Jan 29, 2015
Optimizing the Training Session

By Vern Gambetta Gambetta Sports Training Systems

The individual training session is the cornerstone of training. A long-term plan is a succession of linked individual training sessions in pursuit of specific objectives. It is the individual training session where the long-term plan is actually implemented.

Therefore it is important to understand the necessity of adjustments and flexibility within the context of the plan, especially at the level of the daily training session. Contingency planning is a very important, and a necessary part of the planning process.

Every component in the workout must be in pursuit of the specific objectives of the workout and follow the general theme for that particular session. The workout is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end, therefore it must be put in the context of the whole training plan, so it is important to not let the individual training session get blown out of proportion.

Management considerations sometimes dictate the workouts. Management issues include training time available, size of the facility relative to the number of athletes training, equipment available, coaching personnel available as well a the number of athletes that will participate in the actual training session.

The following training programs (Figure One & two) for a high school female basketball team reflects some of these management considerations. Because of the size and experience of the team, they were broken into two groups. The workouts were then reversed the next day. This may not be ideal in terms of sequence of training, but it was expedient and practical and produced results.

The theme in these workouts was on raising basic strength in terms of being able to handle their own bodyweight, then to be able to handle external resistance in terms of dumbbells and free weight. In terms of power the focus was on teaching and stabilization of jumping techniques, especially landing technique as a precursor to an emphasis on Lateral Speed & Agility in the pre-season training phase that would begin August.

Each workout began with essentially the same warm-up that emphasized fundamental movements (Coordination & Balance) and core strength. There was no conditioning work during this phase, although they were playing summer leaguer games and having informal practices. Strength and power development along with individual skill development was the player’s focus. Off Season Basketball Training Workout (Figure One)

Monday Group One

Mini Band Routine

Basic Core 1) Wide 2) Tight 3) Over the top 4) Figure Eight

Multi-dimensional Stretch 1) Lunge Reach Series 2) Jack Knife Crawl 3) Creepy Crawl 4) Hurdle Walks

Coordination 1) Skip 2) Side Step 3) Carioca 4) Backward Run 5) High Skip

Balance (Hold Each Position Ten Seconds) 1) Single Leg Squat Balance 2) Balance Shift 3) Balance Circuit >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Strength Training Incline Push-up 4 x 10 Incline Pull-up 4 x 12 (Feet elevated) Combo I 3 x 6 Combo II 2 x 6 Standing Bench Press 3 x 12 Bent Row 4 x 6 Reverse Fly 3 x 12 Arm Step – ups 3 x 20

Medicine Ball Wall Throws Overhead Throw x 20 Soccer Throw x 20 Chest Pass x 20 Down The Side x 20 Cross in Front x 20 Around the Back x 20 Monday (Figure Two)

Group Two Mini Band Routine

Basic Core 1) Wide 2) Tight 3) Over the top 4) Figure Eight

Multi-dimensional Stretch 1) Reach Series 2) Jack Knife 3) Creepy Crawl 4) Hurdle Walks

Coordination 1) Skip 2) Side Step 3) Carioca 4) Backward Run 5) High Skip

Balance (Hold Each Position Ten Seconds) 1) Single Leg Squat Balance 2) Balance Shift 3) Balance Circuit



1) Multi-direction Jump x 4 2) Lateral Bound 3 x 10 3) Hurdle Jumps a) Forward b) Multidirectional 4) Box Up Jumps – Forward, Lateral & Rotational 1 x 5 of each jump

Strength Training

High Pull 4 x 6 Push Jerk 4 x 6 Leg Circuit – 3 Complete Circuits (No recovery) Squat x 20 Lunge x 20 Step-up x 20 Jump Squat x 10

Medicine Ball – Total Body Throws Over The Back Throw x 6 Single Leg Squat Throw x 6 Forward Through The Leg x 6 Single Squat Scoop Throw x 6 Squat Throw x 10 If it is practical two workouts a day can give outstanding results. This allows the workout to be even more focused and shorter in duration. When two or even three sessions in a day are used it helpful to use the following model of the focused workout for each session: Training Session – Focused (Figure Three)

Everything is subservient to the component that is the focus of the workout; in this example the focus is on speed development.

1) Warm-up

2) Power Development This must be low volume, high intensity work that will enhance the speed development component; it will usually consist of Multi-jumps or multi-throws


4) Cooldown

This is obviously based on how much time is available for training. It is a matter of reconciling what is ideal and what is realistic.

A more typical model when using one training session in a day is the complex training session. It is called complex because it addresses multiple components within a training session. The following is a model of a complex session:

Training Session – Complex (Figure Four) Training more than one component in a session. This is common in team sports.


Technical and/or Tactical Work

Conditioning – Metabolic

Strength Training


Each training session should a have general theme. This general theme in turn should be supported by objectives for each component that are very specific and measurable. When planning an individual training session, ask yourself what do I most need to accomplish? How does that fit into the bigger picture?

Carefully consider the time available. The key is to design the sessions so that there is a seamless flow from one workout into another, so that even though the focus is on that individual workout it always must be placed in the context of the workout leading into and out of it. With this in mind always be aware of the residual training effect.

The ultimate goal is the cumulative training effect, which is what occurs in the long term. Where does the workout fit within the Microcycle plan? The workout is only one component of the big picture. To achieve this look carefully at complementary components both intra and inter workouts.

A general theme with each training session is to have a teaching emphasis, a training emphasis or in-season a stabilizing, sometimes call a maintenance emphasis. Teaching and training emphasis sessions will occupy significantly more time than a stabilization workout.

In the teaching workout, make sure it is correct the first time. Do not be in a hurry; take time to attend to details and individual needs.

Allow more time for individual drills and exercises when you are teaching. The training emphasis workout is the refining process. This will involve more repetition. It may not take more time, but it does demand constant attention to detail.

Once the season begins or emphasis changes in a training cycle stabilization workouts can be emphasized. The theme here is to maintain what has been done before.

Make sure that there is always an injury prevention component in each workout. This is most easily addressed in the warm-up as remedial work. Consideration needs to be given on how to incorporate recovery given the constraints of most situations. Self-massage, shaking and stretching as well as intra workout nutrition in the form of hydration is the most basic and practical form of recovery intra workout recovery.

The basis of planning the individual training session is the modular training concept that will make planning and implementation of workouts very easy. The training module is defined as specific combinations and sequences of exercises that are designed to be very specific and compatible.

The exercises are carefully selected to sequence and flow from one exercise to the next within the module. Each module is designed to focus on one particular component that should fit with the other modules. The volume and intensity for the exercises within each module is determined for each session based on analysis of the previous session. A training session is nothing more than a collection of modules.

The actual design of the session should carefully consider progression, sequence, time allocation and integration with skill workouts. Training must be targeted and directed to optimizing training time.

Training is cumulative. It has been my experience that one session can break an athlete, but one session cannot make an athlete. Focus on the absolute need to do, minimize the nice to do. Training components have a synergistic relationship, therefore whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Placing the components is much like putting together a giant mosaic. All components must be trained throughout all phases of the training year. Just the emphasis and mix should change.

When training a group, carefully plan to meet individual needs in a group context. Everyone will not progress and learn at the same rate. The way to organize this is to group within the workout.

Evaluation is a constant ongoing process that should be part of each training session. Training equals testing and testing equals training. This approach will provide constant feedback. Never lose sight of the fact that the ultimate test is the competition itself.

Figures 5,6, 7 & 8 are templates to help guide the structure of workouts at various times of the year.

In-Season Daily Plan Template (Figure Five)

Time Allotment:

Warm-up Coordination Balance Flexibility

Athletic Development Activity




Specific Fitness


Off Season Daily Training Plan A (Figure Six)

(Speed Acceleration Emphasis)

Step #1 – Warm-up #1

Step #2 – Speed/Acceleration work

Step #3 – LSA (Lateral Speed & Agility) Footwork

Step #4 – Plyometrics Step #5 – Skill work with the ball

Step #6 – Strength Train

Step #7 – Cooldown

Off season Daily Training Plan B (Figure Seven)

(Lateral Speed & Agility Emphasis)

Step #1 – Warm-up # 2 (LSA Emphasis)

Step #2 – Speed/Acceleration work

Step #3 – LSA Work Step #4 – Skill work with the ball

Step #5 – Strength Train

Step #6 – Cooldown

Off Season Daily Training Plan C (Figure Eight)

(Conditioning Emphasis)

Step #1 – Continuous Warm-up

Step #2 – Skill work with the ball

Step #3 – Conditioning Intensive Tempo, Extensive Tempo or Speed Endurance

Step #4 – Cooldown

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