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Wednesday Wisdom: Monitoring Training Load for Functional Training Pt. 1
Hi Guys, Luke here again from the FTI. In this weeks article, we are going to look at some simple methods you can use to monitor your client’s training intensity and workload. Sports scientists have for some time now solved many of the problems of managing large groups of athlete’s workout intensities and workloads with the session RPE and session load method. For FTI coaches and instructors, there are several limitations associated with attempting to gauge how hard our clients are working out on a session by session basis, weekly basis, and even annual basis. One option is to use heart rate monitors and wrist-based activity monitors, however not all the different types of practical training sessions we conduct can be accurately measured by heart rate responses. For example, think how practical it may be to assess the intensity of a client’s functional training workout if the goal is strength, power or hypertrophy on that particular day.
This is where the session RPE and session load method can be of great benefit! The methods are relatively simple and importantly, require no gadgets, monitors or other technology. Just all you need to get started is the session RPE scale and a timer, to time the session length.
So let’s use some practical examples of how you might use these methods to monitor your client’s training intensity in a functional training environment. For argument’s sake, let’s say your client is in a strength/power phase and also needs to peak their cardiorespiratory fitness, and they are following a workout plan like this:
TRAINING LOAD = Session RPE x Session Duration in Minutes.
Monday – Battling ropes – interval training – 60 mins – RPE 8/10 – Session load = 480 units
Tuesday – Kettlebell – strength, and power – 60 mins – RPE 5/10 – Session load = 300 units
Wednesday – – Battling ropes interval training – 60 mins – RPE 8/10 – Session load = 480 units
Thursday – sandbag – strength, and power – 60 mins – RPE 5/10 – Session load = 300 units
Friday – flexibility/mobility training/foam roller – 45 mins – RPE 1/10 – Session load = 45 units
The session RPE rating MUST be taken immediately after the workout. Otherwise, the client quickly forgets how intense the workout felt. So what does this tell us? Firstly, if you look at the graph, you should be able to identify, which sessions the client is perceiving as being more intense and therefore having a more significant training load (battling ropes). The Kettlebell sessions with their more extended rest periods, most end up with lower training loads as the client is getting more rest and therefore not feeling as tired. Research (Jones et al. 2017) has reported the risk of injury can be significantly increased; when training loads are intensified. In elite rugby league players, researchers (Jones et al. 2017) had observed increases in non-contact soft-tissue injuries (think hamstring strains, etc) when training loads were between 3,000-5,000 units! While is unlikely; everyday clients will have training loads this far, it is the trends that are important.
Another critical piece of information we can gain from these numbers is how well the weekly session is distributing high, moderate and low-intensity sessions. This is also helpful for tracking your client’s other sessions they may be doing outside of the gym; many clients fail to realize that without adequate recovery their efforts in the gym will not be rewarded.
In conclusion, the session RPE/training load method is a quick and straightforward method of tracking your clients day to day training responses, and how well they are coping with the current training plan, sudden changes of training load, such as a usually high effort rating are a red-flag to overtraining and impending injury. Functional training coaches and instructors are strongly encouraged to look further into the session RPE/ training load method and consider implementing such methods into your practice.
AS A CALL OUT TO ALL READERS – I would love for some of the coaches out there to try taking your session RPE/training load measurements with your training this week and send it in for further discussion and evaluation!
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