Quantification of training load is important for several reasons. Firstly, to control periodization, if periodization is possible in football. Secondly, to control the ideal training load needed to achieve training adaptations while avoiding overreaching and overtraining.
The most common methods used to quantify training load in football are shown below. A summary of advantages and disadvantages associated with each of them ia also presented in the table for your consideration.
Table. Methods to quantify training load.
Time at heart rate zones
Time at certain heart rate (HR) zones based on individual’s maximum heart rate and treadmill testing
Easy data collection and analysis
Relatively high cost for a team system.
HR does not always represent the true physiological load (i.e. in sprint, change of direction)
Blood lactate concentration
Determination of blood lactate concentration
Easy to conduct
Not many players can be evaluated at the same time
Concentration varies and depends on the activity few minutes before sample collection
Rate of perceived exertion (RPE) after training
Perceived exertion is recorded usually 30min post training
Easy & fast
Total distance covered, distance at high intensity, recovery time etc are reported using GPS
External work can be estimated more precisely
Internal work is not estimated unless GPS is combined with heart rate recording & RPE
Post-training physiological measurements
Biochemical (CPK), hormonal, physiological (balance between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system function) and psychological indices are evaluated and recorded some hours after training
Methods are more accurate
A more holistic approach
Experienced sport scientist is needed
An integrated approached is needed
More scientific evidence is needed to justify practical use of this approach
Take home message
- There is a variety of methods to quantify training load. All have advantages and disadvantages. One must decide which is the most appropriate for the situation and remain consistent with data collection and analysis.
- To my view view a more holistic & integrated approach might help. This approach takes into consideration as many systems of human body function as possible.
For more reading
-Algroy et al. (2011). Quantifying training intensity distribution in a group of Norwegian soccer players. Int J Sports Physiology & Performance, 6(1): 70-81.
-Reilly (2005). An ergonomics model of the soccer training process. J Sports Sci, 23 (6): 561-572.