Functional Training Institute

Internal & External Training Loads – Wednesday Wisdom

The desire to help our clients achieve their health and fitness goals is important to most trainers, coaches and instructors. To assist our clients achieve these goals, it is important that each client has a clear training plan that considers how much training stress they can tolerate. It is for this reason, that monitoring some form of training load is important. Managing training load is an important component of common health and fitness programs. Training load typically is measured via two main methods:

  1. External Loads = the external stimulus provided to the individual, such as distance run, weight, power etc.
  2. Internal Loads = physiological and psychological response to external loads, combined with non-exercise stressors such as perceived effort, perceived muscle soreness

Remember, training related injuries are not BAD LUCK, but rather mismanagement of the clients training plan. As mentioned above, there are several sources of non-exercise related stress that contribute to your clients training load, such as poor sleep, high stress levels, poor diet, and so on. Studies show that football players are 3.19 times more likely to experience an injury during weeks when they had high academic stress (Mann et al 2015). Now consider how many of your clients arrive at your training sessions, reporting high stress levels, poor sleep and poor diet?  The decision to increase any number of acute training variables (reps, sets, loads, HR, etc.) cannot be made if there is no understanding of your client’s current state of recovery and readiness to train. When training loads, both external and internal exceed the capacity of your client, physical breakdown may only be one step away. Injury and illness risk for that matter come from many sources, which include:


  • The accumulation of load
  • Week to week or session to session load increases
  • Sudden spikes in training loads such as punishment sessions or exercises!


  • Game to training loads
  • Playing time (length of time on the field)
  • The training load of weekly practise sessions
  • Travel to games
  • Number of games played in a week


  • Low fitness
  • Poor nutrition
  • Age
  • Poor sleep

In conclusion, the road map to client success must start with a strong plan, a plan which includes the monitoring of both internal and external training loads. To decrease the risk of injury or illness as result of excessive training loads, we need to (1) monitor our clients training loads, (2) detect inadequate workloads that are too high, or even to low and (3) adapt our training programs, recovery methods to each individual client’s response to training. Our next article will look at easy to use methods, to monitor training loads and fatigue.

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