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3 Keys to Workout Planning

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When it comes to designing training programs for
their athletes, people tend to be all over the map.

But if you follow these three simple ideas, you’ll
make your life a whole lot easier and your athletes
a whole lot better.

1. Simplicity

Some people take this to the extreme, i.e., they
don’t actually create a program.

If you don’t at least outline your training goals
for the entire season before the season starts,
you’re not really creating a training program,
you’re winging it.

If you only focus on ‘sport specific’ drills and
movements, that’s not a program, it’s just random
drills and workouts. You shouldn’t expect consistent

You may avoid sitting down and taking the time to map
out the specifics of your athletes’ training needs
because you’ve made it an enormous process in your

It will be if you try to make it more complicated
than it is.

And, in truth, it’s not that complicated.

The younger the athletes you work with, the easier
the workout planning. And it’s never all that
complicated if you work with high school, middle
school or pre-teen athletes.

Because these athletes always have basic
problems that require basic solutions. Solutions
rooted in all around (not sport specific) athletic

Your 13 year old who plays soccer doesn’t need special
’soccer’ training and your 15 year old who plays
football doesn’t need special ‘football’ training.

What they do need is to develop foundational movement
skills, strength, coordination, speed, flexibility and

This approach will make them better at everything they

Some coaches and parents tend to become obsessive about
their particular sport and forget that their athletes
can’t perform the basics. Without the basics,
technical application of sport specific skills is
not going to happen.

They simply won’t be able to do it right. Everyone
gets frustrated and no one gets better.

Keep it simple and cover all the bases.


2. Flexibility

When planning workouts, don’t focus on the workout
itself, but think about how you want the workout to
affect the athlete’s speed, strength and/or conditioning.

This means that the structure of the workout is
aimed at the energy system you’re working that day.

For example, repeat 200’s can mean a lot of different

At 70% intensity it’s working the aerobic system.
Well coached high school athletes might be able to do 10
or more intervals in a workout, depending on rest time.

At 80-85% intensity it’s mixed aerobic/anaerobic.
Well coached high school athletes might be able to do 6-8
intervals, depending on rest time.

At 95% intensity it’s a lactic acid workout.
Well coached high school athletes might be able to do 2-3
quality repetitions, depending on rest time.

You have to first decide what the goal of the
workout is and then plug in the particular specifics.

Average coaches do it the other way around. They decide
which workout they want to do and then they hope it
does the trick. And that’s why they don’t get
consistent results or improvements in their athletes.

This idea is critical because this understanding
of how different workouts affect your athletes
allows you to be flexible.

I live in a cold weather environment. If I have
repeat 200s at 80% planned and it snows or is 10
degrees out, I can’t really go outside and do that.

But, because I’m flexible and understand how I want
today’s workout to affect my athletes’ conditioning,
I can do something different and still get the same

But if I’m rigidly attached to a particular workout
at a particular distance for a particular number
of intervals or repetitions on a particular day, then
I’m in serious trouble if (and when) weather doesn’t
allow it, kids are sick, excessively sore, etc.

Be flexible and always have a Plan B. And Plan C.

3. Variability

The natural tendency of our body is to reach
a balance. Our bodies quickly adapt to whatever
stimulus it repeatedly encounters.

If we give our athletes the same warm up every day,
before long, it no longer has the same effect.

We can’t always go for a 2 mile run on Monday, do
10×30m from a crouch on Tuesday, 2×10×100 @ 75%
on Wednesday, 5 x fly 30 on Thursday and Split
600s on Friday…week after week after week.

Here’s a quick question:

Do you understand why I chose that particular order
of workouts? For example, Why not switch Thursday
and Friday’s workouts?

Answer: Don’t do speed work the day after lactic

Now, you can keep the order of workouts the same (if
you immediately knew the answer to the above question
you are on the right path) but you have to continuously
make the workouts more challenging if you want to
‘stimulate an adaptation’, i.e. you want your athletes
too keep getting faster, stronger and in better ’shape’.

This requires changing the volume (amount of work done),
intensity (pace of the work done) and density (amount of
rest between bouts of effort).

Not only does it keep athletes from getting extremely
bored with their training (which reduces performance
in and of itself), but it leads to continuous
improvement, assuming, of course, you effectively
address all the variables involved in your athletes’

If you do some basic planning in advance, keep records
of workout results and regularly try to improve your
system, then workout planning gets easier and easier
as time goes on.


I used to get overwhelmed by this entire process. The
way I got better was by not trying to hit a home
run with my workout planning right off the bat.

Instead, I just tried to hit singles and get on base.

My athletes got better, I got better and everyone was

And you’ll experience similar results when you begin
to apply these ideas to your coaching.


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