Planning your TrainingSports ScienceUncategorized

Structuring your training – Lessons from Olympians

By July 20, 2016 May 7th, 2020 No Comments

Exercise Training Planning

The 2016 Olympics are just around the corner and there are over 10,000 athletes who will have been preparing for this event for many years. These Olympians and their coaches will have been planning their training for their physical performance to peak for the Rio Games.

Training loads, volumes, diets, fitness testing, fatigue monitoring – and a heap of other data will have been used to plan the summit to Rio. This environment is a fair way from the humble surrounds of Warwick Workout but in this week’s blog I want to share an approach to structuring your training that has similarities to that which Olympians use.

But before I share that tip, the first point is that you need to plan your strength training. If you are turning up to the gym with no plan in your head you are setting yourself up to waste your time. It doesn’t have to be a 4-year Olympic cycle plan but get something written down!

At the simplest level write down 8 exercises that you will do 2-3 times a week over the next 6 weeks. Try and incorporate two leg exercises, two upper-body exercises that requires you to pull, one upper-body exercise that requires you to push, one exercise for your back and two exercises that test your core stability. After 6 weeks reassess your exercise program.

Now let’s take a look into the latest sports science research to pinch an idea for structuring your strength training load and repetitions. The research from Christoph Eifler (Journal of Strength and Conditioning) looked at four ways of structuring your exercise training over 6 weeks:

  1. Lifting the same weight and doing the same number of repetitions and so keeping a constant load.
  2. Progressively increasing intensity by lifting heavier weights as the 6 weeks progressed but doing less repetitions.
  3. Progressively increasing volume by lifting lighter weights as the 6 weeks progressed but doing more repetitions.
  4. Planning a change in intensity and volume session by session.

Now all four approaches will provide a good approach for your training since they demonstrated strength gains but note there were greatest improvements in group 4 – those who changed their intensity and volume of sessions on a daily basis. This is similar to the approach that would be used for Olympic athletes and is also known as ‘periodisation’.

One way this might look is by performing a high intensity – low repetition session one day, next day resting and then the next day lowering the number of sets to take down the exercise volume.

So this week’s top tip is to take a leaf out of the Olympians book and plan out your training exercises, perhaps not for a four year cycle (!) but start with planning out your next 6 weeks. When you plan out your 6 week exercise training program also consider daily changes in intensity and volume of your sessions.

By Dr Laurence Houghton (PhD Sports Science), please use the contact form if you have any questions or post them on our Facebook page.