So I've discussed a bit on training load and I've given some guidelines as to the scale of what typically is a difficult training session as well as looking at the cumulative load over the week. As a quick review, we see training loads of around 320-350 for a typical 90 minute soccer match. I have colleagues in the field who have come up with similar training loads for games in the MLS. It's pretty clear that a game is a high stress event that cannot be repeated on a daily basis without significant fatigue, over-training and/or injury. So this value is represents the top of the scale for training load on a given day.
Having used the system for several years and comparing data with other colleagues using the system, I have found that our weekly cumulative training loads during the in-season range from 1000-1200. So doing some quick math, we can find that if we play 2 games per week we already have a training load of around 700. This leaves a training load of 300-500 to be distributed over 4 days (1 day off each week). Take a look at a typical week during the inseason:
In this scenario 2 of the training days fall the day before a game, so let's make those days low training load days (less than 100). This leaves a training load of 100-300 for 2 training days. Wednesday is the day after a game so, for recovery purposes, let's make that day a low training load day. This leaves a training load of up to 200 available for the Thursday training session.
So really we have 2 high training load days (2 games), 3 low training load days (before and after games) and 1 moderate training load day each week. Three types of sessions each week . . . this is good as we like to see a nice undulation in the training load over the week. Monotonous training loads through the week and season are the quickest way to player staleness, fitness plateaus and even declines in fitness. So having an undulating structure to your micro-cycles (week of training) will help prevent this. But . . . if the only difference between training days is training load, meaning every session is the same the only difference being the duration of the session, you really are just stressing the same systems every day! There is a great deal of monotony with this type of training as well. So what's the other variable that effects training load besides time/duration? Intensity!
The intensity of the sessions should vary or undulate through the training week. From a pure heart rate standpoint, you can use the sport zones featured in the T2 software that define 5 intensity zones. >90%, >80%, >70%, >60%, <60%. (*you can also define thresholds for each player which would provide a more accurate assessment of intensity for each individual. Using these thresholds would require you to know each players anaerobic threshold and aerobic threshold. This would give you 3 zones; above anaerobic threshold, above aerobic threshold and below aerobic threshold.) As I don't have access to knowing every players threshold values, I use time above 80% max heart rate to determine session intensity.
Above, I have clipped a training report (exported to excel) that summarizes a training session. Using the time each player spent above 80% hrm as the time and % above threshold you can see how "intense" the training session was for each individual, and on the right a % that is the average for the team. I use stop light symbols to quickly assess whether the session was high intensity (red; >30% of total training time), moderate intensity (yellow; >15% training time), or low intensity (green; <15% training time).
I have used a similar system to quickly assess the training load. High training load (red; >200), moderate training load (yellow; >100), and low training load (green; <100).
I use these "snapshots" to communicate with the team coaches on the difficulty of the practice sessions.
Going back to the concept that we want to manipulate not only the training load over the course of the week, but also the intensity, this provides a simple solution to assess how well we are doing at varying the stress on the athletes.