I had this question come in from a reader:

One of the hardest things for me, even after 25+ years of being a trainer, I often have problems judging the intensity of a training. In planning and sometimes also in the session itself. It is very hard to judge how long the drillls should go to be intense enough but all together not too much. Any tips, hints where or at what to look or how to “measure“ intensity or training load?

I’ve previously written about how you can include conditioning into your practices. The question above is closely related.

We can think of standard volleyball play as a baseline when we consider intensity. Anything we do that is slower is lower intensity. Anything with a faster tempo is higher. So, if you are doing something like a wash game where you enter 1 or more additional balls after the initial rally, that is something with a higher tempo than normal game play.

Looking at things from more of a drill perspective, think in terms of frequency of repetitions for a given player. The baseline is how often they would perform that skill – for example hitting – in a game. If the drill involves more frequent reps, then it’s higher intensity.

Imagine three hitters taking turns attacking. If they are going in quick succession, they’ll quickly start to fatigue because that tempo produces a higher frequency of swings per period of given time than any hitter normally gets.

This is how you can judge the intensity of any given game or drill. The intensity of an overall practice then would be a function of all the different activities and how they are sequenced. If you do multiple high intensity exercises in a row, that will be a more intense session than if you put lower intensity ones in between.

Also factor in water and other rest breaks. That even includes things like collecting balls. They slow things down and allow for recovery. That too factors into the intensity of the overall practice.

Of course, there’s planning and then there’s the actual practice. Watch the performance of the players. You’ll notice their level of fatigue if you’re paying attention. Not seeing it? You can probably go longer with your exercise. Seeing it? Slow things down or given them a break to recover. Maybe do something with lower intensity for a while, then go back when they’re looking better.

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

    2 replies to "Measuring practice intensity"

    • Martin Mikosch

      Thanks for the very helpful answer to my question

      • John Forman

        You’re welcome. 🙂

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