Training Design For Athletes

The Basis of Training Program Design

Everybody knows the old saying, “failing to plan is planning to fail.”  Conventional wisdom tells us that when we start a project or a long road trip, we need to have a good plan in place to ensure that we complete the task properly, or arrive at our destination safely.  The same sound thinking about beginning tasks with a plan and a goal for completion is also a fundamental principle of athletic preparation, and something every coach should be aware of.

If your mission is to develop an athlete for track & field events, or any other sport, to accomplish this most successfully, you need to have a plan.  When someone is concerned with fitness they can go into a gym, work up a sweat doing random exercises and call it a good workout, but developing athletes for a specific sport or event is not just about putting athletes through a rigorous work out.  Training athletes with the hopes of producing a specific outcome requires training plans that consider specific skills and physical abilities needed for the event.  In the absence of this, coaches may easily find themselves merely conducting a hard workout of random exercises and drills with minimal carry over towards increasing event performance.

Training plans for national and international level athletes can get very involved and incorporate numerous facets from physical and mental qualities to nutrition, and recovery.  Information and monitoring of all these areas are important in helping the coach steer training and hopefully achieve the best competition results.  Given the level of detail that can be applied for high-level athletics, planning training may sometimes seem like a daunting task; however, it doesn’t have to be.  At any level, with just a basic amount of planning and consideration, a coach can greatly improve the effectiveness of programming, and thus increase chances for greater results.

At its most basic, a training program is nothing more than the application of appropriate exercises conducted for a certain number of repetitions (volume) and workload (intensity) separated by periods of rest and recovery, with the goal of improving performance in a specific activity.  I believe that if a coach at any level keeps this simple definition in mind when planning programs, they dramatically increase the training effects of a program.

Given the basic premise of the statement above, there are a minimum number of individual variables a coach should account for when designing training programs. These variables are:

  • Athlete’s “Age”: Age is placed in quotation marks because it should refer to both the actual chronological period the person has existed, as well as the number of years the person has trained and participated in the sport.
  • Physical Profile: This area is designed to consider the current ability of the athlete to perform work both metabolically and mechanically.
  • Athlete’s Event: The biomechanics, metabolic demands, and neuro-muscular peculiarities of the event(s).
  • Time: Time available to training; daily, and weekly, plus a general calendar of competitions for the season.

By keeping the basic definition of training given above in mind, along with these 4 individual variables, as you plan training programs for your athletes, you will greatly increase the possibilities of better results, while making your practices less random and more focused.

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