Key to monitoring an athlete's workload

Effective training plans are based on levels of complex planning, preparation, and implementation. Simply throwing a template program on a group of athletes and hoping that they will magically improve after eight weeks is not enough. Trainers need to take the time to assess what is happening along the way and to make the necessary changes as they see fit.

Anyone can be the artist of a program that smokes their athletes. But the best coaches act as a guide to steer the program in the right direction and offer the optimal appeal. Surveillance techniques are undoubtedly essential for a high-level sports performance program.

Why do we monitor?

To understand why it is important to monitor your athletes and their training, it is helpful to ask yourself what would happen if you did not watch. No monitoring means no understanding of how athletes react to the training from an analytical perspective.

Some coaches believe that they can use their coaching eye and assume what's going on with their athletes. Monitoring is therefore seen as a waste of time. Although I believe it is important to use some intuition and deep understanding of your athletes, planning your programming using perception techniques is a recipe for disaster.

Monitoring enables us to assess stress responses to individual training sessions or a series of sessions (more on that later). We also receive information that can help make decisions and control the training process. We can get an idea of ​​how hard an athlete works, what his recovery looks like, and even his potential risk of injury

Monitoring not only leads to training and provides information about our athletes, but also validates the approaches and methods we use. By testing and monitoring performance, we can determine if our programming is working and achieve a positive performance gain.

In addition to the performance on the match day, this is one of the few ways in which we as performance specialists, sports coaches, sports directors and athletes alike can validate themselves in order to keep a job. It's a competitive environment, and if you can't prove you are getting better, many just assume you are getting worse.

What to monitor

It goes without saying that more is not always better when it comes to monitoring.

One should not only collect data for the purpose, without the intention to use this data. Monitoring must improve the effectiveness of the training, make logical sense, and provide reliable information about the specifics of the athlete's training. It must be specific to the age, gender, sporting event, age of training, level of performance and injury status of the athlete. It must also be easy to present to coaches and athletes. 2

There is simply not enough time to collect data as this can be very distracting and can cost valuable training time if used inappropriately. Implementing the least amount of monitoring for the maximum results is paramount.

Monitoring athletes' training and performance can basically be divided into two categories:

Internal load External load

The internal stress represents the athlete's physiological and psychological responses to the physical stimulus, while the external stress is simply the training stimulus applied It is important to note that the training load goes far beyond the sets and repetitions that we prescribe in the weight room. It includes all of the athlete's training units, from sports exercises to competitions and conditioning sessions.

Within the training load paradigm, we have a dose-response relationship that can be classified under:

Acute Training Effects – Acute training effects can be designed as immediate or immediate effects such as an increase in heart rate during a sprint. Immediate training effects – Immediate training effects occur in a single training session, e.g. B. A change in the ratio of testosterone to cortisol after exercise. Cumulative Training Effects – After all, cumulative training effects are the physiological or motor / technical responses that you get from a series of training sessions or a training plan.

It is important to understand what each piece is and what it contains, as they all help create an effective athlete monitoring program.

How to monitor

Once you understand the various aspects of athlete monitoring, you can start collecting data. As mentioned before It is important to collect information about both the internal and external training load.

If we do this, we can determine the impact of our external training load on the internal training load of our athletes.

External training load

There are dozens of variables that we can monitor when we look at the external training load. For example, we can track the number:

The key is choosing the right variables for tracking the athlete you are working with.3

A soccer player can benefit from GPS monitoring that tracks the distance traveled and the total number of accelerations during a game, which would be rather useless for a competitive weight lifter. Having an idea of ​​the global training stimulus is key, but when it comes to the weight room, we can certainly be a little more specific.

One of the keys to building a successful strength training program is tracking the volume load that occurs. The most basic form for this is:

The sets x Reps x Load = Volume Load

There are several equations that deal more precisely with a percentage of the repetition maximum. However, the real key is to consistently use an equation and use it across all strength training sessions to keep track of the total amount of work done. With this method, coaches can correlate the workload of their athletes with the overall goal of the training week or month.

It's easy to understand why blindly prescribing repetitions and sentences is a recipe for disaster, since a targeted amount of work consistently drives adaptation. Sometimes it's more, sometimes it's less, but it vibrates, allowing athletes to train, accumulate fatigue, relax, and repeat.

Internal training load

Similar to the external training load, there are a variety of variables that can be measured to capture details of the internal training load. Heart rate (HR) and heart rate reserve (HRV) are two extremely common methods because they are easy to measure, Negative blood lactate and hormone responses can be a little more difficult to assemble.

The internal training load paints a nice picture of how an athlete reacts to the training and how it can be restored. We can generally assume that the higher the heart rate during aerobic exercise, the harder they work. Similarly, HRV has been popularized as a method of determining readiness for training and recovery.

While I'm a fan of tracking internal load measurements, when appropriate, A big problem arises when we try to apply a method across multiple training modalities. Using heart rate as a measure of work and fatigue during a speed run may be an excellent choice, but a heavy squat with short, intermittent work spurts is very different.

One method that has been popularized and used to combat this problem is the perceived effort session rate or sRPE. With sRPE, athletes can rate a session on a scale of 1 to 10 levels of difficulty. This way we can go back and multiply it by the duration of the session and derive a score. For example, if an athlete:

With a 30-minute conditioning session at an RPE of 5, they would have a training load of 150 arbitrary units (AU). Then if they had a 60 minute weight session later that day and rated it as an RPE of 8, it would result in a training load of 480 (AU). If you add them up, it shows that the training load for this day was 630 (AU).

This method is very helpful because it synchronizes several training methods and makes them somewhat compatible in terms of our understanding of the impact on the athlete. For example, we can look at the relationship between acute and chronic workload and see how they respond to the intended training stimulus.

While using this method on some of my athletes, I am the first to admit that it has some shortcomings. It is somewhat subjective in nature and some athletes do not have enough experience to accurately assess the difficulty of their sessions.

Different personality types rate sessions differently depending on the attitude and motivation of a particular athlete. While not perfect, it certainly offers an alternative way to track your internal training load.

Wrap up

We know that training is a revolving door of many variables, some of which we can control and some of which we cannot. It is important to have a solid understanding of how a training plan can not only be implemented but also tracked and changed over time.

Implementing monitoring in your athlete programs ensures that you are directing things in the right direction and making changes as necessary. Just remember to keep track of what's needed and get rid of what's not needed. Use monitoring as a means to improve your programming without affecting it.


1. Haff, G.G. "Quantifying the workload in strength training: a brief review." Professional strength and condition 10th autumn (2010): 31–40. Network.

2. Robertson, S. "Red, Amber, or Green? Monitoring Athletes in Team Sports: The Need for Decision Support Systems." International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 12 (2017): 73–79. Network.

3. McGuigan, M. "Monitoring Training and Performance in Athletes." Human kinetics. 2017.

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