Systems and structures of a proper training week
Better Version of You
A great deal of planning goes into the average training week I construct for clients and athletes. Training experience, sporting season, impending competition dates, age and gender are all just a few factors to consider.
From a micro level, I organize training so that each session is complimentary towards one another as well as respectful of the cumulative training load.
A common error I see in the organization of training by many coaches is going too hard, too often. A training week should have a clear emphasis on the targeted training adaptation; however, intensity should fluctuate no matter how difficult of a week is planned.
Organizing training within a microcycle, or a one-week period, is typically seen as a snapshot of the larger picture, with all workouts targeting a common goal.
While this may be true to some extent, the focus within each day and intensity must vary. Performing back squats to failure Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for three weeks will not yield optimal results.
The method I prefer to use is one adopted from professor Mike Stone of East Tennessee State University, which is employs the use of “Very heavy, heavy, moderately heavy, moderate, moderately light, and light days,” according to Stone. Each day is attributed to a percentage of the repetition maximum you are choosing to train in.
An example of this practice would be if I prescribed an athlete to perform a very heavy set of five reps on their back squat, which means they would perform 95-100% of their five-rep maximum. If their five-rep maximum was 315 pounds, they would aim to complete their set at 300-315 pounds.
This allows some freedom in the way athletes choose to load their exercise, and train in a range according to how they are feeling that day. If they are a bit fatigued and feeling weaker, they may stay closer to 300 pounds, but if they feel stronger, they may shoot for 315 or more pounds. To further clarify, a moderate day would aim for 80-85% of the five-rep maximum, and a light day would aim for 70-75 of the five-rep maximum.
The next piece to this method of training is the way in which it is structured across a training week.
If an athlete were to train four days per week (e.g. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday) then their intensity would vary with each given training day according to where they sit within their mesocycle, which is 3-6 microcycles.
If it is week 1 within a new mesocycle, that athlete may have a relatively low intensity planned on average for that week, thus the planned intensity within each day may look something like the following: Monday — moderate, Tuesday — light, Thursday — moderately light, Saturday — light.
With this scheme, Monday is seen as the most difficult day, followed by a light day on Tuesday, then a slight increase in intensity on Thursday and ultimately a return back to lower intensity on Saturday. If the athlete were in the most intense week of their mesocycle (e.g. week 3) then their planned intensity may look something like the following: Monday — very heavy, Tuesday — moderate, Thursday — heavy, Saturday — moderately light.
Intensity follows wave-like patterns, and as fatigue accumulates throughout the week the athlete decreases average intensity.
This strategy doesn’t just benefit the structure of resistance training, it can also complement conditioning and tactical training.
Athletes typically balance resistance training, conditioning, and sport training within a given training week. If a coach knows an athlete has hard conditioning workouts Wednesdays and Saturdays, then the resistance training should be light on Tuesdays and Fridays to accommodate for the added stress.
Similarly, in-season athletes who compete on a weekly basis should follow their competition with a rest and recovery day, then their highest intensity which feeds into a regression of intensity throughout the week before the next competition.
Ultimately, the frequency and intensity will be affected by the time constraints the athlete has as well as their training experience. In my next article, I will outline how to properly outline a month of training and then an entire year.
Jimmy Pritchard has a BSc in exercise science from Colorado Mesa University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the director of strength & conditioning at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. Contact him at 970-331-3513 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his website, pritchardperformance.com.
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