How to Write Your Own Sports Performance Sessions
**This article was originally written in July 2018 for the Panthera Performance website (which is now the website you see before your eyes), a few months before I moved to San Diego…**
I'm Leaving You
So, I’m planning to move to San Diego in just a few short months… this article is aimed at two clients who have selfishly decided not to follow me to San Diego and will instead be training on their own here in Edinburgh after I depart.
A Parting Gift
Both clients are training towards sports performance goals and have asked similar questions regarding how to put together their own sessions — this article is my attempt to help them do so.
The content, therefore, has these two people in mind; however, the information provided can easily be applied by the seven other readers of this blog.
By the end of this article anyone who wants to put together their own sports performance sessions will have an idea of how to populate the table below…
Some Basics to Begin With
There aren't really right or wrong ways to structure training sessions, but there are more effective and less effective methods.
The structure of a session, in terms of the style of training and the specific exercises used, will vary depending on several factors, including (but not limited to):
A person’s training goal
How long they’ve been training for (their training age)
The athlete’s personality and individual preferences
The facility one is training in
The time available to train
Thus, because of the vast range of training goals and individuals walking this planet, there can be great variety in training session structures — there is no single format that suits everyone.
However, regardless of the structure that suits you, Panthera Performance recommends that you base sports performance training sessions upon fundamental movement patterns…
Fundamental Movement Patterns
Panthera Performance training aims to develop strong, powerful and free movement in fundamental movement patterns.
Each movement pattern contains a number of exercises that can be scaled to cater for beginners and advanced alike, and can be used to achieve a range of performance goals.
Every session/program doesn’t need to include every movement pattern, and some sessions/programs will feature certain movement patterns more prominently than others.
With that said, the majority of sports performance programs, at some point, will feature some form of each movement pattern, primarily because good movement, strength and power in each of the fundamental movement patterns leads to the development of well rounded athleticism (which is generally the aim of my strength and conditioning programs).
Movement Patterns and Exercises
Here are the movement patterns that Panthera Performance considers to be key to athletic performance, and just some of the exercises within each pattern…
The Aim of Sports Performance Training
When training for sports performance, the aim is to develop the physical qualities that will lead to improved sports performance. Generally, this means improving one or more of:
Exercises and movement patterns aren’t exclusive to one physical quality and thus don’t need to be put in boxes (ironic given the way I’ve boxed them in the table) — many exercises can be manipulated and used for different purposes.
For example, a squat could be used as a strength, power, assistance, mobility or conditioning exercise depending on the individual needs and the exercise selected.
Just as a loaded carry can be used as a core exercise, a strength exercise or a conditioning exercise. This will come in handy further on when we talk about ‘Sections of a Training Session.’
So, the above table provides the movement patterns and exercises that you’re going to slot in to your program, but, before we start picking and choosing exercises, we need to think about dividing our session up in to sections…
Sections of a Training Session
A training session is usually comprised of several sections. Most start with a warm up and finish with a cool down, the middle sections are then determined by what the athlete wants to achieve (what physical qualities they want to work on)...
Someone who wants to gain strength, for example, is going to have a strength section. Someone who is trying to learn techniques will have a technique section, someone who is as stiff as a board will have a mobility section and some people will have an Instagram section.
A long-distance running session might comprise of three sections:
Warm Up and Mobility
Cool Down and Mobility
An Olympic lifting session might comprise of:
General Warm Up
Olympic Lifting Mobility
Cool Down and General Mobility
A fat loss session might comprise of:
So, as you can see, the number of sections in a session and what those sections entail will depend on the task at hand.
As this article is aimed at two clients who are training towards sports performance goals, we’ll go with the following sections for our two sessions:
Quick Question: Why in that order?
This order works as we want to be freshest for the strength and power movements, because these are going to involve the greatest power output, the heaviest weights and be the most physically taxing.
Building the Sessions…
Now we know the sections of our sessions and the order we’re going to do them in, we’re just about ready to start piecing a program together…
So, this is what we’ve got so far…
Before we start adding specific exercises to our table we need to get an idea of our training goal, this will then make movement pattern and exercise selection more straightforward.
Example 1: Jiu-Jitsu Artist
Increase strength and power that transfers to jitsu performance.
Develop conditioning to create a ‘buffer’ for jitsu competitions/gradings
A quick needs analysis of jiu-jitsu (and an athlete movement assessment) will tell us what physical qualities are required for the sport, what movement patterns are involved, what the specific individual is capable of and what they need to work on…
So, with this information in mind we can start to fill in our session structure with the movement patterns that we want to include…
Now, all of a sudden, we just about have a couple of sessions — all we need to do are select exercises that are appropriate for the goal and the individual’s capabilities.
So, something like this…
How many Sets and Reps of each Exercise?
Sets and reps can and will vary based on a number variables. To keep things as simple as possible, here are some very general guidelines to follow:
So, using the information in the table above we can add our sets and reps in…(written as: exercise x reps x sets)
… And there you have it, your sessions are created. Now you just have to go do them!!
Exercises can and should be rotated in and out. Some will feature more prominently than others, some (assistance exercises for example) can be rotated weekly.
This is just one example of a session structure — you can get creative now you have an idea of the basics of the process.
If in doubt, simple sessions and structures are always better.
Example 2: Competitive Runner
Develop strength and power that transfers to running performance.
A quick needs analysis of running tells us what physical qualities are required and what movement patterns these relate to:
So, with this information we can select our sections…
And then our movement patterns…
And now our exercises…
And now with sets and reps added we’ve got our two sessions…
I don’t know if this information is too much, too little or too complicated! Hopefully it’s ‘too sweet, thanks Jon’... hopefully it makes sense and will be useful for those who made it all the way through to the end of this long (but very readable!?) article.
The session examples could easily be stripped back or added to and were merely intended to provide you with a base level of information for you to adapt and use however you see fit.
Training should be fun and engaging, so there is obviously scope for creativity — sessions don’t even need to be as structured as the examples given, nor does the structure you planned need to be carried out exactly as it's written down.
Adapting sessions based on how an athlete presents at the start of a session (fatigue, motivation etc.) is part of the art of coaching and in your sessions you should pay attention to what your body and mind are telling you.
If in doubt, keep it simple and don’t fall victim to analysis paralysis.
Stressing out over minor details such as whether you'd be better off doing 2 or 3 sets, or 5 or 6 reps or exercises in a certain order isn't helpful and ultimately isn't the most important thing; what’s more important is that what you choose to do is executed with intensity, motivation and good technique.
A theoretically flawed but well executed program will yield much greater success than a scientifically spectacular program executed lackadaisically.
Experiment, find what works for you and most importantly of all — enjoy your training sessions!
And, finally... Bon voyage, be well, remember me fondly, stay in touch, enjoy and good luck!