It is the beginning of the season for lots of team sports and it is the normal time when sports scientists start to struggle with manipulating the training load and making sure the players can survive a long season producing terrific performances.

I will try to analyse the current trends in the literature and supply some comments and some possible recommendations on how to put in place a meaningful and functional monitoring system to be able to inform the coaching process.

It is widely recognised that proper periodisation of training is fundamental for optimal performance in sport. until recently, it has been very tough to quantify the training loads (TLs) in team sports players due to the difficulty in measuring the various types of anxiety encountered during training and competition. Wearable sensors and well well established psychometric tools as well as easy access to field-based biochemistry nowadays allow the collection of various data to be able to quantify and understand the training load as well as track the progression of the players’ performances. This can supply the basis for a vital assessment of the training process and feedback to the players and coaching staff of the progression.

Few comments before going over the methods for data collection.

Training monitoring is becoming a conventional operating procedure for lots of strength and conditioning coaches and sports scientists which is a good thing. however there are certain aspects that needs to be taken into consideration in buy to understand the limitations of some training monitoring techniques as well as the potential of such methods to impact practice.

The latter is the most crucial aspect to be taken into consideration. training monitoring becomes a beneficial thing to do only if guides practice and informs the coaching process. otherwise it becomes just a data collection exercise. I have seen lots of S&C coaches use a variety of tools and tests and despite the fact they have some great continuous data it is clear that such data did not affect practice as training programmes continued in the same way despite the information available on training load and some effects.

So, first rule: training monitoring is a terrific way to understand how much work your athletes are doing and how they cope with it. terrific thing to do only if it helps you in changing and evaluating your training plans.

The other aspect to consider is the limitations of what you measure, when you measure it and how lots of time  you measure it. All this information helps in understanding what the information tells you and what parameter of your training programme you must change according to the results observed.

Training monitoring needs two main parameters to be measured:

1) The amount of training your athlete is performing (the INPUT)

2) how the athlete is handling the amount of training (the OUTPUT)

The INPUT can be measured in various ways and must consist of some information on how much work the athlete has done (such weights lifted in each session, distance covered in training and also the perception of how hard the session has been). The list can be a lot more extensive, but frankly your ability to collect a lot more and better data is limited by the equipment you have access to. Heart rate monitors, GPS and accelerometers, power meters in the gym are all available nowadays and allow a lot of measurements to be collected in team sports to help you get a lot more info on the intensity and the amount of training performed. I have presented few technologies in this blog and goal to do a lot more in the future, so plenty of options for you to try.

However, not lots of people have access to technology (in particular the expensive software and hardware kits for a lot more complex multisensor data collection). So, let’s go over some basic training quantification methods and their applications.

This will require the use of spreadsheets to facilitate the calculations and the data collection as well as supply you the possibility to create reports and graphs. If you don’t have access to Microsoft ® Excel don’t worry! You can in fact download open office for complimentary from here and have access to a complimentary suite which allows you to have spreadsheets, graphs and presentations at no cost!

The Session RPE method

The session-RPE method of monitoring TL in team players requires each athlete to supply a rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) for each exercise session along with a measure of training time (as suggested by Foster et al., 2001).

To calculate a measure of session intensity, athletes are asked within 30-minutes of finishing their workout a basic question like “How was your workout?” A single number representing the magnitude of TL for each session is then calculated by the multiplication of training intensity (RPE from Table 1) by the training session duration (mins).

Table 1. The modified RPE scale proposed by Foster et al. 2001






Very, very easy






Somewhat Hard





Very Hard





Training load = Session RPE x duration (mins)

For example, to calculate the TL for a training session 60-minutes in duration with the athletes RPE being 5, the following calculation would be made:

TL = 5 x 60 = 300 AU (arbitrary units)

With a basic spreadsheet it is is as a result possible to track the training load of a team very easily just by recording the duration of training and making sure that each player at the end of each session supplies you with the perceived exertion for that session.

Here is an example of what a score of a normal training period could look like:

The Black dotted line represents the average Session RPE for the team and each colour represents one of the players. In this way, it is possible to track how the overall training load is progressing and how each individual compares to the team.

The data can also be beneficial to track down the team’s session RPE and understand if overall the training load is going in the direction planned.


Further basic calculations of training ‘monotony’ and ‘strain’ can also be made from session-RPE variables.

Training monotony is a basic measure day to day variability in training that has been suggested to be related to the onset of overtraining when monotonous training is combined with high training loads (see Foster, 1998).

Training monotony is calculated from the average daily TL divided by the conventional deviation of the daily TL calculated over a week.

MONOTONY= daily TL/SD of TL over a week

Training strain can also be calculated as follows:

TRAINING STRAIN = weekly TL x monotony

The table below supplies a basic example of a weekly training load in a semi-professional handball team with all the variables calculated.

Recent work conducted using RPE from 20 soccer players during 67 small sided-games soccer training sessions (Coutts, Rampinini, Castagna, Marcora, & Impellizzeri, 2007a) has shown that  the combination of blood lactate and hr procedures during small-sided games were better related to RPE than hr or blood lactate procedures alone. This work suggested that RPE is a valid method of estimating global training intensity in soccer. There isn’t such evidence in other sports, however nothing stops professionals to try and see if it helps with their coaching process.

This is the first post of a series aimed at going over the issue of monitoring training. I goal to present functional options to be able to start quantifying and understanding adaptations in team sports athletes.

Enough for now, time to get your spreadsheets sorted and start calculating what your players are doing so you are ready to apply the techniques presented in the next article!

Share this:

Like this:
Like Loading…


Training team sports athletes: Periodization and planning strategies. part 2June 21, 2009In “Football”
Training team sports athletes: Periodization and planning strategies. part 1January 7, 2009In “Football”
Monitoring training load: quo vadis? #2October 12, 2010In “heart rate”