). We and the perfect recipe for you.

Now, I can hear Facebook-world screaming already, but what about those elite skaters that train really really hard every day? And people say things like "I heard Joey Mantia cycles 6 hours, and then does drylands the next morning. Ok, yes this may or may not be true.. however...

1. Never take the experiences of one person as training theory, sports science, or as a model of what you should do.

2. Most top athletes are "mega-responders", or at least 'super-responders'. What are you?

(Whats a mega-responder, and a non-responder?

Read here "Bart, Joey, Chad... The TRUTH")

3. Generally speaking (and there are always exceptions, and special circumstances - hence personal coaching) you'll get more improvement each month from "a greater number of medium size sessions", than from "less number of massive hard sessions". Think of it as: 2 medium sized super-compensationS, are better than 1 big super compensation (because the later can't happen).

All of the above (and more besides), is the essence of the current trend in sports science (and especially in cycling) of "Recovery-centred-training" (how to increase recovery speed and optimise the super-compensation effect.). Because, as I always say to my athletes, "Training makes you slower, recovery makes you faster".

"Minimum Stimulus" does not mean you're lazy (as so many have incorrectly commented on Facebook), it just means you want to do just enough to get the maximum effect, but you want to train again as soon as possible to make that improvements happen again. Nor does it mean you take it "easy" all the time. You DO have to train hard, but just not "too hard". The sweet spot is hard to find.

There's many more articles on our blog about training methods, technique and video analysis. We hope you enjoy them. If you are interested in increasing your training effectiveness to skate faster (and beat your friends) just contact me and ask me a question, here.

Lets go faster,

Coach Sooty


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