Using Training Monotony to design better programs
Research has shown that spikes in training loads are obvious factors in non-contact injuries1, 2. On the other hand, however, low variability in training loads can mean that the training stimulus is not enough to promote adaptations and improvements. Or that rest is not sufficient and there is a risk of overtraining, injury, or illness. In this article, we’ll define training monotony and outline how coaches can use it to optimize their programming.
What is Training Monotony? /
Training Monotony is a statistical tool proposed by Carl Foster3 that evaluates the variability of daily training loads over a period of time.
There are many ways of monitoring training loads, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. A simple and widely adopted method of quantifying training load however is sRPE, Session Rate of Perceived Exertion. It uses a modified Borg Scale rating of perceived exertion RPE) for athletes to gauge the intensity of their session. The athlete’s RPE is multiplied by their session duration to calculate the sRPE. It is recorded for every session and then daily and weekly loads are computed.
Training Monotony is then calculated by dividing the average daily training load by the standard deviation (how much difference there is between each session compared to the session average).
The Danger of Monotonous Training /
High monotony values (typically >2) can indicate a high risk of overtraining, illness, or injury3 when combined with intensive training.
When coupled with a lack of intensity, high monotony values can also indicate that a program may be ineffective and lack the stimulus necessary to drive adaptation and improvement in athletes.
Therefore, low Monotony values, between 1 and 1.5, are preferable. This indicates two things. Firstly, the training loads are varied enough to trigger adaptations. Secondly, the rest periods are sufficient to promote recovery between sessions.
On the other hand, low Monotony values are usually associated with periodization programming methods that alternate high and low-intensity workouts.
There is also an important psychological element in providing variation in training intensity and training methods. Athletes can still become bored with a program that promotes athletic improvement which presents coaches with a challenge. They must provide effective loading necessary for adaptation and improvement, while also providing variability in training methods to keep athletes motivated and willing to train.
“They (coaches) must provide effective loading necessary for adaptation and improvement while providing variability in training methods to keep athletes motivated and willing to train.”
Using Training Monotony to Optimize Performance /
So how can you apply Training Monotony to a real-world setting to help you design better programs and optimize performance? It can be used at three different stages of the program to inform decisions and help you refine the program.
Before / Planning with Training Monotony
Predicted workloads are an extremely useful tool to use in the planning process. By planning your workloads in advance, you can see how your training load is tracking in the days and weeks leading up to an important competition. Then you can compare these values to the actual values recorded by your athletes in a retrospective.
You can calculate Training Monotony from predicted workloads to help you ensure that you have included enough variability and sufficient rest in your program.
During / Monitoring Training Monotony
While a purely reaction-based approach to programming is not advised, things don’t always go to plan so monitoring training loads during a program is still valuable. Competition schedules change, predicted workloads are not always accurate, and other factors like well-being and readiness, and general fitness can impact an individual’s RPE.
Keeping a close eye on training loads and monotony values over the course of a program can give you insights that can allow you to make important interventions. Allowing you to improve performance at crucial moments. Training Monotony can also be used to calculate Training Strain to give you further insights into the overall stress each individual is experiencing over the training week. You can read more about training strain here.
After / Program Review
Reviewing the effectiveness of a program after it has been completed is critical. It allows you to refine it and ensure that it’s achieving the goals it has been designed to achieve.
As part of this review, a comparison of predicted workloads and actual workloads can be carried out. This can help you refine each individual session to meet the intended program goals.
It’s important when recording any athlete data that you do so with a particular goal in mind. While also understanding how each metric you’re monitoring relates to that goal.
With advances in technology, training load monitoring has become much more practical and accessible to coaches at all levels. One such monitoring tool, sRPE, is simple and effective in giving you the overall picture of your athlete’s training load.
Calculating and monitoring Training Monotony can help you ensure that you have enough variability in your training loads. As well as sufficient rest periods to avoid overtraining, illness, and injury. It can also be a valuable tool in the planning, monitoring, and review stages of the program. To help you refine the program for each individual, and optimize performance for the moments that count.
- Gabbett TJ.: The training—injury prevention paradox: should players be training smarter and harder?, Br J Sports Med, 50:273–280 2016.
- Piggott B, Newton MJ, McGuigan MR. The relationship between training load and incidence of injury and illness over a preseason at an Australian Football League club, J Aust Strength Cond, 17:4–17, 2009.
- Foster C.: Monitoring training in players with reference to overtraining syndrome, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 1998.
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