Science of Sports Performance

Applying Economics to Training Principles

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]This will be a short one, but I wanted to make a few points on applying economic terms to training principles. There is a lot of overlap, as economics can be applied to all areas of life when looking at the original definition of it, and what we as performance coaches deal with on a daily and weekly basis.  When reading the classical and modified definitions, try to envision how you apply these principles to your training philosophy and ultimately your program.


Economic Definition: The study of how society manages its scarce resources
Application to Training: How a coach manages his athletes training time, in terms of creating a yearly program and assigning specific goals to specific times.


Opportunity Cost

Economic Definition: whatever must be given up to obtain some item
Application to Training: Time spent developing one skill or quality must come at the expense at the time spent developing another skill.


Diminishing Returns

Economic Definition: used to refer to a point at which the level of profits or benefits gained is less than the amount of money or energy invested.
Application to Training: Defines a point when additional investment in terms of training energy expended and opportunity cost will yield a return which no longer benefits the athlete.



Economic Definition: the value of everything a seller must give up to produce a good
Application to Training: What must be invested in terms of time and energy to achieve a specific training result.


Sunk Cost

Economic Definition: A cost that has already been committed and cannot be recovered
Application to Training: Time spent doing one thing which can not be taken back. This time should not have bearing on future decisions, and rather should be seen as a sunk, independent decision.



Economic Definition: a situation in which quantity supplied is greater than quantity demanded
Application to Training: Excessive display of a trait beyond whats necessary to achieve the desired goal.



Economic Definition: a situation in which quantity demanded is greater than quantity supplied
Application to Training: Deficit of a specific desired trait that is needed in order to achieve a desired goal.



Economic Definition: the property of society getting the most it can from its scarce resources
Application to Training: Getting the most bang for your buck from your limited training time with your athletes. Keeping training fresh and novel to increase efficiency of return.



Economic Definition: the limited nature of society’s resources
Application to Training: Defines any quality or trait lacking in a program or an athlete. Must be accounted for when programming.


Many of these terms may have limited application alone, but strong correlation when viewed together.  For example, a surplus of strength displayed may have been developed at the opportunity cost of developing power.  When getting an athlete like this, developing more strength will have rapid diminishing returns as its harder to get stronger when you are strong.  Due to scarcity of time, we need an efficient training program that yields the best return.

Applying these terms can help put together a training plan that’s sound both physiologically and economically.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Steve Olson

Steve Olson is a sports performance coach with a special interest in program design and periodization. He believes training is planning and tracking, and uses many different but effective methods of training for the short and long term development of athletes. He has trained Athletes from youth, high school, collegiate and professional, and utilizes different periodization models, training systems and modalities for each to maximize the athletic return from that athlete. He is also the owner and founder of Excel Training Designs, and can be reached at

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