Some Thoughts on the Training Session


The individual training session is the cornerstone of the entire training plan. Essentially a long-term plan is a succession of linked individual training sessions in pursuit of specific objectives. Because the session is the cornerstone of a training program, it should occupy the most amount of attention in the overall planning process. At the conclusion of each workout, the session must be carefully evaluated and the following sessions adjusted accordingly.

The long-term plan is only a general guide; it is the individual training session where the long-term plan is actually implemented. Therefore it is important to understand the necessity of adjustments and flexibility within the context of the plan, especially at the level of the daily training session. Contingency planning is a very important, and a necessary part of the planning process. It is especially important to have contingency plans ready for individual training sessions.

Every component in the workout must be in pursuit of the specific objectives of the workout and follow the general theme for that particular session. The workout is not an end in itself, it is however a means to an end, therefore it must be put in the context of the whole training plan, so it is important to not let the individual training session get blown out of proportion.

Management considerations sometimes dictate the workouts. Management issues include training time available, weather, size of the facility relative to the number of athletes training, equipment available, coaching personnel available as well a the number of athletes that will participate in the actual training session.

If it is practical and appropriate for the developmental level of the athlete two workouts a day can give outstanding results. This allows the workout to be even more focused and shorter in duration. When two or even three sessions in a day are used it helpful to use the following model of the focused workout for each session:

Focused Training Session – Everything is subservient to the component that is the focus of the workout; in this example the focus is on speed development.

  1. Warm-up
  2. Power Development. This must be low volume, high intensity work that will enhance the speed development component; it will usually consist of Multi-jumps or multi-throws
  4. Cooldown

This is obviously based on how much time is available for training. It is a matter of reconciling what is ideal and what is realistic.

A more typical model when using one training session in a day is the complex training session. It is called complex because it addresses multiple components within a training session. The following is a model of a complex session:

Complex Training Session – Training more than one component in a session. This is common in team sports.

  1. Warm-up
  2. Technical and/or Tactical Work
  3. Conditioning- Metabolic
  4. Strength Training
  5. Cooldown

Each training session should a have general theme. This general theme in turn should be supported by objectives for each component that are very specific and measurable. When planning an individual training session, ask yourself what do I most need to accomplish? How does that fit into the bigger picture? Carefully consider the time available. The key is to design the sessions so that there is a seamless flow from one workout into another, so that even though the focus is on that individual workout it always must be placed in the context of the workout leading into and out of it. The ultimate goal is the cumulative training effect, which is what occurs in the long term. In order to evaluate this look carefully at complementary components both intra and inter workouts – Where does the workout fit within the Microcycle plan? The workout is only one component of the big picture.

As a general theme for each training session you can have a teaching emphasis or a training emphasis. In the teaching workout make sure it is correct the first time. Do not be in a hurry; take time to attend to details and individual needs. Allow more time for individual drills and exercises when you are teaching. The training emphasis workout is the refining process. This will involve more repetition. It may not take more time, but it does demand constant attention to detail. Make sure that there is always an injury prevention component in each workout. This is most easily addressed in the warm-up as remedial work. The more transparent this component is the better.

The basis of planning the individual training session is the modular training concept that will make planning and implementation of workouts very easy. The training module is defined as specific combinations and sequences of exercises that are designed to be very specific and compatible. The exercises are carefully selected to sequence and flow from one exercise to the next within the module. Each module is designed to focus on one particular component that should fit with the other modules. The volume and intensity for the exercises within each module is determined for each session based on analysis of the previous session. A training session is nothing more than a collection of modules.

The actual design of the session should carefully consider progression, sequence, time allocation and integration with skill workouts. Training must be targeted and directed to optimizing training time. Training is cumulative. It has been my experience that one session can break an athlete, but one session cannot make an athlete. Focus on the absolute need to do, minimize the nice to do. Training components have a synergistic relationship, therefore whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Placing the components is much like putting together a giant mosaic. All components must be trained throughout all phases of the training year. Just the emphasis and mix should change.

When training a group, carefully plan to meet individual needs in a group context. Everyone will not progress and learn at the same rate. The way to organize this is to group within the workout.

Evaluation is a constant ongoing process that should be part of each training session. Training equals testing and testing equals training. This approach will provide constant feedback. Never lose sight of the fact that the ultimate test is the competition itself.
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Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
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