How to properly program recovery for your athletes


For several years, at four different universities, I was brainstorming, trying to find a final training plan. Regardless of any sport, I was looking for the most logical means to achieve all the sport’s desirable goals:

How can all this be addressed within limited training time, unmotivated athletes and limited resources?

Programming is more than series and repetitions

Let’s divide these goals into their basic requirements:

  • There must be a well-planned program related to the desired qualities.
  • There must be an overload effect from the applied stress.
  • Time must be left proper nutritional intake and healing to adapt to that stress of overload.
  • The plan must be progressive, increasing the overload over time as the body adapts to existing levels.

So far so good. However, recovery can throw the key into action. Without as much attention paid to it as the training itself, staleness can raise its ugly head, leaving you with athletes who have:

  • Difficulty advancing in training
  • Increased possibility of injury
  • Increased risk of disease
  • Reduced performance in competition
  • Apathy towards training

Briefly, lack of proper recovery or too much training volume destroys everything else you try to do.

Recovery factors to consider

Let’s look at some other factors in programming to ensure proper recovery:

  • Training components are usually scheduled within a five-day work week at the faculty level.
  • The imposed overload must be strong enough to create a requirement for the system (s).
  • It takes energy overloadand then to recover from it. Many coaches forget that second part.
  • Athletes have other daily responsibilities, and when it comes to proper nutrition and rest, they are usually alone. habits (sleep)..

Adequate recovery from stressful exercise does not necessarily correspond to a 24-hour workday or a five-day work week. The larger the workload, the longer the recovery time is required. Dig a deep hole and it will take longer to fill. Energy supplies are depleted and need to be replenished; the muscle tissue that needs to be repaired is damaged.

When one body wants more adaptive responses (ie strength, endurance, speed) even more logical training effort planning is needed. The athlete does not go to the closet in the middle of the day, pulls out a new body, and wearily throws it in the laundry basket. It is the same body that has to deal with all the imposed stresses that day until it is time to recover. There is some overlap, as some training components deal with multiple qualities at the same time. For example, increased muscle strength can lead to improved running speed, all other factors remain the same.

VK Studio / Shutterstock

Even the average Joe who sits at a table all day requires a recovery from a less demanding lifestyle to do so day in and day out. How much more, your fierce athletes?

And recovery is not just day-to-day. How long do your athletes rest between sets? Between interval runs, agility exercises and operating speed? What work-rest ratios are needed? Moreover, what about two a day? Do you program strength training and fitness on the same day? Fast work on leg strength day? Which one to contact first?

Say your athletes have complete body fatigue from training on Monday. What do you need to do on Tuesday? A complete vacation? But wait, there are only three days left to push more strength training, endurance running, speed work, etc. Help!

Programming tips to ensure recovery

Don’t panic. Remember, a strength and fitness coach in a rival State U faces the same dilemma. We know that rest days are just as important as working days and that all components of training require energy and create demands for recovery.

Take advantage of this overlap of training components. Perform work at speed and agility creates fatigue (conditioning effect). Leg strengthening exercises in the gym indirectly help running speed, and contribute to injury prevention.

Don’t be afraid to take what the calendar gives you. It is okay (and necessary) to plan occasional full rest days during your workout week. It will give your athletes a chance to take care of their academic commitments, and a day off can create more enthusiasm when they return to training. Take advantage of planned school vacations (i.e. spring and between semesters) to make things better. In the off-season, you can challenge your athletes with more volume, and the net positive effects will carry over into the competition season, when the volume must be reduced to readiness on match day.

Examples of training plans for planned recovery

I recommend a maximum duration of the training segment of 8-10 weeks. Below are some examples of 10-week off-season training plans, broken down in terms of stress exposure and recovery time. I presented two traditional and three non-traditional plans for five days a week and one non-traditional approach for seven days a week. Strength training (ST) is any work in a weight room. Conditioning (conditioning) would include any interval running, agility exercises or speed work.

Traditional five-day plan # 1

  • Number of strength trainings: 40 (20 for upper and lower body)
  • Number of conditioning sessions: 25
  • Total number of exercises: 65
  • Total number of vacation days: 25
  • Ratio of actual working days to total rest days: 45:25

Traditional five-day plan # 2

  • Number of strength trainings: 30
  • Number of conditioning sessions: 25
  • Total number of exercises: 55
  • Total number of vacation days: 20
  • Ratio of actual working days to total rest days: 50:20

Non-traditional five-day plan # 1

  • Number of strength trainings: 20
  • Number of conditioning sessions: 20
  • Total number of exercises: 40
  • Total number of vacation days: 30
  • Ratio of actual working days to total rest days: 40:30

Non-traditional five-day plan # 2

  • Number of strength trainings: 30 (15 for upper and lower body)
  • Number of conditioning sessions: 15
  • Total number of exercises: 45
  • Total number of vacation days: 40
  • Ratio of actual working days to total rest days: 30:40

Non-traditional five-day plan # 3

Non-traditional five-day plan # 3

  • Number of strength trainings: 15
  • Number of conditioning sessions: 15
  • Total number of exercises: 30
  • Total number of vacation days: 40
  • Ratio of actual working days to total days off: 30:40

A non-traditional seven-day plan

  • Number of strength trainings: 18
  • Number of conditions: 17
  • Total number of exercises: 35
  • Total number of vacation days: 35
  • Ratio of actual working days to total rest days: 35:35

Comparison of training plan and discussion

Comparison of the plan

If 10 workouts each of quality strength and fitness training results in good progress, imagine the possible results with the number of exposures offered in the above non-traditional training formats, especially in combination with a larger number of recovery days.

For example, 15 upper body strength training and 15 lower body training in the second non-traditional plan represent plenty of opportunities to increase strength in one off-season. Also, 15 workouts is more than enough to increase cardiorespiratory fitness. Keep in mind that 40 full days of rest are provided here to facilitate recovery from 30 actual training days, which makes this a good training plan.

The 7-day example uses 18 full-strength strength training sessions and 17 conditioning sessions along with 35 complete rest days. Again, more than enough exposure to exercise with a lot of built-in recovery time to allow for optimal adjustment.

Compare them with traditional examples. In the first, 40 strength trainings and 25 fitness exposures, but only 25 complete days of rest in a 70-day plan. Overtraining is more likely here. Similarly — and probably much worse than # 1 — Example # 2 features 30 full body strength training, 25 fitness training, but only 20 full days of rest.

More is not always better when it comes to physical training. Properly planned overloads in the gym and on the track must logically be accommodated during training, along with built-in recovery days. Train your athletes hard, but also train them intelligently.

Featured image: VK Studio / Shutterstock


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