Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Load, capacity and health: critical pieces of the holistic performance puzzle
  1. Evert Verhagen1,2,
  2. Tim Gabbett3,4
  1. 1 Department of Public and Occupational Health, Amsterdam Collaboration for Health and Safety in Sports, Amsterdam UMC, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam Movement Sciences, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  2. 2 Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, UCT/MRC Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine (ESSM), University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  3. 3 Gabbett Performance Solutions, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  4. 4 Institute for Resilient Regions, University of Southern Queensland, Ipswich, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Evert Verhagen, Department of Public and Occupational Health, Amsterdam Collaboration for Health and Safety in Sports, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam 1081 BT, The Netherlands; e.verhagen{at}

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Relationships between load, load capacity, performance and health are topics of contemporary interest. At what intensity should an athlete train to achieve the best physiological response? How much (or little) can an athlete train without detrimentally affecting health? Most studies addressing such questions have used a reductionist approach wherein factors were studied in isolation, thereby ignoring the complex inter-relationships and balance between factors. This editorial discusses the association between load and load capacity, and their relationship with athlete performance and health. We illustrate the practical use of a model for the management of athlete performance and health, and provide directions for future practice and research.

A balancing act

Figure 1 shows the intertwined relationships between load, load capacity, performance and health. To stimulate adaptation the basic principle of any training programme is to apply a load (ie, the amount of mechanical, physiological or mental stress) through training or competition that is greater than an athlete’s current load capacity (ie, the ability to tolerate load).1 With the optimal balance between both constructs, an appropriate training stimulus will …

View Full Text


  • Contributors All authors contributed equally to the inception, thinking and writing for this editorial.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests TJG works as a consultant to several high performance organisations, including sporting teams, industry, military and higher education institutions. Both authors serve in a voluntary capacity as Senior Associate Editors of BJSM.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.