Embarking on cognitive training requires a strategic approach. Designing a plan that effectively targets the individual's specific needs, while also keeping them engaged and challenged, is both an art and a science. The process can be intricate, with numerous factors to consider, such as the individual's current cognitive strengths and weaknesses, the sport's demands, and the available training tools and techniques. This guide aims to simplify this complex process, providing step-by-step guidance for designing an impactful cognitive training plan.
Historical methods of cognitive training: In the past, cognitive training was primarily based on a set of standardized tasks that individuals would repeatedly practice. Coaches and trainers would select tasks based on general understanding and sometimes even intuition, with limited options for customization. The focus was often on finding new and more difficult tasks rather than tailoring the tasks to the specific needs and goals of the individual.
The repetitive nature and limited flexibility of traditional methods: This traditional approach often resulted in repetitive training sessions. Individuals would undergo similar routines without much variation, leading to potential stagnation in progress. Furthermore, the lack of flexibility meant that as individuals progressed or their needs changed, the training might not evolve correspondingly. In essence, while the traditional methods served as a foundational approach to cognitive training, they had their limitations in terms of adaptability, engagement, and effectiveness.
The New Era of Cognitive Training: While traditional methods laid the groundwork for cognitive training, Soma introduces a new era of cognitive training, marked by dynamic adaptability and precise personalization. No longer confined to static tasks, individuals can now benefit from tasks that can be continually adapted.
The true strength of cognitive training lies in its adaptability. With Soma, we're no longer restricted to one-size-fits-all tasks. Instead, we can mold and shape tasks to meet the specific needs and challenges of each individual. Much like the foundational exercise of the barbell bench press in physical training, cognitive tasks can be seen as foundational building blocks. The bench press, in its most basic form, seems straightforward. Yet, by introducing variations like tempo changes, resistance bands, chains, or even unstable elements like hanging plates, the exercise transforms, offering increased challenges and benefits. Similarly, with the capabilities of Soma Analytics, foundational cognitive tasks can undergo transformative adaptations, maximizing their impact.
Now that we have clarified how Soma allows you to customize tasks with a high level of specificity, let's move on to designing a cognitive training plan with Soma Analytics.
Identify the cognitive demands you want to target.
Cognitive demands refer to the specific mental capabilities or outcomes that one aims to develop or strengthen. They embody the core objectives of the training. Drawing a parallel to physical training, if the primary objective of a workout is to develop leg strength, in cognitive training, cognitive demands like working memory, attention, decision-making, or response inhibition become the primary focus.
Importance of focusing on cognitive demands to determine cognitive tasks: By emphasizing cognitive demands, you can more easily select the most suitable tasks to achieve desired outcomes. Simply choose the demand and then select tasks that train that specific demand. This streamlines the process, allowing you to filter out irrelevant tasks more efficiently instead of sifting through a multitude of options.
Memory refers to the ability to hold and use information consciously.
Attention involves focusing mental awareness on relevant environmental cues and maintaining concentration.
Response Inhibition refers to the ability to suppress inappropriate, irrelevant, or suboptimal actions.
Decision-making is the process of selecting an option or course of action from several alternatives.
Once you have decided on the cognitive demands you want to focus on the upcoming plan it is time to move onto task selection.
Diving into cognitive training can feel like stepping into a vast, unknown forest. With so many cognitive tasks available, each promising to enhance mental skills, the choices can be both exciting and overwhelming.
For beginners, the variety can make decisions challenging. It's not about finding the "best" task but choosing the "right" one that meets individual goals.
With Soma, you don't have to overthink your initial choice. If a task isn't challenging enough, you don't need to abandon it. Simply adjust its intensity or apply one of Soma's training modes to tailor it to the user's needs.
Historically, if one task didn't create enough load, you'd have to search for an entirely new task that targets the same demand, replacing the inadequate one. However, with Soma, you can take the same task and augment it with a mode to amplify the overall load. This is covered in more detail in the next step.
To effectively measure an individual's current cognitive capacities, we recommend starting with a baseline test tailored to the particular demands and tasks in focus. Here's a structured approach to set up this foundational assessment:
- Test Duration: The length of the baseline test is crucial. We suggest a duration no shorter than 30 minutes to ensure a comprehensive assessment. A test that's too brief might result in sparse data collection, potentially affecting the quality of results and impeding informed decision-making. On the other hand, an overly short test might not challenge the athlete adequately, leading to an inaccurate portrayal of their capabilities.
- Task Selection: Choose between three to six tasks that align closely with the cognitive challenges you aim to address. These tasks will form the essence of your baseline assessment.
- Reassessment for Progress Analysis: At the end of the training cycle, have the individual retake the baseline test. This repetition offers a tangible measure of growth, spotlighting areas of improvement and those that might still need attention.
We recommend leveraging the Soma baseline comparison tool for a seamless assessment experience. When the user undergoes the post-training baseline test, this tool automatically computes the results, instantly delivering them to the user's device. This not only streamlines the evaluation process but also ensures accuracy and prompt feedback.
Selecting a task is merely the starting point. The real transformation begins when this task is meticulously tailored to fit the unique challenges and requirements of the individual. With Soma, customization is no longer a luxury; it's the standard. Whether it's adjusting the task's complexity or merging it with physical challenges, the customization possibilities are vast and game-changing.
We've compiled a comprehensive chart detailing the various modes that can be integrated into cognitive training tasks, ensuring a personalized experience for each individual. For optimal results, we recommend incorporating 2-3 of these modes into each training cycle. This approach ensures that the cognitive training plan is tailored to best suit the individual's needs.
As you embark on the process of creating a training regimen for an individual, it's crucial to rely on data. Metrics like reaction times, accuracy, and variation are invaluable indicators that reveal the effectiveness of the chosen tasks. This data-driven feedback provides you with the flexibility to either refine the plan or continue on the current path. If a task isn't generating enough load, we recommend first modifying it by applying a mode, rather than replacing it outright.
Now that you've assembled all the necessary components, the next step is periodization. This entails organizing the cognitive tasks you've chosen in a manner that each session or week is progressively more challenging than the last. We'll delve into two straightforward periodization methods. Within these methods, there are various strategies you can tailor based on individual requirements.
Progressive Overload, is a concept widely recognized in physical training. While traditionally linked to the gradual increase of weights in resistance exercises, its application in cognitive training emphasizes a consistent escalation of cognitive load to create adaptations in the brain.
Here are three methods to achieve progressive overload, allowing you to increase the overall load each week. You can choose to use one method or combine multiple methods for optimal results
Intensity: Progressive Overload emphasizes the importance of consistently amplifying the challenge faced by the brain. As illustrated, the task intensity starts at 70% in the first week. With each subsequent week, it experiences a 10% increment, culminating at 100% by week 4. This progression ensures the cognitive tasks become incrementally more demanding, pushing individuals to constantly evolve and adapt.
Session Duration: Duration plays a pivotal role in cognitive endurance. As displayed, the session begins at a baseline of 20 minutes in week 1. With each passing week, there's an augmentation of 5 minutes, reaching 35 minutes by the fourth week. This deliberate increase compels the brain to maintain its performance levels over longer periods, simulating the prolonged focus and concentration required in sports.
Frequency: Frequency is a testament to both the brain's adaptability and its recovery capacity. The chart begins with a foundation of 2 sessions in the initial week. However, the rhythm intensifies, adding one session each week, culminating in 5 sessions by week 4. This progression underscores the brain's capacity to handle more frequent challenges, further fortifying its adaptability and resilience.
To summarize, you can adopt a single strategy or merge one or two strategies for progressive overload. The paramount objective is to ensure that each subsequent week presents a greater challenge than the previous one.
Undulating periodization is a training model that emphasizes the regular and systematic variation of intensity and volume within short cycles, either daily or weekly. Contrary to traditional models, which might emphasize a linear progression or consistent phases of training, undulating periodization introduces waves of training intensities.
Dynamic Adaptation: By constantly fluctuating the intensity and volume, individuals are perpetually adapting. This ensures they don't hit plateaus or get too comfortable in their routine.
Diverse Stimulus: Athletes receive both high-intensity, low-volume training and low-intensity, high-volume training within a short period. This varied stimulus can foster multifaceted development, both physically and mentally.
Micro-cycles: These are short, frequently changing cycles (often weekly or daily) that provide a mix of intensity and volume. This offers the athlete a chance to recover and adapt quicker than longer cycles.
For undulating periodization to be effective, understanding and manipulating the core variables of training is essential. Here are insights on fine-tuning the stimulus.
Manipulating Task Intensity:
- Definition: Task intensity refers to the degree of effort or cognitive strain involved in a specific cognitive task or training session.
- Application in Undulating Periodization: The intensity of workouts or cognitive tasks can vary either daily (DUP) or weekly (WUP). For instance, an individual may engage in high-intensity tasks early in the week and taper to moderate or low intensity towards the end.
- Benefits: Such variation challenges athletes differently each time, enhancing their cognitive and physical resilience. The constant change can lead to improved decision-making, faster reaction times, and better overall performance.
It isn't merely a matter of high versus low intensity; it's about grasping the cognitive strain a task places on an individual. Within the realm of undulating periodization, intensity isn't fixed. Purposeful fluctuations between intensities aim to emulate the unpredictable demands of real-world sports. Consider a soccer player: they might confront high-intensity scenarios during a pivotal match segment and experience more moderate moments during routine plays. Training needs to echo these variances.
Modifying Task or Session Duration:
- Definition: Task/session duration pertains to the length of time an athlete spends on a particular cognitive task or training session.
- Application in Undulating Periodization: The duration of a specific task or the number of tasks can be altered frequently. Athletes might tackle longer sessions one day and shorter, more intense ones the next.
- Benefits: This constant change ensures athletes don’t stagnate with a set routine. The flexibility in duration enhances cognitive adaptability, especially in sports requiring prolonged concentration or quick switches in attention.
Duration is more than a mere measure of time; it signifies an individual's endurance and focus. In the world of sports, some moments elongate, as seen during a heated tennis rally, while others are fleeting, like a swift basketball counterattack. Undulating periodization captures this ebb and flow. Through the consistent alteration of task durations or their frequencies, athletes gear up for both the prolonged challenges and quick sprints in their respective sports, refining their aptitude to adapt on the fly.
Switching Task Frequency:
- Definition: Task frequency concerns how often specific workouts or cognitive training sessions occur.
- Application in Undulating Periodization: The number of training sessions can be changed week-by-week. Some weeks may be packed with sessions, while others might offer more days of rest and recovery.
- Benefits: Such variations ensure athletes remain sharp and adaptable. Increasing session frequency can intensify cognitive training, while decreasing it offers vital recovery time, reducing the risk of mental fatigue or burnout.
It isn't solely about the frequency but also about discerning the rationale behind it. Some weeks are intentionally dense, designed to bolster cognitive endurance and mirror situations where athletes may grapple with consecutive challenges. On the other hand, less intense weeks mirror phases of decreased exertion, underscoring the value of recuperation and tactical planning.
Undulating periodization revolves around the systematic variation of intensity and volume in short cycles, creating waves of training intensities instead of linear progressions. Key aspects include dynamic adaptation, where athletes constantly adjust to varying intensities, and diverse stimulus, offering both high-intensity, low-volume and vice-versa within short periods. The model also emphasizes micro-cycles, short frequently changing cycles that aid quicker recovery. For effective undulating periodization:
- Task Intensity: It's not just high vs. low but understanding the cognitive effort. Intensity should emulate real-world sports, reflecting the unpredictability of actual game scenarios.
- Task Duration: Beyond just time, it represents endurance and focus. The model captures the essence of sports moments, from prolonged challenges to quick sprints, training athletes to adapt swiftly.
- Task Frequency: It's about the rationale behind training frequency. Dense weeks improve cognitive endurance, while lighter weeks emphasize recovery and strategy.
In essence, undulating periodization is about continuous adaptation, ensuring athletes are always challenged and never stagnant.
To summarize: Start by selecting cognitive demands for the current mesocycle. From these demands, choose appropriate tasks and establish a baseline test to gauge an individual's current capabilities. Tasks can then be tailored using Soma's customization modes for optimal alignment with individual needs. Subsequently, select a periodization strategy to structure the training progression. At the end of the training cycle, retest using the baseline to measure progress, facilitating informed adjustments in subsequent training plans.