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Review monitoring results to modify training plans

This is an excerpt from Monitoring Training and Performance in Athletes by Mike McGuigan.

Reporting One Week of Monitoring for an Athlete

Figure 8.3 shows a report provided to an athlete and other practitioners. Although electronic and paper formats are popular, practitioners should not be afraid to try alternative approaches to get their messages across. A short video or audio clip delivered to the athlete's mobile device may be a good way to relay information and highlight key aspects of the data. Being mindful of the athlete's preferences for how to receive the information is important. A good starting point would be a discussion with the athlete!

Weekly monitoring report for a powerlifter.

A weekly summary should contain all critical information, use an appropriate analysis method, be simple to interpret, and visually capture the key aspects of the monitoring data. Ultimately, the practitioner's goal should be to provide information that will make an impact and guide the programming and planning for the subsequent week.

Practitioners need to be careful not to go overboard with forms for reporting; they should use a format that will actually be used. Reports that are not used but are filed away and never looked at again are pointless. The report should include several important measures that are easily understood along with a brief explanation if needed.

Monitoring reports should provide usable information for the coming week. However, reporting is only one piece of the monitoring puzzle. The process should continue throughout the week to give the practitioner and athlete ongoing feedback so they can make training adjustments and note areas that need attention outside of training.

The results of the week could be presented using a medal system that denotes whether the result exceeded expectations (gold medal), met the required standard (silver medal), or requires attention (bronze medal). Figure 8.3 shows this system for a female powerlifter. Her performance is indicated by estimated 1RMs for the competition exercises (squat, bench press, and deadlift) based on training data; her overall training performance score is the estimated competition total.

Based on the wellness questionnaire, scores are given for the key areas, and a composite score is provided. In addition, training load, monotony, and strain are calculated as a weekly average but also measured relative to a 4-week rolling average. The practitioner could also include a figure that shows the major aspects of the report and the training for the year or training cycle so far. The benchmarking of the ratings (medals or flags or traffic signs) would be up to the practitioner to decide. Performance measures in sports such as powerlifting and weightlifting can simply be benchmarked against performance standards required for competition. Practitioners also need to consider the method of presentation (see chapter 2). Because many athletes may prefer electronic reports, practitioners would need to consider formatting to ensure that their reports appear correctly on mobile devices.

Modifying Training Based on Monitoring

One of the fundamental uses of athlete monitoring in individual sports is to inform adjustments to training prescription (23). Regular monitoring of an athlete's capacities may help optimize adaptations based on force - velocity (strength-speed or power) profiling (24).

Consider a practitioner who decides to use a vertical countermovement and static jump performed on a dual force plate at the start of each week for monitoring two heptathletes. If the practitioner does not have access to a force plate, more cost-effective technologies could be used (e.g., measuring jump height or distance). Monitoring shows that the eccentric utilization ratio (vertical countermovement jump to squat jump ratio) is 1.07 for athlete 1 and 0.93 for athlete 2. This suggests that the training of athlete 2 should include more exercises involving the stretch - shortening cycle (e.g., plyometrics) to improve the athlete's ability to utilize the stretch - shortening cycle. The training could incorporate exercises that focus on increasing the rate of force development using ballistic movements (e.g., jump squats). Depending on the training phase and periodization, the major focus for training should be those qualities requiring improvement. This is where regular monitoring data are particularly valuable. For example, if athlete 2 had low maximal strength in addition to the lower eccentric utilization ratio, the main training focus would be on maximal strength. Based on the monitoring data, athlete 1 might be considered to have an optimal eccentric utilization ratio. However, if these absolute numbers are below the benchmark required for that sport, then the training emphasis should be on improving these even though the ratio seems optimal.

Practitioners need to be wary of simply chasing numbers with training. Instead, they should always consider athlete monitoring data in the overall context of optimizing athlete performance. Consider an athlete who is monitored over a 4-week period. The practitioner records the following results:

Week 1

  • Countermovement jump = 55 watts/kg
  • Static jump = 55 watts/kg
  • Eccentric utilization ratio = countermovement jump ÷ static jump = 55 ÷ 55 = 1.00

The practitioner decides to incorporate more stretch - shortening cycle training that week. Because the relative results are also below the benchmark for that athlete (60 watts/kg), overall capacity still needs to be improved as well.

Week 2

  • Countermovement jump = 56 watts/kg
  • Static jump = 55 watts/kg
  • Eccentric utilization ratio = 1.02

Week 3

  • Countermovement jump = 57.5 watts/kg
  • Static jump = 56 watts/kg
  • Eccentric utilization ratio = 1.03

Week 4

  • Countermovement jump = 58.5 watts/kg
  • Static jump = 56.5 watts/kg
  • Eccentric utilization ratio = 1.04

Each week adjustments are made to the training for that week to ensure continued adaptation. The results show a gradual improvement in both the capacities and the eccentric utilization ratio. However, practitioners should not become overly focused on a particular metric such as the eccentric utilization ratio. They need to also consider the actual numbers and how they fit with the other areas of athletic development.

With regard to unilateral versus bilateral monitoring, dual force plates can reveal any imbalances (see chapter 5); this can be applied across a range of individual sports. Ultimately, the practitioners must decide which variable to measure, such as displacement (jump height), impulse, power, or velocity. If a force plate is not available, the practitioner could use a tape measure or measuring stick to analyze single-leg vertical jumps. Broad or horizontal jump tests are also useful and do not require technology.

For example, a practitioner conducts a monitoring test to measure an athlete's single-leg broad jumps and records the following right leg to left leg ratios:

  • Week 1: 1.06
  • Week 2: 1.06
  • Week 3: 1.08
  • Week 4: 1.09

Having a perfect (1.0) right leg to left leg ratio is not a requirement, but a general guideline is that a difference greater than 15% is a red flag for the practitioner (17). Because the ratios in the example are within the 10% cutoff from one week to the next, the practitioner decides not to make any adjustments to the training program. If the ratio changes more than 15%, the practitioner could introduce more single-leg training for the weaker leg. Deciding which ratios are optimal is a challenge because many factors contribute to an imbalance, including sport requirements, limb dominance, and injury history.

However, a comparison should also be made between unilateral and bilateral performance (23). This can indicate a need for more emphasis on single-leg training. Comparing the sum of the right and left legs (e.g., adding the individual impulse scores for each leg in a long jumper) to the scores for bilateral vertical countermovement jump can identify differences in the bilateral deficit (see chapter 5). If one athlete produced 20% more impulse (noted in the sum of the unilateral jumps) and another athlete produced only 5% more, what could this mean to the practitioner? Depending on the sport, this could indicate that the first athlete should focus more on bilateral work in the next week, whereas the second athlete could be doing more unilateral exercises.

Practitioners working with individual sport athletes can often use more sophisticated strength and power monitoring tests than can practitioners dealing with larger numbers of athletes in team sports. For example, load profiling or measuring reactive strength capacity via drop jumps (25) over a range of heights is more challenging with a large squad of team sport athletes than with an individual athlete. Using these monitoring tests across a range of drop jump heights and comparing the results to vertical countermovement jump results can provide useful insights into the athlete's tolerance of stretch load. For example, a practitioner may decide to have an athlete complete a drop jump test using 30 cm (11.8 in.), 45 cm (17.7 in.), and 60 cm (23.6 in.) in addition to the vertical countermovement jump test. Performing these tests will reveal whether the athlete can tolerate the drop jump heights relative to vertical countermovement jump performance. If the athlete produces less jump height with increasing drop height, this suggests a lower tolerance to stretch load. This monitoring data would again need to be put into the context of other monitoring results to help understand the cause of this. It could be a lack of eccentric strength, which may be helped by including more maximal strength training. The lack of reactive strength could also be addressed by incorporating more reactive strength exercises in the next block of training.


Learn more about Monitoring Training and Performance in Athletes.

More Excerpts From Monitoring Training and Performance in Athletes