What is the optimal training-to-match ratio?

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The aim of training is to prepare players for the technical, tactical, psychological and physical aspects of the match. By using a monitoring system (for example GPS sensors and wellness questionnaires), coaches are able to monitor the readiness of players to train or play a match. For this, they will look at the amount of workload that the players have performed during a session. Was it more or less than the same session of last week? How are the players able to cope with this load? Based on the answers to these questions, a coach can decide to increase (or lower) the workload for a player and develop an optimal training-to-match ratio.

These methods provide powerful insights into the readiness to play a match. But, they do not tell us whether we are sufficiently preparing our players for the matches: was the load high enough to prepare them for the challenging demands of the match? In this blog, we will explain how you can determine the optimal amount of load for your team and set training goals specific to the needs of your team.

Match demands as the basis of a training program

At the basis of determining the optimal workload for your team are the match demands. This concept can be illustrated with an extreme comparison: the match demands for a marathon runner (enduring a submaximal speed for more than 2 hours) are different than the match demands for a team sports player (performing intermittent exercise). The training programs should also be different. Even though less extreme differences are found between different sports teams, the same concept needs to be applied for determining the optimal amount of workload for a team. The match demands form the basis of determining the training goals for a team.

Optimal training load

We know that the total training load during the week serves as a preparation for the match. If players are exposed to relatively low levels of total weekly training load, they will not be sufficiently prepared for the high demands of a match. This will result in underperformance and an increased risk of injury. On the other hand, players who are exposed to a relatively high total week load will have higher fatigue levels at the start of the match. This means determining the optimal training load is of great importance. 

How does the training-to-match ratio work?

Next to the fact that the training load serves as a preparation of the match, we have seen that match demands should form the basis of our training program. If we want to determine the optimal weekly load for our team, we need to compare the total weekly training load with the match load. This is done with the training-to-match ratio. How this ratio works, is best explained with an example. If my team covers on average 500 sprint meters during a match, and my weekly training load is 700 sprint meters, the training-to-match ratios will be 700/500 = 1,4. So now that we are able to calculate the training-to-match ratio, we need to determine which ratios we are aiming for during a training week. 

What is the optimal training-to-match ratio?

The total amount of workload you need to perform during the week is dependent on the number of training sessions during the week. The more training sessions there are, the higher the weekly load. The training-to-match ratios you are aiming for are also dependent on the number of training sessions you have during a week. Table 1 summarizes the typical training-to-match ratios there are seen for the different load parameters in different types of weeks (1).

Table 1: training-to-match ratios for the different variables in different types of weeks

Variable 3dW 4dW 5dW
Total distance 1.8 2.8 3.5
High accelerations 2.2 3.5 4.1
Sprint distance 1.1 2.0 2.3
*3/4/5dW = 3/4/5 training sessions per week**A ratio of 1.0 indicates that the total weekly training load is the same as the load of one match. 

 

It should be noted that there is quite some variation in the ratios between the different load parameters. In general, we can conclude that the ratios for the high accelerations are far higher than the ratios sprint distance. This means that in the training programs there is relatively more focus on high accelerations than on sprinting. Since coaches usually like to play exercises in small areas (which have a higher acceleration intensity), it is understandable that the ratios for the high accelerations are higher.  In contrast, the exercises played in large areas put more focus on sprinting distance. Since exercises with these field dimensions are less frequent during training sessions,  the ratios of sprint distance are lower.

Minimum and maximum values of your training-to-match ratio

Even though the ratios are understandable, this does not mean that these are the most optimal ratios. Findings from research have shown that adding extra sprint exercises (more sprint distance) to a training program has a positive impact on injury risk factors and on sprint performance. Based on this, it’s recommended to increase the sprint distance during the training week. The current ratios for the high-speed movements should be viewed as the minimum values for the week and those for high accelerations should be viewed as maximum values. 

Practical Application

We can use the training-to-match ratio to determine the weekly training goal for each team. To determine the weekly training load for a team, the match benchmark for a team is multiplied by the ratios in Table 1. This will give us the team-specific training goal for the week (see an example in Table 2). But leaves us with the question how we are going to distribute this load over the week. In the next blog we will provide a guideline on how you can determine the optimal training load for each individual session.

Table 2: example of determining the weekly training goal for a team with 3 training sessions in a week

Total distance High accelerations Sprint distance
Match Benchmark 10 km 36 520 m
Training-to-match ratio 1.8 2.2 1.1
Weekly training goal 18 km (10km x 1.8) 80 (36 x 2.2) 572 m (520m x 1.1)

 

JOHAN’S TIP

The training-to-match ratio is also a great way of individualizing the training program for each player. Instead of the match benchmark for the whole team, the individual’s average match load will be used to determine the weekly load that each player has to perform. Even though this approach will take more time to incorporate in your daily practice, it will result in a training program tailored to the needs of the individual player.

Conclusion

Match demands should form the basis of a training program. To determine the optimal weekly training load for your team, the training-to-match ratios can be used. Based on the match demands of your team, you will be able to calculate the workload your team should perform during the week!

References

  1. Clemente, F.M., Rabbani, A., Conte, D., Castillo, D., Afonso, J., Clark, C.C.T., Nikolaidis, P.T., Rosemann, T., Knechtle, B. (2019). Training/Match External Load Ratios in Professional Soccer Players: A Full-Season Study. Int J Environ Res Public Health; 16, 3057: doi:10.3390/ijerph16173057

 

© picture from Galajda Michal

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