Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Polarizing" Your Training

It's interesting to look at the similarities in training concepts between very different sports.  Competitive endurance runners training consists of a high volume of work at sub race pace speed and/or heart rate and a lower volume of work (usually consisting of tempos) at speed and/or heart rate above race pace.  Competitive Olympic weightlifting athletes will do a relatively high volume of work at sub maximal loads (working on technique) and a lower volume of work at near max efforts.  The late Charlie Francis, world class sprint coach, spoke of training his sprinters with lower intensity tempo work and near max efforts while avoiding what he termed the "dead zone". 

It seems that within these 3 very different sporting disciplines there lies a common theme in training:  Train low and train high, but limit the amount of training in the middle.  In other words, "Polarize" your training.

I feel this is even more important for teams during their in-season period when they are playing competitive games.  For the college men's soccer team that I work with, we typically play 2 games per week in the in-season.  We have 1 off day each week, so this leaves us with 4 training days.  A typical week looks like this:

Sunday: OFF
Monday: Training - Lo
Tuesday: Game - Hi or Lo
Wednesday: Training - Lo
Thursday: Training - Hi
Friday: Training - Lo
Saturday: Game - Hi

Our games are definitely high training load and relatively high intensity days.  Typically I recommend 2 high training load/intensity days per week, although there are times when we will have 3 in a week.  You can do 3 in a week for a short period of time (2-3 weeks) but I feel that consistently 3 high training load/intensity days results in too much player fatigue and loss of sharpness over time.  What this means is that with 2 games per week, at the most, we have 1 training day that can be high training load/intensity.  With the 4 available training sessions that we have in a week 2 fall the day before a game.  On the day before a game training loads need to be relatively low.

Interesting to see Joel Jamison write about Hi/Lo training with MMA athletes as well.  Great article!

Here's the kicker . . . looking back at our training sessions, the majority have been moderate load, moderate intensity!  This is definitely not what I'm looking for.  Problem is that regardless of whether we aim to make a day hi or lo intensity, soccer looks like soccer.  We can talk about manipulating training variables of field dimensions, number of players, restrictions, directionality, etc. but what ends up dictating the training load outcome is almost always the duration of the training session. 

Unless we do strictly technical work or tactical situations much like non-pressure pattern play or functional training.  If we play any type of game or competition, soccer is going to look like soccer. 

So how do we balance the training to be more "Polarized".  Number 1 has to be limit the session duration during your "lo" days to a maximum of 60 minutes.  Two, we have to supplement their training with "hi" intensity actions like repeated sprints or hi load weight training.  However without doing number 1, number 2 becomes additional stress that will likely not be performed at high intensities and will again become more moderate training. 

I'm still working on finding the right mix! let me know if you have any thoughts or suggestions!!!

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