The above illustration of the athletic development paradigm, often used to help athletes understand where they are in their current state of well-being, is broken into three zones: comfort, development, danger. By understanding each of these zones, athletes and coaches can better optimize not only development, but performance as well. The characteristics of each zone are:
In this zone no development takes place, since we are not placed under significant enough stress to elicit an adaptive response. In the weight room this equates to performing sets and reps at too low an intensity, while in sport this would be akin to spending all of your time on drills long mastered, or constantly playing inferior competition. Though there are times when low level/intensity skill work has its benefits, any athlete attempting to better themselves does not want to spend much time in the comfort zone.
In this zone development is also hindered, but more importantly athletes become at risk. It is in this zone where it is irresponsible of coaches, who's first job is to do no harm, to ask athletes to training. The danger zone can be reached either gradually, or acutely.
Just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, this is where we get fed! The development zone is where learning and adaptation takes place. It is achieved by pushing beyond our comfort zone (but not too far), challenging our mind and body and then taking a step back to allow for adequate processing and adaptation to take place. The development zone is most efficiently reached when we view the athlete globally, meaning we take into account all of the variables that effect the individual, both internally and externally. We then plan according to that particular athletes ability and readiness levels, but are flexible enough to alter the game-plan depending on changes to those same variables, or the addition of new ones (eg. injury, exams, game schedule). We achieve this level of training through the use of diagnostic tools, proper recovery strategies and most importantly, open, candid communication between all parties involved, with the athlete at the center.
This is a brief-ish overview of the developmental zones utilized here at Prototype Sports Performance. However, it is important to note that these zones are not fixed, but rather they shift along with your development. What was once your development zone, will become your comfort zone through consistency and dedication to the process. Conversely, what was once your development zone, can quickly become your new danger zone without proper planning, awareness and communication. Remember Smart Hard Training > Dumb Hard Training! #BeThePrototype
About the Author
Justin Vince is the founder of Prototype Sports Performance in Mississauga, ON. In addition to being a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Justin is also a member of the Ontario College of Teachers. Justin is passionate learner and coach, who also enjoys picking up heavy things.