When designing a training program, the primary aim is generally to optimise the performance of athletes by delivering loads that will encourage positive adaptations without placing them at an unnecessarily high risk of injury.
In order to achieve that goal, there are a number of key principles and best practices that should be followed if your program is to succeed in improving the performance of your athletes.
VOLUME & INTENSITY
Coaches are generally interested in understanding how much work their athletes have performed, and how hard that work was for them. In essence, they want to know the volume and intensity of each session.
In order to answer those questions, it is vital that sports scientists find an effective way to measure volume and intensity using the tools available to them. By building those measures into daily workflows, you can be better prepared for key coaching questions, be more aware of individual athlete needs, and increase the general effectiveness of your program.
Improvements in any aspect of physical performance can only be brought about by exposing an athlete to stresses (load) beyond that to which they are accustomed. Of course, any increase in load must be carefully managed, balanced and monitored to ensure that athletes are not being placed at serious risk of injury.
Athlete monitoring technologies like Catapult play a key role in this process, enabling organisations to identify and track key physical performance metrics. This is particularly crucial at times when overload is being applied (e.g. during pre-season training) and can improve your program’s capacity to mitigate injury risk while delivering the training exposure required to optimise athlete performance.
Improvements in performance will reflect the load that has been imposed on an athlete; what you do is what you get. For example, gains in on-court basketball fitness are achieved by the appropriate prescription of basketball-specific drills.
Adopting a sport-specific approach to the way you design your program doesn’t mean that you neglect more generalised strength and running work (those exercises build an important foundation that protects against injury), but it does mean that you recognise that a program that focuses on those things alone won’t improve sport-specific fitness.
Even in elite sport, individuals differ in their capacity for exercise due to a series of factors such as age, genetics, training history, skill level and motivation. Given these inherent discrepancies between athletes, coaches and sports scientists shouldn’t expect individuals exposed to the same training to react in the same way.
By using athlete monitoring technologies, it becomes easier to quantify how individuals are responding and adapting to their training programs. Through the analysis of this data, it becomes easier to build a level of individual flexibility into your program and build in the appropriate adjustments and allowances.
Reversibility is the process by which athletes can lose fitness during periods of reduced activity. Put simply; if an athlete doesn’t use it, they lose it.
In the same way that positive adaptations follow periods of overload, negative adaptations will follow periods of less (or no) activity. It is crucial that you are monitoring your athletes closely to ensure that your program avoids reversibility and keeps them on an upward trajectory of positive adaptation.
Over a period of time, there is a risk that athletes may become bored or unmotivated if subjected to a monotonous technical or physical program. Constant repetition of the same work can lead to plateaus or drops in performance, achieving the opposite of the result you intended.
These issues can be avoided by ensuring that your program contains sufficient variety. Athlete monitoring is key to this process, enabling practitioners to evaluate training variation and intervene when needed.