Athletes playing sports and training

How to Write Your Own Sports Performance Sessions

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…

Day 1

Day 2

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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
  • Equipment available
  • 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 the aim of strength and conditioning for athletic performance).

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…

Movement Pattern

Example Exercises

Squat

Body-weight squat

Goblet  squat

Dumbbell box squat

Front or Back squat

Overhead squat (barbell, broomstick)

Hinge

Barbell deadlift

Dumbbell deadlift

Stiff legged deadlift

Sumo deadlift

Hip thrust

Push Horizontal

Push up

Bench Press

Dumbbell Bench press

Push Vertical

Barbell overhead press

1 arm dumbbell overhead press

2 arm dumbbell overhead press

Push Press (barbell or dumbbells)

Split jerk

Pull Horizontal

Barbell bent over row

Dumbbell bent over row

Inverted row (barbell, TRX, rings)

1 arm dumbbell row

Seated row

Pull Vertical

Lat pulldown

Pull up (full or assisted)

Chin up (full or assisted)

Eccentric pull/chin up

Jump and pull up

Power

Olympic lift variations

Squat/lunge jumps

Jumps, hops, skips and hurdles

Slam ball exercises

Med ball throws

Single Leg

Split squat

Reverse lunge

Single leg hip thrust

Rear foot elevated split squats

Pistol squat

Core

Anti Extension (Plank variations)

Anti Rotation (Pallof press, Alphabets)

Anti Lateral Flexion (Carries)

Combination Core (Renegade Rows)

Carry

Farmer walk

Suitcase carries

Waiter walk (1 arm and 2 arm)

Combinations e.g. 1 arm waiter + suitcase

Unbalanced farmer walk

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:

  • Strength
  • Speed
  • Power
  • Agility
  • Endurance
  • Mobility
  • Conditioning

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.

Examples

A long distance running session might comprise of three sections:

  1. Warm Up and Mobility
  2. Aerobic Endurance
  3. Cool Down and Mobility

An Olympic lifting session might comprise of:

  1. General Warm Up
  2. Olympic Lifting Mobility
  3. Technique Practice
  4. Olympic Lifts
  5. Strength Exercises
  6. Assistance Exercises
  7. Cool Down and General Mobility

A fat loss session might comprise of:

  1. Warm Up
  2. Conditioning 1
  3. Muscle Building
  4. Conditioning 2
  5. Cool Down

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:

  1. Warm Up
  2. Power
  3. Strength
  4. Assistance
  5. Conditioning
  6. Cool Down

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…

Day 1

Day 2

Warm Up

Power

Strength

Assistance

Conditioning

Cool Down

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

Aims

  1. Increase strength and power that transfers to jitsu performance.
  2. 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…

Jiu-Jitsu Needs…

Movement Patterns

Power for Throws, Kicks, Takedowns and other badassery

Triple Extension

Rotational

Lower Body Strength

(strong hips and glutes in particular)

Hinge

Squat

Single Leg Strength, Power and Balance

Single Leg

Upper Body Pushing Strength and Power

Push Horizontal

Overhead Strength

Push Vertical

Pulling Strength

Pull Horizontal

Grip Strength and Endurance

Pull

Carry

Mobility (Hips, Ankles, Shoulders)

Kicks, throws, squats, lunges

Anaerobic Endurance (short bursts of high intensity activity)

Kicks, throws, up-down from floor, side to side movement, whole body movements

So, with this information in mind we can start to fill in our session structure with the movement patterns that we want to include…

Day 1

Day 2

Warm Up

General (whole body)

General (whole body)

Power

Triple extension

Rotational

Strength

Hinge

Push (Horizontal)

Squat

Pull (Horizontal or Vertical)

Assistance

Pull (Horizontal)

Single leg

Core

Push (Vertical)

Single leg

Core

Conditioning

Met con

Carry

Cool Down

Breathe, Relax, Roll

Breathe, Relax, Roll

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…

Day 1

Day 2

Warm Up

2-5 mins any cardio, bodyweight exercises/light dumbbell exercises/just get moving!

2-5 mins any cardio, bodyweight exercises/light dumbbell exercises/just get moving!

Power

Clean and Push Press

Slam Ball/Med Ball Throw

Strength

Deadlift

Bench Press

Muscle Snatch

Dumbbell Box Squat

Barbell Bent Over Rows

Assistance

Inverted Rows

Reverse Lunges

Plank Variation

1 arm Dumbbell Press

Step Ups

Alphabets

Conditioning

Rowing Machine/Assault Bike

Farmer walks

‘Fight Drops’

Sprints + various ‘up-down’ exercises

Cool Down

Breathe, Relax, Roll

Breathe, Relax, Roll

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:

Physical Quality

Sets

Reps

Intensity

Notes

Strength

2-5

2-5

Arrrggghhhh be strong!

Always Prioritise Technique

Power

2-4

3-6

BAM. KABLAMO. POWER.

Assistance

1-4

8-15

Push yourself appropriately

Conditioning

Until you’re breathless

Until you’re done

Go for it! Push the tempo! Dance and punk rock music help

Core

1-3

15-60 seconds

Squeeze tight (abs, glutes) and keep breathing

Carry

1-3

30-60 seconds

As challenging as possible whilst still carrying yourself well (good posture)

So, using the information in the table above we can add our sets and reps in…(written as: exercise x reps x sets)

Day 1

Day 2

Warm Up

2-5 mins any cardio, bodyweight exercises/light dumbbell exercises/just get moving! (10-15 mins)

2-5 mins any cardio, bodyweight exercises/light dumbbell exercises/just get moving! (10-15 mins)

Power

Clean and Press x 3 x 5

Slam Ball/Med Ball Throw x 5 x 3

Strength

  1. Deadlift x 5 x 4
  2. Bench Press x 3 x 4
  1. Muscle Snatch x 8 x 3
  2. Dumbbell Box Squat x 6 x 3
  3. Barbell Bent Over Rows x 6 x 3

Assistance

  1. Inverted Rows x 10-15 x 2
  2. Reverse Lunges x 5 e/s x 2
  3. Stir the Pot Plank x 30s x 2
  1. 1 arm Dumbbell Press x 5 x 2
  2. Step Ups x 6-10 e/s* x 2
  3. Alphabets x 15s e/s x 2

Conditioning

Rowing Machine/Assault Bike: 30s hard, 30s slow/rest x 4

  1. Farmer Walk x 30s x 2
  2. ‘Fight Drops’ x 20s x 2
  3. Sprints + various ‘up-down’ exercises x 60s

Cool Down

Breathe, Relax, Roll

Breathe, Relax, Roll

*e/s = each side

… And there you have it, your sessions are created. Now you just have to go do them!!

Notes

  • 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

Aim

  1. 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:

Running Needs

Movement Patterns

Endurance (Aerobic and Anaerobic)

Running

Lower Body Strength

Hinge

Squat

Single leg

Lower Body Power

Jump

Skip

Hop

Core Strength

Anti Rotation

Anti Extension

Core Endurance

Anti Rotation

Anti Extension

Upper Body Strength Endurance

Running (holding good posture)

Pull (Horizontal)

Healthy hips, knees, ankles and shoulders

Running

Mobility in Squat, Lunge, Overhead, Push and Pull Archetypes

So, with this information we can select our sections…

Day 1

Day 2

Warm Up

Mobility

Power

Strength

Assistance

Core

Cool Down

And then our movement patterns…

Day 1

Day 2

Warm Up

General Whole Body

General Whole Body

Mobility

Lower Body

Upper Body

Power

Lower Body

Lower Body

Strength

Squat

Push (Vertical)

Hinge

Pull (Horizontal)

Assistance

Push (Vertical)

Single-Leg

Pull (Horizontal or Vertical)

Single-Leg

Core

Anti Extension Core

Anti Lateral Flexion Core

Anti Rotation Core

Posture Core

Cool Down

Breathe, Relax, Roll

Breathe, Relax, Roll

And now our exercises…

Day 1

Day 2

Warm Up + Mobility

Roll legs

2-5 mins any cardio, bodyweight exercises/light dumbbell exercises/just get moving!

Lower Body Mobility (Spider shapes, Pigeons, Deep Squat mobilisers)

Roll legs

2-5 mins any cardio, bodyweight exercises/light dumbbell exercises/just get moving!

Upper body Mobility (Shoulder and Thoracic Mobilisers)

Power

Pogos

Box Jumps

Squat Jumps

Mini Hurdles

Strength

Deadlift (Hex bar, Barbell or Dumbbell)

Squat (Goblet, Dumbbell Box, Barbell)

Assistance

1 arm Dumbbell Overhead Press

Reverse Lunge

Inverted Row/Chin up

Single Leg Hip Thrust

Pallof Press

Waiter Walk

Core

Plank variation – Stir the Pot

Suitcase Carry

Pallof Press

2 arm Waiter Walk

Cool Down

Breathe, Relax, Roll

Breathe, Relax, Roll

And now with sets and reps added we’ve got our two sessions…

Day 1

Day 2

Warm Up + Mobility

Roll legs

2-5 mins any cardio, bodyweight exercises/light dumbbell exercises/just get moving!

Spider shapes, Pigeons, Deep Squat Mobilisers

Roll legs

2-5 mins any cardio, bodyweight exercises/light dumbbell exercises/just get moving!

Thoracic and Shoulder Mobilisers

Power

Pogos x 8 x 2

Box jumps x 4 x 3

Squat Jumps x 4 x 3

Mini Hurdles x 6 x 3

Strength

Stiff Legged Deadlift x 5 x 3

Goblet Squat x 5 x 3

Assistance

1 arm Dumbbell Overhead Press x 6 x 2

Bodyweight Reverse lunge x 10 x 2

Inverted Row/Chin up x 6 x 2

Single Leg Hip Thrust x 10 x 2

Core

Plank variation – Stir the Pot x 30s x 2

Suitcase Carry x 30s x 2

Pallof Press x 20s x 2

2 arm Waiter Walk x 30s x 2

Cool Down

Breathe, Relax, Roll, Mobility

Breathe, Relax, Roll, Mobility

Closing Thoughts

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!