Mailbag: Sets and Reps

 I am an avid follower of your instagram. I have a question I wanted to ask you but I wasn't quite sure which picture to post it on, which is why I am contacting you here! I know you work with a lot of soccer players and obviously their strength and endurance needs are a little different. I was wondering in terms of reps and sets schemes what you prefered. Do you like to do more in the 10 reps, 3-4 sets range? Obviously I know it depends on whether they are in season, off season, pre-season. But I was wondering if you could give me a general idea. Also, if you knew of any good resources for me to read regarding soccer specific training. Thanks!

Best regards,

This was a question that was sent to me about a week ago and I thought it made for a great topic.  I'm not sure Joelle realized this was such a loaded question.  There are many things to consider, including the athlete's competition schedule, in season, off season, preseason, and practices.  This was mentioned in the original email but from there I'd like to take it a few steps further.  

1.  Training Goal  Once I know the competition schedule, I choose an appropriate phase for training...Foundation work (GPP), Hypertrophy (muscle gain), Max Strength and Power.  There are more but again I just like to keep things simple.   In a perfect world, periodization would undulate to include all of these phases or periodization could progress in a more linear fashion.  There is nothing wrong with either method, its simply choosing an appropriate plan for the time frame you have.  This leads me to number two...  

2. Training Load Each of these phases are coupled with a training load of varying intensity and volume.  Depending on the level of athlete and their current competition/practice schedule, there is only so much they can handle before jeopardizing quality.  Unless I have more than 8 dedicated weeks to just training, I typically stay away from a true hypertrophy phase because that becomes extremely intense for the athlete.  I would rather have them do fewer reps with a high training quality.   With that in mind I try to stay somewhere in the max strength and power phase as it help me keep training volume down.  

3. Training Experience After selecting an appropriate phase, I have to consider the level of athlete..novice, experienced, or elite.  These are important in selecting rep schemes because elite athletes can produce more force, more rapidly than novice athletes.  They don't need as many reps to exhaust their system in power phases, or maximal strength efforts.  I grade athletes based on their level of experience with strength training.  Just because someone is a World Class soccer player, doesn't mean they are the same when it comes to strength training.  

4. Miscellaneous ..

  • movement type - mulit joint v single joint, integrated v isolated
  • Time Under Tension (TUT) - 10 reps doesn't always equal 10 reps when considering tempo
  • Session Load/Weekly Load - sets and reps don't exist in a vacuum. They live in a workout session, and that workout session lives within a day, a week, a month, and beyond.  Not including movement prep and correctives, I try to stay between 45-60 minutes of training per session, no more than 2 training sessions per day, no more than 6-8 sessions per week.  I also try to limit the amount of loaded repetitions in a session, 60-100 per muscle group.  

The following is a chart with some general guidelines for an elite athlete.  None of these numbers are an exact science and shouldn't be followed to a "T" but this at least gives you an idea.  As I mentioned above, elite athletes don't need as many repetitions as novice athletes.  For an experienced athlete, add 3 reps per set, for a novice athlete, add 6..