What is the optimal load for each training session?

03 MARCH 2020

To prepare your team for the challenging demands of a match, the match load should form the basis of your training program. As we have seen in the last blog, the optimal weekly load for a team can be determined based on the match load. The important question is: how should this load be distributed over the different sessions throughout the week? Should the load be evenly distributed over the different sessions of the week? Or should the load of the session vary during the week? In this blog, we’ll explain how you are able to determine the optimal load for each individual session of the week.


As we have already explained in a previous blog, a weekly training program should follow a wave-like pattern. This means that the first two days after a match, the load of the training session will be low: the focus is on recovering. Then, 3 or 4 days before the next match, a conditional training session will be planned. After which, the load on the last 2 days before a match is lowered again to make sure that the players are fit and fresh before the start of the next match.


As can be seen from the explanation above, training days are viewed relative to matchdays. For example, the day after a match is often referred to as ‘matchday + 1’ (MD+1). Two days before the match is referred to as ‘matchday -2’ (MD-2). These different kinds of classifications will help us to determine the optimal load for a training day.


In the last blog, we have seen that the training-to-match ratio is different for different variables. The ratio is far higher for high accelerations than for sprint distance. Therefore, an example is given on how you can distribute the load over the week for both sprint distance and high accelerations (see Table 1). As can be seen from this table, the distribution of load over the week follows the wave-like pattern. This way, the player will be physically challenged during one session in the week (MD-4), while also being able to recover from the high demands of a conditional session (or match) during the other days of the week.

If you want to add a fourth training session during the week, make sure that the distribution over the week still follows a wave-like pattern. For example, if you decide to add a training session on MD-1, it is recommended to aim for 20-40% of match load for high accelerations and 10-30% of match load for sprint distance.

Table 1: Example of how you can distribute the weekly load over 3 sessions during the week (as a percentage of match load).

High accelerations

MD+2 30-50%
MD+2 90-110%
MD+2 40-60%

High accelerations

MD+2 0-10%
MD+2 70-90%
MD+2 30-50%


If you are going to implement the training-to-match ratio principle into your training program, a gradual increase in load over time is important. This means that if your weekly load is currently far below the recommended training-to-match ratio, you should not aim for the recommended training-to-match ratio in the next week. Rather, try to increase the weekly load by about 20% each week, until you reach the recommended training-to-match ratio.

Figure 1: Use the Cycle module in JOHAN’s analysis platform to check the physical load of your sessions during the week.


It is recommended to increase the load of the conditional session (i.e. MD-3 or MD-4) first. When you have reached the recommended load for the conditional session, you can gradually increase the load of the other sessions (if needed). But be careful, increasing the load of a training program also has a risk. Monitoring the way the players are dealing with the training program is of great importance. If players report high values of fatigue and/or muscle soreness this should signal you that the increase in load too much too fast. Make smaller steps to make sure that you are not overloading the players too much.